May 26 - June 15, 2024: Issue 627


midget farrelly tribute takes shape

Midget's Tribute, as at May 21, 2024
Midget's Tribute, as at May 28, 2024

Following Council's February 2024 endorsement of a proposal by the Midget Farrelly Recognition Committee to install a public artwork on Black Rock, Ocean Road Palm Beach, works have now commenced.

Newton Stone Design was appointed to execute the project during May to June 2024, weather permitting, and has been working on this over the past few weeks.

Newton Bishop, the Sculptor, said he is honoured and thrilled to be doing the work and finding out more and more about Midget as the details progress, with passers-by the jobsite sharing insights and anecdotes, and Newton doing some research of his own. 

‘He was a really nice bloke.’

Newton Bishop, working on Midget's Tribute, May 21, 2024

Newton Bishop on site

Newton has been working as a landscaper, stonemason and sculptor since 1990 and holds a Landscape Diploma from TAFE NSW.

He worked with Mick Leslie, ’The Phantom Carver’, whose works appear in Bayview, Palm Beach, Narrabeen, Freshwater and Queenscliff. A former Navy man, and Elanora Heights resident, ironically he was employed by Warringah Council at the time, but this was an unapproved after-hours hobby.

Newton also worked for Ishi Buki sandstone sculptures for over 15 years, and in that time created numerous public sculptures for councils Sydney wide. 

The entrance carving to Governor Phillip Park, those wildlife sculptures at Winnererremy Bay and at Bilarong Reserve, are works he has been a part of.

 In Bilarong Reserve

The artwork has been commissioned with funds raised by the Midget Farrelly Recognition Committee. The Recognition Committee raised $56,030, which is sufficient funding for the proposed petroglyph project. The funds are held in the Manly Art Gallery and Museum Gift Fund. There is no financial impact on Council’s budget.

The artwork will be a light petroglyph carved into the face of Black Rock showing Midget in one of his classic stances but with an emphasis on his inaugural World Surfing Championships win at Manly Beach. 

The work features this stance in this famous photo by Jack Eden, complete with the number '3' on the vest. 

From the World Titles, he had a vest on with the number 3 on it during the heat rounds. His vest actually had number 2 during the final:


Jack Eden's photo of Midget at Manly World Championships of Surfing in 1964, courtesy Jack and Dawn Eden

Midget lived at Palm Beach for 54 years and surfed there almost every day on one of his many short and malibu surfboards. 

He passed away in 2016 at the age of 71, after a battle with cancer. 

He became the first Australian to win a major international surfing title at the 1962 Makaha International Surfing Championships. Two years later, he won the inaugural World Surfing Championships at Manly Beach. 

During the fundraising process, the Midget Farrelly Recognition Committee considered the most appropriate form of recognition for Midget Farrelly and felt that a free-standing sculpture was not conducive to the Palm Beach area or Midget Farrelly’s character and may present safety issues.

The Recognition Committee then developed an alternate form of commemoration: a petroglyph carved on Black Rock, on Ocean Road at Palm Beach. 

The artwork is designed to soften with the natural effects of weathering.

Community feedback indicated a high level of support for the commemoration of Midget Farrelly in Palm Beach.

However, many community members, whilst supportive of the idea of commemorating Midget, did not feel that a relief carving on Black Rock was an appropriate form of recognition.

Black Rock is also popular with local climbers who also objected to it being changed.

Any risks to the local iconic boulder during the installation of the artwork will be managed by Council’s Arts and Culture, Parks, and Traffic Management teams, Council has stated. Following installation, other risks such as graffiti will be addressed in accordance with the established processes for Council assets.

Black Rock at Palm Beach is sometimes referred to locally as Big Rock, or Elephant Rock. Adjacent to this rock is another rock, known locally as Grey Rock.

EB panoramic photographs taken at Palm Beach between 1917 and 1920 show a creek and track behind the rocks, which have fallen from the cliff face above - as have boulders fallen on to Beach road during the eras when photographs and newspapers have been able to record that:

Section from EB Studios (Sydney, N.S.W.). circa 1917, Panorama of Palm Beach, New South Wales, 14, PIC P865/6/1 LOC Nitrate store,  (zoomable at ) – courtesy National Library of Australia 

Enlarged section from EB Studios (Sydney, N.S.W.). (1917). Panorama of Palm Beach, New South Wales, 3 Retrieved from - has 'No 1a Palm Beach - Looking North' in left hand lower corner.

Enlarged section from EB Studios (Sydney, N.S.W.). (1917). Panorama of Palm Beach, New South Wales2 Retrieved from Has 'No 2 Palm Beach' written in lower left hand corner- includes sections showing Peters home with tents still in it and Chorley home with car outside, cows, etc - so photo taken pre-1920.. Black Rock section. Photos taken from south end, what would become Rock Bath Road and Pool

Enlarged section from EB Studios (Sydney, N.S.W.). (1917). Panorama of Palm Beach, New South Wales, 10 Retrieved from - second visit/round of images taken (circa 1921-1924)- last address for business in lower right hand side.

It has also been the site for picnics, including these famous ones when Ailsa Craig, by then the wife of Scotty Allen, hosted visiting ballet dancers at Palm Beach:

Top: Dancers from the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet with two Australian friends at Bungan Beach (actually Palm Beach), NSW, left to right, Jean (Jan) Hoyer, Anna Skarpa (Skarova) (girl crouching), Nathalie Branitzka, unidentified dancer, the two friends (with hat; Ailsa Allan - nee Craig), and Igor Youskevitch, 1936 or 1937] - Part of Dr Ewan Murray-Will's album of photographs of performers from the Ballets Russes, on tour in Australia, 1936-1937 nla.obj-149943187-1 Courtesy National Library of Australia.

Photo: NLA caption 'Dancers from the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet with two Australian friends at Bungan Beach, NSW' (no - still Black Rock at Palm Beach!), nla.obj-149943380-1 courtesy National Library of Australia - This is actually Palm Beach - Ailsa is the lady sitting on the bench with her back to camera

Ocean road was built in 1926 by Lawrie Gallagher, a foundation Palm Beach SLSC Member and the then owner of Florida House.

The Warringah Shire Council meeting held on July 19th, 1926, records in its Minutes:

Two tenders were received for the construction of Ocean Road, Palm Beach, and it was resolved, - (Crs. Simpson,. Hitchcock) That the lowest tender, that of L. Gallagher for £399/10/.., be accepted, and the Contractor be notified not to touch the big boulders on the beach, and that this be made a part of the Contract.

The works had been completed by later that year as the Minutes of Meetings record the then fairly newly formed Palm Beach Golf Club committee are requesting:

17, Palm Beach Recreation Club. Ltd. 22.11.26. advising that the Club has appointed Mr. Harriman as Caretaker of the Park; Governor requesting(1) that two signposts indicating the camping areas Phillip be erected, another at the end of the road indicating - "To Park, Ocean Road and Surf", a double one at the junction of New Road, indicating ‘’To Barrenjoey" and to "Ocean Beach and Surf", and (2) that the fees collected from campers be applied towards paying the wages of the caretaker. Resolved, - (Oms. Hope, Hitchcock) That the signs be erected, as requested. Resolved,. (Crs. Hitchcock, Hope) That Caretaker Harriman be given authority to collect camping fees, the fees to be applied towards the payment of his wages. He also be appointed as Honorary Ranger of the Park, - the appointment to be under seal of the Council. 

By the Meeting held on 6th of December, 1926:

Item 6-. Resolved, - (Crs. Simpson, Hitchcock) That £20 extra be voted for making trafficable that portion of Ocean Road  (Vote) outside of Gallagher's Contract.

Ocean road and Black Rock to left soon after Lawrie Gallagher finished is work and before asphalt was put on the 'road' - note the other boulder to right, long gone through approved DA's for housing. More in Pittwater Roads II: Where The Streets Have Your Name - Palm Beach

It is also one of the sites Midget would surf off regularly, inspiring all fortunate enough to see him move across the waves, even if it was one of those spots he'd sneak off to when everywhere else was being used for surf contests and surf carnivals.

Bernard 'Midget' Farrelly was the first Australian to win a major international surfing title at the 1962 Makaha International Surfing Championships. Two years later, he won the inaugural World Surfing Championships at Manly Beach. 

His wins ignited and commenced the notion that surfing is more than 'mucking about in the ocean' - although he loved that too. The current surfing industry, products, tours and opportunities for young, old and all in between sparked off by Midget and his peers love for surfing has few markers in the Pittwater end of the peninsula - despite the dearth of talent and history associated with the sport, especially at Palm Beach.

Here is the surf club that worked to have surf boards included in surf life saving's cache of equipment, and succeeded.

Here too were 1930's surfers like Alrema Becke and John Ralston, followed by the Beachcombers, and a thousand other local legends who prefer a good wave and a good life.

Midget would be hoping, based on the thousands he inspired or had a direct hand in coaching and keeping fit, there will a thousand more.

Midget Farrelly at Palm Beach, 1964 – photo by by John Witzig, reproduced with permission of the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. 

Midget surfing off Black Rock at Palm Beach in November 2015
Newton and his assistant at Black Rock, May 2024