Charles Yelverton O’Connor (11 January 1843 – 10 March 1902) was an Irish-born engineer who found his greatest achievements in Australia, before tragically committed suicide.
His life has been commemorated in monuments across Australia, but his death is remembered by a bronze horse and rider who peek out of the waves off the coast of the beach where he died.
Born at Gravelmount, Castletown, Meath, Ireland, in 1865 he migrated to New Zealand, where he worked initially on the locating and survey of a route for the first dray and coach road across the Southern Alps.
In April 1891 Sir John Forrest, premier of Western Australia, offered O’Connor the position of engineer-in-chief. In reply to his inquiry as to whether his responsibilities would cover railways or harbours or roads, Forrest cabled “Everything”.
It was in this position that he would create his most well-known works.
In that time, he was responsible for the rails, roads, and harbors in Western Australia.
While there, he created the Fremantle Harbor in 1903, which before his tenure had been seen as a fools errand, and also the world’s longest water main, the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, also completed in 1903, which continues to push water to remote western parts of the country.
Both of these, his best known projects, as well as some smaller ones, continue to operate as central parts of the area’s infrastructure, proving his enduring prowess.
Unfortunately, months before the completion of his greatest achievements in 1902, he took his own life by shooting himself while he rode his horse into the sea. He left a note that expressed his disappointment over how his projects were received, but for whatever reason, the man was dead.
The beach on which O’Connor shot himself was eventually named after him, but off into the water lies the most disturbing monument.
Built in 1999, the statue known as “C.Y. O’Connor Horse and Rider” was created by local sculptor Tony Jones.
Crafted out of bronze, the statue depicts an abstract figure of O’Connor on the back of his horse.
The piece was installed about 20 meter out into the water off the coast of the beach that still bears his name, and It is fixed to the sea floor and supported by a steel pylon sunk six metres into the seabed.
From the shore, the two heads of the sculpture peek out of the waves like a forever-drowning sentinel.
Images from web – Google Research