Unveiled in 1961, the artwork consists of a group of three sandstone figures, representing Earth, Water and Fire. The figures are flanked on the right hand side by a font, covered with ceramic tiles formed in pre-cast concrete. A spout of water rises centrally from this dish and falls from the rim into a gravel covered concrete basin.
In the words of a contemporary Walker family member, the three figures represent ‘the labours and beauty of pioneering mankind’. The fountain is approximately 15 feet high by 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep; the saucer shaped font is approximately 12 feet in diameter and located 12 feet from the statuary. The tiles that line the bowl were handmade by the sculptor.
The fountain was intended to be a tribute to the memory of the late Frederic Joseph Walker Esq and to all those who pioneered primary industry in Australia. It is part of a long tradition of erecting private monuments by and for leaders in business. F.J. Walker was a prominent City businessman, and founder of the company that bears his name.
Gerard Havekes was born in 1925 in Holland and arrived in Australia in 1950. He is a self-taught painter and sculptor.
In the 1950s, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Alderman Harry Jensen, began approaching prominent individuals to donate fountains to the City of Sydney. One of the first of several such offers of memorial fountains was from the family of the late F.J. Walker.
On 15 December 1958 Council resolved ‘that approval be given, in principle, to the proposal of The Sydney Fountains Committee that a fountain be erected in Macquarie Place Park.’ The fountain’s design and the selection of a sculptor were arranged by the Walker family, in collaboration with the Design Committee of the Sydney Fountains Committee. It was understood by the City Council that the selected design would be submitted to it for final approval.
Gerard Havekes was selected to design the memorial. The Council, however, felt that the fountain would be too large for the proposed site in Macquarie Place Park. In response, the Walkers suggested an alternative site in Hyde Park North.
On a plinth behind the three sandstone figures, an inscription on the left hand side reads: “The Labours and Beauty of Pioneering mankind are depicted by the three figures Water, Fire and Earth and a flanking Font. / Water – A fisherman looking to the sea and new horizons. / Fire – A woman depicting womanhood and intuition protecting the fire of initiative and progress. / Earth – A farmer depicting the Pioneering efforts upon which this country has developed. / Gerard Havekes / Sculptor”.
On the same plinth (to the right of the above inscription), it reads: “This Fountain was presented to the City of Sydney / by / the family of Frederic Joseph Walker / as a tribute to his memory / and all those who pioneered primary / industry in Australia / 15th February 1961 Ald. H.F. Jensen
Lord Mayor / E.W. Adams / Town Clerk”.