Cultural Heritage and Little Marion

This semester, I’m doing a directed study in conjunction with the City of Marion. This involves analysis of the results from a cultural heritage survey called ‘Stories of Our City: Now and Then’. The survey is currently underway, and it aims to collect information and ideas about the community’s living cultural heritage. It closes soon, so if you are a Marion resident, hurry along and fill it in! It can be accessed via the City of Marion website at http://www.marion.sa.gov.au/page.aspx?u=50&c=8140.

In preparation for the analysis, I’ve been doing some background reading and exploring. Driving along Marion Road in recent years, I’ve been struck by the statue of a little girl lying on the ground and peering into a hole, at the corner of Finniss Street and Marion Road. She just seemed to appear there one day. And cycling along the Sturt Creek on another occasion, I noticed her looking over a bridge. She’s about 1.2 metres tall, and always has fresh ribbons in her hair.

It turns out that she’s called Little Marion. The first statue I met, on the corner of Finniss and Marion, is called Little Marion Peering. She’s gazing into the Western Family Well, which was about 26 metres deep and could be quite treacherous.

Little Marion Peering

Little Marion Peering

Little Marion Skipping is located nearby in the grounds of Annie Doolan’s Cottage, which was built as a convent in 1876 for Mary MacKillop’s Sisters of St Joseph. She’s in what was most likely the playground.

Little Marion Skipping

Little Marion Skipping

At the entrance to the Marion Historic Village, Little Marion Welcoming swings on a farm gate.

Little Marion Welcoming

Little Marion Welcoming

And on the Finniss Street Bridge, Little Marion Pondering looks out over the Sturt Creek, and ponders on children playing in the river, swimming, catching tadpoles and daydreaming.

Little Marion Pondering

Little Marion Pondering

In the George Street Reserve, Little Marion Waiting sits on bricks from the original brickworks, and waits for her turn at hopscotch.

Little Marion Waiting

Little Marion Waiting

The Little Marion sculptures were created by Gerry McMahon, based on a 2008 book called ‘Yesterday’s Child’ by Margaret Western. They are great examples of public art that has been well planned and beautifully executed. Even without additional information, they can stand alone as a local statement of childhood.

The interpretive information near the sculptures is related, but not necessarily exactly about the sculptures. For example, near Little Marion Peering, a quote on an interpretive plaque refers to the cobwebs on the well – ‘When little children are missing in The Marion, everyone runs to the wells first. If there are cobwebs across the top of the big hole that is a good sign, because if anyone had fallen down, the cobwebs would be broken’.

The Little Marion sculptures showcase a part of Marion’s community heritage. And the fresh ribbons? A local woman replaces them regularly – it’s a good deed, but she’s also part of the community’s living cultural heritage.

Susan Arthure

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