Public Art : Horse and Rider Monument
Sculptor : © Tony Jones
Date Unveiled : 1999
Description of the Horse and Rider Monument : The Horse and Rider monument is dedicated to one of Australia’s greatest engineers C.Y.O’Connor. The bronze sculpture lies just beyond the breaking waves near where C.Y.O’Connor (11 January 1843 – 10 March 1902) took his own life. The bronze depicts O’Connor on his horse. It is a sad and sombre monument to a man who ironically spent most of his life solving water issues. The figure of O’Connor has his head turned towards Fremantle Harbour whilst the horse faces out to the open waters of the Indian Ocean, with his head raised high as though to avoid the waves.
Location : The Horse and Rider sculpture is located at McTaggart Cove, North Coogee , near the ruins of Robbs Jetty, Western Australia. There is little signage to find this sculpture . From the small park you can walk down to beach or use walk path for about 300m. Enter beach from the Robb Jetty structure.
Controversy: In early 2018 sculptor Tony Jones complained about the shire placing an enormous warning sign on Coogee Beach, blocking the view of the C.Y. O’Connor sculpture. He called the sign “visually invasive”.
In February, 2018 the iconic sculpture was badly vandalised. The culprit/s had cut off the torso and left it at the bottom of the ocean. There were several reports a catamaran was seen in the area on the weekend it was vandalised.
The sculptor Tony Jones said it was “pretty gut-wrenching” to see the work so damaged. “It doesn’t get any worse than that for me, or for anyone who values how we do things.”
A team of divers were able to recover the severed torso and head. The sculpture has been removed for repair.
C.Y.O’Connor’s Sad Ending : In the early morning hours on 10th of March, 1902, one of Australia’s greatest engineers, saddled up his horse and took to the beach of North Coogee in Fremantle. The routine was not unlike any other morning, except his daughter had declined the invitation to ride with him, due to a slight illness.
Charles Yelverton O’Connor’s loved horses and thought of no greater pleasure than taking the quiet time of the morning to go riding on the beach with his daughter. O’Connor had been under a considerable amount of pressure from politicians and the press as his million dollar Goldfields pipeline project came to its completion.
Not a soul saw him enter his son’s room and take the revolver from the draw before he mounted his stead that morning. As he raced his horse along the white sands he suddenly stopped and turned his mount towards the cold waters of the Indian Ocean and dismounted.
O’Connor walked about 2 feet into the water, turned around to face the beach, took out his dentures and put them in his pocket, placed the revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger. In that instant Australia lost one of its finest. As news spread of his death, flags were lowered to half mast and work ceased on the pipeline.
The verdict from the inquest into his death suggested his suicide was due to “mental derangement caused through worry and overwork.” He did leave a suicide note. Charles Yelverton O’Connor was only 59. Click here for more information about the remarkable C.Y.O’Connor.
Myths About C.Y.O’Connor’s Death : Despite popular belief, C.Y.O’Connor did not take his life because he thought that the water had failed to reach Kalgoorlie on the expected time. Nor did he shoot himself minutes before the first drops of water trickled out. The truth is O’Connor died a year before the completion of the pipeline.
According to Bibbulmum legend, O’Connor took his life because he had been cursed by traditional Aboriginals. In a ceremony, known as being “sung” to death, members of several clans, who were angry at the removal of the limestone bar in the Fremantle Harbour, chanted a song that sent negative energy to him. They believe that negative vibe lead him to take his own life.
Related C.Y. O’Connor Works : C.Y.O’Connor statue