Queen’s bust in Beacon Hill Park wasn’t the first to be beheaded

A black box at the edge of Queen’s Lake in Beacon Hill Park covers the latest indignity suffered by a commemorative statue of the Queen. The bust, created in 1959 to coincide with a royal visit, has been vandalized — again.

On Wednesday, Victoria police were called to the park after someone discovered the head of the young Queen Elizabeth had been removed.

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“It’s sad because it’s quite a good statue,” said local writer and historian Janis Ringuette. “Many don’t notice it because it’s hiding in the foliage. But a few months ago, someone put a disposable mask on it. It stayed for a while. That was kind of neat, because it didn’t hurt her and it’s part of what’s happening now.”

In her book Beacon Hill Park History, Ringuette wrote that the bronze bust erected in the park in 1962 was actually the second bust made of the Queen, a replacement for a concrete version that suffered similar indignities.

Victoria sculptor Peggy Walton Packard was commissioned in 1959 by the Greater Victoria Royal Visit Committee to create the sculpture. Four municipalities agreed to share the costs on a per capita basis.

Packard’s fee for the concrete sculpture was $350. But when it was completed six months later, the price, including landscaping, had escalated to $1,000. Esquimalt and Oak Bay didn’t want to pay their share, Ringuette wrote.

And not everyone liked the statue. Many thought concrete was too easily damaged. Others didn’t like the way it looked. When the city took delivery of the statue in January 1960, it stored it at the Garbally public works yard.

Media pressure forced city officials to move it to the lobby of city hall, Ringuette wrote.

Then the city delayed paying Packard her commission. The Victoria Daily Times launched a “Pennies for Peggy” campaign: “If the City won’t pay her, let us do it.” The campaign called for people to push donated pennies in a wheelbarrow to city hall.

“City officials were not amused,” wrote Ringuette.

The acting mayor quickly announced Packard could pick up her cheque on Feb. 19.

But the day before, the 750-pound concrete statue was stolen. Ringuette believes the kidnapping was a university prank. It was found in Esquimalt three days later.

The first bust was installed in March 1960 on the south edge of the main parking lot on Circle Drive.

Less than a month later, the statue’s right nostril had been chipped. Her cheek and neck were next, then her nose, wrote Ringuette. In December 1960, the head was knocked off and thrown into the Inner Harbour. The statue was removed from Beacon Hill Park.

The Daily Times commissioned a replacement bust made of bronze, wrote Ringuette. An Ottawa sculptor with experience in bronze used the original mould created by Packard. The bust was formally presented to the city by publisher Stuart Keate on Aug. 5, 1962.

The second bust has enjoyed a mostly quiet life, said Ringuette, although it was knocked flat once and scratched across the forehead.

On Aug. 20, 1994, the Queen unveiled a plaque in front of the bronze bust to commemorate her visit to B.C. during the Commonwealth Games.

Now Ringuette is wondering if the statue can be fixed, and if Packard’s original mould still exists.

City of Victoria spokesman Bill Eisenhauer said staff are currently determining the appropriate next steps.

Police are asking anyone with information to come forward and call 250-995-7654, extension 1. To report what you know anonymously, call Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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