Direct descendants of the legendary explorer Matthew Flinders gathered at Flinders University Victoria Square on Saturday, July 19, to celebrate the royal unveiling of a commemorative statute that will stand in one of London’s busiest railway stations.
Officially unveiled by Prince William at a ceremony at Australia House in London on Friday, the life-size bronze statue of Matthew Flinders will be situated on the main concourse of Euston Station in North London, where the English cartographer and first explorer to circumnavigate Australia is believed to be buried.
The statue, which depicts Matthew Flinders at work over a stylised map of Australia with his cat Trim, is a tribute to mark the bicentenary of Flinders’ passing and the publication of his influential A Voyage to Terra Australis.
To celebrate the occasion, Flinders University screened exclusive footage from the London unveiling at a special event at Australia House on Saturday, which was attended by several direct descendants of Matthew Flinders, the namesake of Flinders University.
A precursor to the various activities, projects and events leading up to the University’s 50th anniversary in 2016, the Adelaide also celebrated the establishment of the Matthew Flinders Memorial Statue Scholarship.
The Scholarship, which has been part-funded through the sale of 75 limited-edition Flinders’ maquettes and a significant contribution from Flinders University, will enrich the academic experience of both local and international students by enabling them to spend part of their degree in the UK or at Flinders.
Flinders University Art Museum Director Fiona Salmon, who is a descendant of Matthew Flinders, says the memorial statue is a “fitting and long overdue tribute to the intrepid explorer”.
“Credited as the first person to circumnavigate Australia and the strongest force behind the naming of our continent, Captain Matthew Flinders – a scientist, navigator and cartographer – accomplished extraordinary things in his short life which deserve greater acknowledgement in his country of birth,” Ms Salmon says.
The statue, which was designed by highly acclaimed UK sculptor Mark Richards, was the vision of the Matthew Flinders Memorial Committee – a group established in London by retired Royal Navy Lieutenant-Commander Peter Ashley.
“Determined to ensure that Flinders’ life and achievements would be duly celebrated on British soil, this committee worked hard with supporters in Australia to bring the project to fruition,” Ms Salmon says.
“Large in scale and superbly resolved, the statute is a terrific outcome that honours Flinders’ skill, spirit and ambition.”
Flinders University Chancellor Stephen Gerlach says the Adelaide event will mark the start of the University’s official preparations and celebrations leading up to its 50th anniversary in 2016.
“As the 50th anniversary approaches, Flinders University exists as a dynamic memorial to a great man whose courage, acumen and persistence remain a model for current and future generations,” Mr Gerlach says.
“Through its teaching and research, Flinders University offers a powerful reminder that the age of discovery is far from over.”