A Story in Stone Rainforest sculpture

The Illawarra Rhododendron and Rainforest Gardens at Mt. Pleasant, near Wollongong, have a hidden treasure tucked behind one of their magnificent Red Cedar trees.

Decades ago, a work of art in sandstone was created by the highly regarded sculptor, May Barrie, and placed in this magical spot.

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The May Barrie sandstone birdbath sculpture on the left hand side of the photo,
melds into the rainforest clearing, next to the Red Cedar at Cedar Bend
(Photo courtesy Lile Judickas)
In July 1983, The Australian Rhododendron Society (Illawarra Branch) Newsletter No. 150 announced:

A sandstone bird bath, sculptured by May Barrie and donated by the Beale family in memory of their mother Mrs. Robertson, has been installed in the upper garden area, just east of the gate.”

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Birdbath sculpture, 1983
(Photo by unknown)
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Birdbath sculpture, 2024
(Photo by Lile Judickas)

Jean Robertson

At the great age of 93, Mrs. Jean Robertson died and so did a link to Wollongong’s earliest history. She was the great-grand-daughter, on her mother’s side, of Charles Throsby Smith, one of the first settlers in the Illawarra.

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May Barrie

Born in 1918, Barrie spent her early childhood living with her family on the North Coast of NSW. Her father believed in the education of women and so she moved to Sydney to enrol at East Sydney Tech in 1938.  She was inspired by sculpture classes held by Lyndon Dadswell, who encouraged his students in carving wood and stone.

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“Barrie had an almost romantic relationship with nature and her home was a magical place set into the hills and half way up a very dramatic Illawarra escarpment

In 1950, Barrie and her husband Wim, bought ‘Callemondah’, a small timber cottage on a dry paddock, south of Wollongong in Calderwood. Over the next ten years, the making of Callemondah was their major project – rebuilding the house in local stone, creating a studio and landscaping.

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May Barrie at Callemondah
(Photo from

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“In the 1970’s, she decided to establish her own gallery at ‘Callemondah’.

“In 2009, Barrie was invited to exhibit in Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi and that same year was thrilled to receive the Balnaves Prize for her sculpture titled “Time and Tide” (1996), which is now permanently installed at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Art Gallery Road, Sydney. Barrie also exhibited in Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, in 2010 and 2011.

“By 1966, Barrie’s work had increased in scale and confidence and she submitted a major three-piece work, ‘Lunar Aspirations’ in Moruya granite, to the Transfield prize, which was held in Sydney in Hyde Park. This work was acquired by the National Capital Development Commission as public sculpture for Canberra, whilst another five-piece marble group ‘Andromeda 1967’, was purchased by the NSW Department of Health and moved to Wollongong University.

“During the 1960’s Barrie held two solo exhibitions, one in Wollongong and one in Canberra. The work she produced during this period was quite tough, weathered feeling, and rugged.

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May Barrie at Callemondah
(Photo from

“May Barrie (Voorwinden) had a great love of stone; carving sculpture for over-seven decades, until her last works in 2013 at the age of 95. She died peacefully, at age 96 on 18th December 2014.”
(Sourced  from https://sculpturebythesea.com/farewell-to-may-barrie-a-truly-original-australian-sculptor/ )
(Sourced from https://www.callemondahstudios.org/may-barrie )
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May Barrie birdbath sculpture, 2024
(Photos by Lile Judickas)

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