When the adjacent Queen Victoria Building was being restored in the 1980s Malaysian developers, Ipoh Gardens, decided that an exterior sculpture of Queen Victoria would be an appropriate addition.
The hunt for a second-hand statue commenced and in the end Ireland obliged. Having found the requisite statutory something was required to cover an unsightly air vent from an underground car park which sat about 10 metres from where Her Majesty was to be erected.
To complement the Queen’s statue, Sydney sculptor Justin Robson was commissioned to produce a bronze sculpture (based on Victoria’s own 1843 sketch) of her favourite pet dog, a Skye terrier called Islay as the centrepiece for a wishing well. He did a splendid job on the dog though in 2002, dog aside, the Sydney Morning Herald (I feel, not unfairly) described the wishing well/air vent thus “From a distance it looks like a Parisian pissoir, but as you get closer, you realise there is no way to get inside”.
Islay, whenever he saw Queen Victoria would sit up and beg for a biscuit – he now, in his familiar sitting up mode begs for the deaf and blind children of Australia. A plaque on the wishing well features a poem telling the story of Islay (with a braille translation) while four proverbs highlighting the morality of giving are also featured in six different languages.
An additional and somewhat peculiar addition to the wishing well is a stone from the battlements of Blarney Castle in Ireland. This is securely fixed to the rim of the well and is the subject of my separate review – “Kiss the Blarney Stone – In Sydney?”
Islay silently went about his business of collecting money for deaf and blind children until 1996 when he received the power of speech in the form of the recorded dulcet tones of local radio shock-jock, John Laws. As you pass by now Islay encourages you to make a wish and cast a coin into the well in aid of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.
“Hello, my name is Islay,” announces Islay in a deep voice. “…Because of the many good deeds I’ve done for deaf and blind children, I have been given the power of speech”. The pièce de résistance is Islay’s two barks of thanks at the end of the routine.
The real Islay died on 26th April 1844, aged five, fallowing an altercation with a cat and is buried in Adelaide Cottage, Windsor Castle, UK.
A change of subject, if I may?
Many people have the impression that Australian’s walk around in shorts and thongs (the foot-ware variety!) and lack any sense of fashion. I trust the lady in my final photo helps squash this vile impression forever and proves that fashion is alive and well, in Sydney at least!
Address: Outside Queen Victoria Building
Directions: Intersection of George and Druitt Street, Sydney