“Who on earth is Myrtle?” I hear you ask. If you were a Wagga Wagga Teachers’ College student, you probably know exactly who I’m referring to. But for those who do not know, Myrtle was a central figure of the College in the 1950s and ’60s who played a significant role in the, some would say, ‘cultural life’ of the students.
In 1954 a bronze statue was purchased by the College with the assistance of a donation by the Wagga and District Chamber of Commerce. This female figure, holding aloft a lamp, was created by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, a French sculptor who was born in 1824.
She was installed within one of the rose gardens of the College, in front of the administration block and visible from the College gates. The story is that she received her name from a nearby crepe myrtle bush; we only know the students were affectionately calling her ‘Myrtle’ by June 1956.
It appears Myrtle was beloved of all the students and they demonstrated that love in a myriad of ways. In 1962, WJ Rowlinson composed a poem in her honour:
For others, that love took another turn… The positioning of Myrtle’s gown resulted in some regular attention by certain students who took to polishing her exposed anatomy. On occasion, Myrtle would even gain extra clothing overnight!
Myrtle disappeared from view for the last ten years of the College, having been removed from her place of honour by 1963. Anecdotally, it was the College Principal, Maurice Hale, who was responsible for her abduction.
Some students of the time don’t remember her disappearance, but others say Myrtle was removed on the instructions of the principal, Maurice Hale – either because of the constant attention to her anatomy (“it was ruining the patina”, was one phrase quoted) or that the sun caught the bronze, shining directly into the adjacent administration block which included the principal’s office. Where Myrtle was moved to remains a mystery but given her height and weight it was not something which could be hidden away easily. [“South Campus – A History” by Dr Nancy Blacklow].
It was many years later when Myrtle was finally reinstated. This time, she was placed close to Tabbita Walk on the Boorooma campus of Charles Sturt University, where she could watch over a new generation of students. (Current location of Myrtle)