Head of Garibaldi
A much eroded head of 'the Liberator of Italy' originally from George Burns's statue, now mounted on a wooden block and displayed in a glass case in the entrance lobby of Blaydon Library.
Burn's statue was slightly-over life-size and represented Garibaldi characteristically attired in round-topped hat and loose shirt, holding the sword and telescope with which he was presented at a ceremony at Shields on 11th April 1854. The industrialist and Radical politician, Joseph Cowen Junior (TWNE40, q.v.) who made the presentation on this occasion, concluded his speech with the declaration that 'the heirs of Milton and Cromwell will not be the last to say, even from their deepest heart, "God speed your work!"'(1)
Cowen had long been associated with cause of Italian freedom. When still in his teens he was a friend of, and secret supplier of arms to, Mazzini, and in 1851 he established the Subscription for European Freedom. His controversial support for Garibaldi came into the open when on 13th August 1860 his newspaper, 'The Newcastle Daily Chronicle', actively promoted the formation of a British Legion with the headline, 'Who will fight for Garibaldi?'.
The statue by George Burn was commissioned in 1868 for Stella Hall, Cowen's home at Blaydon, where there were portraits of several European revolutionaries.(2) At the turn of the century it was toppled from its pedestal (some say by cattle, others by Fenians) and rolled down the hill. It is not known where the torso and legs are today.(3) The head was discovered in a builder's yard in 1941 and for the next 17 years served as a garden ornament in the home of Jack Thomas, a retired Blaydon builder.(4) Since 1977 it has been kept in a glass case in Blaydon Library.
Guiseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) was born in Nice and joined Mazzini's Young Italy Society in 1834. Condemned to death for treason he escaped to South America and became a mercenary. He returned to Italy in 1848 as the commander of the army of the Roman republic in its defence of the city against the French. A period of exile followed during which he made a brief visit to Tyneside at Joseph Cowen's invitation, in March 1854.
In the war of 1859 Garibaldi fought against the French and in 1860 led the conquest of Sicily and Naples for the new kingdom of Italy. He later led two unsuccessful expeditions to liberate Rome from papal rule in 1862 and 1867. In 1864 he made a second visit to England but this appears to have been abruptly terminated by a nervous British Government before he could travel to Tyneside.
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