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Celebrating Anzac Legacy: The Story Behind the Statue Overlooking Anzac Square in Brisbane

Two office workers sit beneath the stuatue of General William Glasgow in Post Office Square.
Two office workers sit beneath the stuatue of General William Glasgow in Post Office Square.

The 1966 bronze statue of Major General Sir William Glasgow by Daphne Mayo stands as a solemn sentinel overlooking Anzac Square in Brisbane.

Standing tall upon a granite plinth, the statue of Major General Sir William Glasgow serves as a poignant symbol of Anzac legacy and sacrifice.

I captured the above image on a sunny day. It was hot and two office workers from nearby buildings sat on the granite plinth, shaded by the statue.

Their expressions reflect the weariness of modern life—the man, with a tired gaze, looks directly at the camera, while the woman is engrossed in her phone.

Despite their proximity, they seem distant, symbolising the disconnect often felt in contemporary society.

This juxtaposition serves as a poignant reminder of the Anzac Day ethos—'Lest we Forget'—prompting us to reflect on the sacrifices of the past amidst the hustle of the present.

The life story of Major General Sir William Glasgow

But who was Major General Sir William Glasgow, and why does his statue hold such reverence in Anzac Square?

Born in Queensland in 1876, Sir William Glasgow's life story is intertwined with the fabric of Australian history. A soldier, politician, and diplomat, Glasgow's professional legacy is marked by remarkable feats of courage and leadership.

From his service in the South African War to his pivotal role in World War I, Glasgow exemplified the values of duty, honor, and sacrifice.

As a lieutenant with the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry Contingent, he distinguished himself in battle, earning the Distinguished Service Order for his bravery and leadership.

But it was during World War I that Glasgow's leadership would truly shine. As commander of the 1st Division in Flanders, he led his men with distinction, earning accolades for his courage and strategic acumen.

His decisive actions at the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, described as the turning point of the war, cemented his place in history as one of Australia's most esteemed military leaders.

Beyond his military achievements, Glasgow's legacy is also marked by his dedication to the welfare of his men.

A staunch advocate for soldier's rights, he fought tirelessly for their well-being, both on and off the battlefield. His commitment to service and sacrifice embodies the spirit of Anzac Day, making his statue a fitting tribute to his memory.

The Artistry of Daphne Mayo

Yet, the story of the statue's creator, Daphne Mayo, adds another layer of complexity to its significance.

Born in 1895 in Sydney, Lilian Daphne Mayo MBE was an Australian artist celebrated for her work in sculpture.

Her journey into the world of art began with a diploma in art craftsmanship at the Brisbane Central Technical College, where she studied under renowned art master R. Godfrey Rivers and specialized in sculpting under L. J. Harvey.

Despite facing health challenges due to chronic asthma, Mayo's determination propelled her forward, and in 1914, she became the recipient of Queensland's first publicly funded traveling art scholarship.

Mayo's artistic pursuits took her to London, where she honed her skills at prestigious institutions such as the Royal College of Art and the Sculpture School of the Royal Academy of Arts.

In 1923, she was awarded the school's gold medal for sculpture, a testament to her exceptional talent and dedication. However, Mayo's artistic journey was not without its challenges.

Despite her success, she faced criticism for her portrayal of Indigenous people in some of her sculptures, particularly in relation to the Brisbane City Hall tympanum.

Despite controversies, Mayo's talent and dedication to her craft are undeniable.

Her contributions to Australian art and culture are celebrated, and her statue of Major General Sir William Glasgow stands as a testament to her skill and artistry.

Mayo's legacy continues to provoke conversations about the intersection of art, culture, and identity in Australia.

As we prepare to commemorate Anzac Day, let us reflect on the stories of courage and sacrifice that define this day of remembrance.

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