On my third day back from Spain, waiting for my daughter and grandchildren in the newly named Walyalup Koort), heart of Fremantle), I saw Fremantle with new eyes. Not exactly the excited or critical eyes of a tourist or a traveller, but certainly with fresh eyes. Eyes still familiarising themselves with clean, organised spaces,well dressed people and fast cars which don’t slow for pedestrians, even those who are just crossing with their children to the holiday activities in the square. I hear English all around and muted, streamed background music. However, most pressingly,what are these people doing in the middle of the day ? It’s siesta time, isn’t it?
I park my bike and probably for the first time, really look at the reinvented City Square. I read the plaques under the sculptures as I did in Spanish plazas. Why don’t I blog about my home town ?
First off is John Curtin . He looms over me as I turn away from my bike , shaking a rolled up paper.But he’s not angry. Maybe frustrated , disappointed. The plaque tells me he was a journalist in his early life, long before becoming Australian Prime Minister, and that he is the only West Australian PM to represent the WA electorate.
I see another photographer across from me and she’s pointing a proper camera at a beautiful girl dressed as a bride. I walk towards them and nosily enquire about weddings. The photographer explains that the girl is following an Asian custom of dressing up as a bride and having bridal photos taken for her friends . She is happy for me to take a photo for my blog . So here it is.
I walk across the Square past the face painting and the children rolling down the lawn and the Lego blocks half assembled .( Wheres the live music ? ) to the FOMO building and the sculpture of the 3 women, one of whom is holding a baby.
I realise that I don’t know enough of the history of this latest sculpture to write confidently, But I do know I like it. I also know that in a Square full of male heroes it is soothing and gratifying to see women and a child. I stand taking photos for a while, watching children line up to collect their Lego prizes, and lunch hour workers move down the corridor between the Varsity Bar open to the street and the new Civic Centre and Library. It’s a sunny winter day here in Freo and there’s some sitting around with lunches and cups of coffee .
On my other side is the new playground, next to the over 100 year old Moreton Bay Fig. I move around towards Hughie Edwards. His helmeted head is turned firmly upwards, towards the sky.
Next is my favourite : A sculpture by Greg James to Pietro Giacomo, the Italian artist who worked in Fremantle.The sculpture was funded by his friends and the Italian community.The late afternoon sun is behind the Moreton Bay fig and the surface of the work is glinting. It seems as if magic is brewing ; as in fact it is, this creation is fluid, with clear curved lines and features,moving underneath its creator’s hands as he smiles.
St John’s Church(1943), a glimpse of the Town Hall ( 1887) and the new Dept of Communities/ FOMO building( 2021/2022) combine to offer an interesting and colourful backdrop of the historical and the contemporary.The Fig tree grows solidly alongside.
I’m on my way back to my bike now, parked underneath JC and the refurbished Town Hall.The fountain to commemorate Tom Edwards, the Fremantle wharfie killed by a police baton in the 1919 strike, flows into the bird bath A reminder that Fremantle is still a Tom Edwards type of place.Modern has combined with the old to give Freo life,and it’s old heart is still beating .
If I need more reminders, catch a glimpse of the drinkers around the table next to the church . They’re diminished in number, but still there, still drinking.
They wave cheerfully as I get on my bike and cycle home.
See https:/en.m.Wikipedia.org for a fuller account of the Wharfie Strike in 1919, and the bravery of Tom Edwards
FOMO : Fremantle On My Own ( for non fremantle-ites)