Alexander Munro Drinking Fountain
Location: Singleton, New South Wales, Australia
Alexander Munro was born in Ardesier, Scotland. He was transported as a convict to Australia at the age of 17 for the crime of stealing money, two pieces of cheese and some raisins from a grocery store. After his release in New South Wales, he created many businesses including the Caledonia Hotel. He became Singleton’s first Mayor and served for 5 consecutive years.
Known for his generosity, he commissioned a drinking fountain in 1887 to supply water to the poor dogs that followed their masters from the country and had nowhere to quench their thirst. Permission to erect the fountain in the garden in front of the Singleton Gaol was received from the Colonial Secretary’s office in Sydney with condition that the fence was re-erected at the Borough Council’s expense.
The erection of the fountain was delayed for several years as a dispute erupted regarding the ongoing cost of water and gas supply. Alexander Munro solved the dispute by offering to cover the cost of pipes to connect water, but the project was further delayed while Council decided which location was most suitable.
Three years after the fountain arrived in Singleton it still had not been erected and was lying in a back yard with weeds growing around it. Alexander died on 2 February 1889 without ever seeing the fountain installed.
Mr. Walter Lamb provided the town with a corner of land, free of cost, to enable the fountain to be erected. It was originally located in George Street, at the intersection of Campbell and Cambridge streets, almost opposite the Caledonia hotel which was built and owned by Alexander Munro. It was painted, gilded and varnished in December, and finally dedicated on Thursday 31 August 1890. Mrs. R H. Levien unveiled a large Australian flag which was folded around the column, and using a ceremonial sterling silver cup she filled it from the streaming water.
The fountain was a great boon to the town and made it unnecessary for cattle and horses to go to the river to drink. Vandalism occurred in 1894 when one of the drinking cups was detached and thrown into the trough. By the end of 1909 the dog trough contained no water and was filled with rubbish. Thirsty dogs leapt into the horse trough and lay there contaminating the drinking water.
With the advent of the motor vehicle, the fountain became an obstacle and a proposal to erect a fence around the fountain was rejected. Notices were printed cautioning drivers from damaging the fountain whilst driving.
Due to neglect of the structure, a fracture which had formed in the base of the column in November 1911 caused the column to lean. The drinking bowl was removed in 1935 and sold to Mr. P. Nelson who proceeded to use it as a goldfish bowl in the garden of his ornate home. The remaining structure was dismantled in June 1947. It was later rescued from the Council landfill and relocated to the garden of the Singleton Historical Society Museum in Burdekin Park.
An interesting note from 26 February 1924: a swarm of grasshoppers infested the city and the water in the basin of the fountain was covered in drowned insects.
The 18 ft. drinking fountain was number 27 manufactured by Walter Macfarlane & Co. at the Saracen Foundry, Glasgow. The design was well suited for Street Crossings, Squares, Market Places, etc., as it afforded drinking accommodation for a large number of horses and drivers, and effectively lit a wide space, with the least possible obstruction to other traffic.
It provided a drinking trough for horses with a small basin for dogs at ground level. The trough was a circular cast iron basin supported on legs in the form of horses’ hooves. The central stanchion supported the structure which is now seated on a circular brick plinth. A central fluted column was capped with a hexagonal lamp roofed in with scales of opal glass (design number 223). The lantern which cast the light downwards was surmounted with a crown terminal. A shield on the post offered inscription: From Alexander Munro To The People Of Singleton 1887. Four projecting tendrils suspended cups allowing humans to drink from the spouting water whilst horses drank from the large basin.
In closing, a poem written about the Alexander Munro Fountain in Singleton.
For sixty years it stood in the street,
That landmark we knew as the fountain,
“Twas there that the drivers and horses would meet
When they hauled the big logs from the mountain.
The horses refreshed by the water they drank,
The great teams from all over the Valley,
But the drivers, we think avoided the tank
And had a few on the quiet at the “Cally.”
Progress demands and times marches on,
We must widen our roads for the traffic,
But we think of the past, now the landmark has gone
And the corners won’t look quite so graphic.
With our motors and buses and roads up to date,
We think of teamsters and logs from the mountain,
And reflect on the driver whose team was too late
Not home and hosed, for the “Cally” was closed, so he drank with his horse at the fountain.
~ by T.F. Melody~
- Plinth, Flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
- Stanchion, an upright bar or post providing support
- Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal
Posted on January 16, 2015, in Architecture, Australia, Cast Iron, Drinking Fountain, Saracen Foundry and tagged Ardesier, Burdekin Park, Caledonia Hotel, convict, New South Wales, R H. Levien, Scotland, Singleton, Singleton Historical Society Museum, T.F. Melody, Walter Lamb. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.