Port Arthur Memorial Candelabra

Port Arthur Memorial Candelabra

A candelabra stands in the Shrine to St Peter at the back of the church. This is a memorial to those who died or were injured in the massacre at Port Arthur on 28th April, 1996, and forms the focus of a service for those who survived, or who lost loved ones, on the anniversary of the tragedy. The candelabra was made in 1998 by Ian Fraser and donated to St Peter's in 2006 for the 10th anniversary memorial service, held in St Peter's that year.

Ian Fraser wrote an account of the origin of this candelabra in 2016, in time for the 20th anniversary service. This account follows below:

The Candelabra ... by Ian D Fraser

The candelabra was created for events held by The Compassionate Friends.

The Compassionate Friends (TCF), founded in England in 1969 by Reverend Simon Stephens OBE RN, is an international, non-denominational organization of bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents offering friendship & understanding to each other following the death of a child of any age.

Our son Robert died in 1993 at the age of twenty-two, and our family joined The Compassionate Friends in Murwillumbah New South Wales in 1997. The Murwillumbah Chapter was growing under the leadership of Lorraine Grennan. Each year the Murwillumbah Chapter members gathered for a Christmas luncheon in Lorraine's home. Lorraine had a 'board' on which to place tealight candles for candlelighting ceremonies in remembrance of their late children. By 1998, the 'board' was now inadequate, and we also needed a larger venue. My wife Judy, asked me if I could create 'something to hold about fifty candles' for this upcoming event.

Memorial Candelabra, Detail I was now in new territory. For many years I had been a vegetable farmer with 'an inventive mind' and I have, through necessity, created many pieces of equipment for vegetable farming. Many machines were sold Australia wide but none of this equipment was ever intended to be 'artistic'! My initial thought was, 'where do I start'? I approached the task methodically and began scrolling pieces of steel to form the circular lower tier of twenty-four, a second tier of sixteen, a third tier of eight, a fourth tier of four and one on top, fifty-three in total. It resembled a conifer tree and stood almost six feet tall (1.8m). Half way through assembling the first tier, my nephew Ross who had 'stitch welded' the pieces together while I held them in place, agreed with me that, "This might look alright "!

Completed just in time for the luncheon, it was in a raw bare-metal finish with pressed metal candleholders, but after the event we had it sandblasted and powder coated antique gold and added crystal candle cups. Lorraine Grennan could not believe what I had created, and I must say, I had surprised myself! Our members loved it, and Lorraine asked if I would take it to the State Gathering of TCF held in Yamba New South Wales the following March of 1999. Following this event, TCF New South Wales President asked if I could make it available for the International Gathering in Sydney in September 2002. As four hundred attendees were expected, I created another six similar candelabra holding seventy-two candles each which were constructed to be dismantled tier-by-tier and packed economically for shipping anywhere in the world. Five of these were donated for auction at the event, and the sixth one was retained for our Chapter. We now had two candelabra in our home — the original (fifty-three) and one from the International Gathering.

Memorial Candelabra, Detail The candle lighting ceremonies at these gatherings are solemn and meaningful, as parents light their candle for their beloved child. I realise that the lighting of a candle is not only helping all these bereaved parents, but is helping me through my own grief.

Carolyn Loughton joined our Murwillumbah Chapter of TCF. Carolyn's fifteen-year-old daughter Sarah died and Carolyn was severely injured at Port Arthur on 28th April 1996. Carolyn had moved from Melbourne to the Tweed to recuperate, and soon became a very valued member of our TCF family. Carolyn has made many friends through our support group, and many will remain life-long friends.

TCF is operated by bereaved parents, for bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings. This safe haven offers support, understanding and a network of 'compassionate friends'. Through this worldwide network, people have been able to work their way through the dark valley of their grief and eventually experience life in a way they never thought possible again. Carolyn is evidence of this, and her transformation since joining TCF has been awe-inspiring.

Memorial Candelabra, Detail Carolyn returned to reside in Melbourne prior to the tenth anniversary of the Port Arthur tragedy. She enquired as to the possibility of my providing a candelabra for the memorial service in St Peter's Eastern Hill Melbourne in 2006.

My wife Judy and I offered to donate the original creation, which held fifty-three candles. I later learned that thirty-five people were killed and eighteen injured on 28th April 1996. I could not believe the co-incidence that our original candelabra held fifty-three candles, which was now a most suitable 'memorial candelabra'. Our offer was gratefully accepted by Reverend Dr John Davis of St Peter's Church Eastern Hill and the candelabra is now permanently housed within the church and visitors are welcome to light a candle.

I have found comfort from observing the healing people have gained from lighting a candle on our candelabra. Our son Robert was exceptionally good with his hands. Woodwork and steelwork were his passion, and he achieved 'Apprentice of the Year' in the first year of his apprenticeship. Some of the machinery I used in the making of the candelabra had been acquired for our son's future business.

When I created the first candelabra in 1998, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that so many people would benefit from lighting candles around my candelabra.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of that terrible day at Port Arthur, I sincerely hope that the lighting of these candles continues to be a symbol of peace for those who died, hope for those who survived, and comfort for those who assisted on that fateful day.

Memorial Candelabra, Inscription

Written by Ian D Fraser
February 2016

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