Statue of Irish-born NSW Premier gets green light

Thousands of passers-by will soon have the chance to refresh their knowledge about the Irish namesake of Sydney’s Martin Place.

A lifesized bronze statue of the immigrant turned three-time NSW Premier Sir James Martin will be erected in the pedestrian mall after the City of Sydney art committee’s decision to decline the proposal was overturned.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Planning Minister Rob Stokes intervened to encourage Lord Mayor Clover Moore and the committee not to throw out the project.

Prolific Australian sculptor Alan Somerville completed both the Parramatta and Martin Place renditions of James Martin as a boy.

Prolific Australian sculptor Alan Somerville completed both the Parramatta and Martin Place renditions of James Martin as a boy.

James Martin was born in 1820 in Midleton, Cork, where there have been have been similar demands for his recognition with local historian Ged Martin (no relation) calling for a plaque to honour the expatriate.

Cork-born James Martin, after whom Martin Place in Sydney is named.

Cork-born James Martin, after whom Martin Place in Sydney is named.

After sailing to Australia in 1821 Martin grew up in a cottage adjacent to Old Government House, where his father was employed as a stable boy, and despite the family’s poverty sacrifices were made to send him to the prestigious Sydney College.

He would go on to become a journalist, editor, author and attorney before his political career took off, initially seeing him become the member for Cook and Westmoreland.

After two stints as attorney-general, Martin became Premier for the first time in 1863.

Despite his ministry losing power in 1864, Martin would have two more chances to hold the position, during which he pioneered the establishment of a branch of the royal mint in Sydney.

Raised by strongly Catholic Irish parents, Martin’s personal faith wavered over the years, yet he fought for a society based on Christian principles throughout his political life.

He retained his parents’ family focus, having 15 children with wife Isabella Long.

The bronze will replace an existing plinth in Martin Place, while there is already a statue in Parrammatta recognising Martin’s formative years spent there.

Both artworks were completed by sculptor Alan Somerville, famed for the soldiers that stand proudly on the ANZAC bridge.