A bronze statue honouring James Martin was unveiled in Sydney’s Martin Place last Thursday.
Martin was born in 1820 in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, but emigrated with his parents to Sydney at the age of one.
He grew up in a cottage adjacent to Old Government House in Parramatta, where his father was employed as a stable boy. Despite the family’s poverty, sacrifices were made to send him to Sydney College – then the colony’s best school.
The young James Martin did whatever it took to get an education, including even walking and hitching the 20km from home to school because his family couldn’t afford to live nearby.
Martin went on to become a journalist, editor, Attorney-General of NSW, Chief Justice of NSW and Premier of NSW three times- the only person to have ever held all three positions.
The campaign to install the sculpture commemorating James Martin was driven by philanthropists John and Patricia Azarias, founders of the the Lysicrates Foundation.
“He left an indelible mark on our city, our State and our nation, all of which explains why Martin Place bears his name,” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said at the unveiling of the statue.
“He believed passionately in the idea of Australia as a self-sufficient nation and he championed education for all especially disadvantaged kids, because he knew from experience that education unlocks opportunity.”
The NSW Treasurer also thanked John and Patricia for their efforts: “James Martin’s story won’t be lost to history and will serve as a constant reminder of what can be achieved through hard work and determination.”
Thousands walk up and down Martin Place everyday, but do they know about the man who gives his name to Martin Place?
GCT was lucky enough to speak to philanthropists John and Patricia Azarias. They explain how the Ancient Greek ideals helped shape and develop Australia.
“The idea of Australia as a democratic country drew strength from the Greek ideal of democracy. The Greeks, having invented democracy of course were not aware of how powerful this idea would prove to be two and a half thousand years later,” Patricia said, adding that “science, beauty, justice, the rule of law and the most precious thing democracy” are “deeply indebted to Ancient Greece.”
John and Patricia also highlighted that James Martin benefited from the civilising ideas out of ancient Athens that were prevailing as he grew up.
“The ideas behind the monument made Martin as much as Martin made the monument. It’s these beautiful ideas that lie behind that monument and created somebody like James Martin,” John added.
“For Martin, no civilised society could exist for material ends alone. For him, as for the Greeks, no-one could be a full human being without a large quantum of culture. So for him, civilisation and culture were not supposed to be confined to a tiny elite. On the contrary, they were for everyone.”
“We were very happy to discover James Martin because he embodied Australia and Greece coming together. This was such a present for us to find how the world of Ancient Greece and the world of the new colony in the land which the Ancient Greeks never expected existed, were brought together by this man,” Patricia said in her concluding remarks.
The statue crafted by veteran sculptor Alan Somerville, who.created the statues of diggers on Anzac bridge, depicts James Martin as a boy, book in hand (Homer, Ὅμηρος) and bag on his back.
It serves as an inspiration to young students in NSW.
Extracts from “Lysicrates and Martin”, published by Melbourne University Press. If you would like to order a copy of the book, please click here.
Lysicrates Foundation- Sir James Martin statue being erected in Martin Place, Sydney, Australia.
Posted by Greek City Times on Wednesday, November 4, 2020