Penola poets celebrated in bronze bust unveiling

Two new bronze busts have joined Adam Lindsay Gordon at Penola’s Poet’s Corner, after Sunday’s popular unveiling. 

Poets John Shaw Neilson and William Henry Ogilvie now sit either side of Gordon after the unveiling.

Penola’s District Cultural Fund announced earlier this year the need for funds to complete the project, which was originally to be a three step process. 

The funds were for the bust of Shaw Neilson, with Ogilvie coming later on, yet because of the support from the Penola community, the cultural fund was able to complete the two at once. 

Now, the much loved Poet’s Corner, located next to Gallery 54 in Penola’s main street, features all three poets so strongly associated with the Limestone Coast.

“It is so important that we keep these poets and their association with the local area,” cultural fund organiser Peter Rymill said. 

“We see tourists stopping as they go by and even stop and come over to read about them.” 

Mr Rymill explained the most exciting aspect about the project had been the exposure the poets’ work was getting.

“We are exposing their poetry to tourists, to children and then it gets a following,” Mr Rymill said. 

“The appeal was so successful that we had the funds to make both busts, and it was fantastic to see so many people coming along and supporting the work of the community."

Handing out certificates of appreciation for the many donors, Wattle Range’s newly elected mayor Des Noll said this was an event he was not going to miss. 

“This event, these busts are just so significant to this community,” Mr Noll said. 

“John Shaw Neilson and William Henry Ogilive were two incredible men who expressed themselves as well as their passion through amazing poetry.”

The two poets are well known for their work from the 1800s.

Shaw Neilson, who was born in Penola and attended Penola Primary School, is mostly known for reflective poetry of his close relationship with the Australian bush as well as his empathy with its people.

Ogilvie was a Scottish border country horseman and poet who arrived at the Maaoupe Station near Penola in 1892.

The Border Watch published a total of 14 of his poems over time and it was within the Penola district that Ogilvie created some of the verse which he wove from Australia’s glory.

Neilson’s bust was unveiled by John Riddoch Poynter, and Ogilvie’s by Penola’s first mayor Robert Seymour. ​

The busts were created by Judith Rolevink, who expressed the honour it was to have sculpted the two poets.

“My work is in great company between Kathleen Scott and down the road, John Dowie,” Ms Rolevink said. 

“Early photos of the poets are scarce and to work out who I am trying to sculpt, I read all about them including their poetry and about their life.”

Ms Rolevink was also commissioned to sculpt the statue of Mary MacKillop, another Penola legend. 

The sculpture now sits in St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Adelaide.