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for fred

A text by Gabi Hollows

My life with and without Fred has been one incredible journey

Fred was born, raised and graduated from medical school in New Zealand.

His kiwi heritage gave him a fascination for walking, climbing and scrambling over rocks and mountains

Whenever he saw a hill or stone he had to stop and climb it. Like Andreas, he loved granite and stones. He had a strong love of the land.

As a young medical graduate Fred studied to be an eye doctor in the UK where his hiking, walking and tramping habits extended into the Welsh moors and valleys.

On arriving in Australia in the mid 60s as Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, he fell in love with the outback. He loved the bush and worked with Australia’s indigenous people.

That’s where I began my journey with Fred.

Later he became very involved with blindness prevention internationally, especially cataract blindness, where he was determined to make the modern intra ocular lens surgery affordable to people in poor countries.

Meanwhile he continued his passion for woodwork and making fine furniture. I’m sure Fred and Andreas would have become great mates.

Tragically he was diagnosed with cancer in 1988. In 1991 he was given the accolade of Australian of the Year, and in September 1992 The Fred Hollows Foundation was formed. His dream was to build two intra ocular lens production laboratories in Eritrea and Nepal.

Sadly Fred died on 10th February 1993. He was buried on 17th February in the small country town of Bourke in western NSW, amongst the red dirt and mulga he loved.

Since his burial, many things have been achieved. By the 10th year of the Fred Hollows Foundation, the two intra ocular lens factories in Eritrea and Nepal had manufactured and exported high class lenses to over 50 countries, and trained more than 900 eye surgeons to do the modern cataract operation. On the Foundation’s 10th anniversary the 1 millionth intra ocular lens was inserted into the eye of a blind woman in Pakistan.

Finding a fitting tombstone took time and was a difficult decision.

It was very fortuitous that our family was introduced to Andreas, and we instantly had great rapport and a lot of fun with him. It was a great challenge for him to learn about Fred and we felt that his talents as a sculptor could create the unique grave Fred deserved.

After Andreas travelled country roads in outback Australia in search of just the right rock, we finally decided on 9 tons of raw granite which was generously donated by the Hindmarsh family from Adelong, a small country town near Tumut in NSW. To our delight, Andreas skilfully transformed the rock into a living sculpture.

For us, the highly polished finish is very symbolic of the intra ocular lenses produced in Eritrea and Nepal. The rock takes on many forms in our imaginations.

I wonder what you think it looks like?

Our family and friends had great fun and many happy times with Andreas and his partner Sandra as he sculpted the rock. It was a delight to work with Andreas.

Fred’s family and friends were overjoyed at the finished product and knew Fred would be too! Fred was a very tactile person and would be especially pleased that people will touch, feel, embrace and clamber onto the rock.

On 17th February 2006, just 13 years after his burial, Fred was given his wonderful new sculpture and we had a special re-dedication ceremony. He was blessed by Father Frank Brennan and a traditional aboriginal smoking ceremony was performed at the grave.

Fred’s grave attracts thousands of visitors from near and far who make special pilgrimages to Bourke Cemetery and to his much loved town. Andreas’ sculpture is a fitting tribute for all the world to see his final resting place.


Gabi Hollows
July 2006

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