Gladstone’s got British stamp honour licked

Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum’s Harry Gallagher inspects the 1.5 tonne marble statue of William Gladstone, the namesake for the city.Photo Ebony Battersby / The Observer
Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum’s Harry Gallagher inspects the 1.5 tonne marble statue of William Gladstone, the namesake for the city.Photo Ebony Battersby / The Observer EBONY BATTERSBY

WILLIAM Gladstone's face has been released on a British stamp, but how much do locals know about the man behind our name?

A reputation as a generous and loyal man decoates tales of William Ewart Gladstone, the prime minister of Great Britain for four terms, with a political career spanning 60 years.

In 1845, it was Gladstone who re-examined the idea of a convict settlement in the Port Curtis region.

His recommendation for the region was that the town should be populated by both new arrivals from England and 'expired' convicts from further south.

However big his plans, a change in government meant Gladstone would not be founded for another six years.

Gladstone never managed to visit the central Queensland town named after him.

Nevertheless, a 1.5 tonne marble statue stands in the lobby of the Gladstone Art Gallery and Musuem.

Employee Lyn Lee says he is positioned to watch over the main street.

"He stands here and peers down Goondoon St," she laughed.

"Catching up on all that he has missed."

Harry Gallagher, also an employee at the museum, says the statue had endured quite a journey to arrive there.

"It's a little battered and bruised," he said.

"When they were building the extension, they had to reinforce the concrete to hold him. He's a heavy bugger."

The story of how the statue came to be peeking out at Goondoon St is in itself quite remarkable.

When a Gladstone teacher saw the statue in Sydney in 1986, negotiations began to relocate the 109-year-old marble tribute.

The William Gladstone effigy was rehomed in Gladstone in 1992; officially unveiled by Her Royal Highness, Duchess of Kent.

With a political lifespan remembered for a conservative and liberal influence, Gladstone used his time in power to instill standards of morality in parliament.

But word on local streets is that he is just another British bureaucratic.

"I know the town was named after him, but I have no idea what he acheived," said Sally Hickner.

"It's just another name to me."

Sue Robertson believes the commemorative stamp should be released in Australia too.

"It's lovely to know that Gladstone's named after a kind fellow," she said.

"I'd like to see a stamp being sold here with his face on it. We should be proud."

Topics:  history

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