A testament to the virtues of a person like you and me
Many of us in Sydney, particularly those coming from the north and the northwestern suburbs on a daily commute for work would have come across an unobtrusive monument at Lang Park. Coming down from across the Sydney Harbour Bridge towards Sydney CBD, the patch of green bounded by York, Grosvenor and Lang Streets is hard to miss. It is a transport interchange where you get off your bus to board another that will bring you to your final destination. It is also a short walk to the Wynyard Train Station.
On one idle day, I was walking along the York Street side of Lang Park when I noticed the Nolan Fountain. Not that it is the only monument at Lang Park which one may have gone unnoticed for some time - one may come across a marble tablet on a plinth, installed by the Royal Australian Historical Society in 1942 to mark the site of the original St Phillip's Anglican Church. There is also a brass plaque that commemorates the establishment of the Methodist Church in Australia, which was the result of a meeting held on 6 March 1812 in the vicinity. Most notable, however, is the Nolan Fountain.
The Nolan Fountain is named after Alderman Patrick Nolan. But who is Patrick Nolan? He was a grocer in nearby Princes Street, Grosvenor Square for many years. He was an alderman for Gipps Ward from 1900 until his sudden death in 1904. Apparently, he was popular with his fellow aldermen. He has been described as naturally shrewd and quite practical, by which he has rendered good service in the city council. His demise was unexpected because he was young at 42. Unfortunately, he caught a cold which led to pneumonia that took his life. His peers decided to erect a memorial in his honour, so today we have the Nolan Fountain that we may not even really notice as something of significance as we pass by along York Street.
The Nolan Fountain is marked by a lion head that looks like a sentinel watching passers by
Based on available public records (or at least on what I was able to find online), Patrick Nolan has not really achieved anything so grand nor has he accomplished anything so great. He was, however, according to the inscription, "an honourable man, a good citizen and a trusted representative." But why is the Nolan Fountain particularly worth attention? The Nolan Fountain is a silent testament to the virtues of the common person like you and me. Today, it speaks to each of us that we do not need to be heroes, that we do not need to do something so great or so grand to deserve similar honour. The Nolan Fountain is just a reminder that each of us are expected to be good citizens of this beautiful country, that each of us needs to do our share in nation building, and that each of us has a contribution to make as a member of the community. At least that's how I look at it.
The Nolan Fountain, and Lang Park in which it can be found, is situated in what is known as the Church Hill, so called because it is bounded by the Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches. The church across the road at Grosvenor Street is Saint Patrick's, the oldest Catholic church in Sydney.