Tall story behind Captain Cook statue in Cairns
LOVE it or hate it, the iconic Captain Cook statue on Sheridan Street has been a fixture in Cairns since the early 1970s - but the history of the 7m tall "garden gnome" could be more comedy than controversy.
In a letter written to the Cairns Post in 2006, builder John O'Grady credited the statue to the work of late New Zealand artist Chris Pigeon in 1972.
Mr O'Grady said he worked as a bricklayer at the site of what would be the Captain Cook Motel.
"The developer wanted to do something different and make a statement with the construction of units," he said.
"Chris laid out a huge frame of steel, mostly reo bar, that was bent by hand to shape and wrapped in chicken mesh and rendered with ferro cement."
The original piece stood unpainted. However, at this point details of the looming stucco explorer's construction are hazy.
Sourcescite a local legend that Cairns City Council mistakenly approved the dimensions of the statue as imperial measurements rather than metric. Hence the outsized tribute to the British cartographer.
In the years since, what has often been known as "Hitler Captain Cook" has been the target of drunken marksmen.
"We used to throw bottles at it after drinking at the Cock and Bull," one northern beaches resident, who would rather stay anonymous, said.
Owner of the Cock and Bull and guardian of the statue, Graham Johnston, called the statue his "giant garden gnome."
In 2010 Mr Johnston proposed, as an April Fool's joke, to repaint Captain Cook as George Washington to attract customers from the US.
"He could become Crocodile Dundee or an Arab Sheik tomorrow," he said yesterday.
The life and times of a motel mascot turned landmark
■ 1972: Statue is constructed as a gimmick for the then Captain Cook Motel on Sheridan St.
■ 2004: Property is listed for sale.
■ 2006: Council rejects offer to adopt statue. JCU offers to take on the rendered explorer.
■ 2007: Cairns businesses chip in to repaint statue. Site bought by Graham Johnston.
■ 2017: the statue was hung with giant sign reading SORRY.
Originally published as Tall story behind Captain Cook statue in Cairns