The Fairies Tree is a red gum carving by Ola Cohn, MBE, ARCA which stands in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens. Born in Bendigo in 1892, Ola excelled in art an early age. She studied at Melbourne’s Swinburne Technical College before winning a scholarship to study under acclaimed sculptor Henry Moore at London’s Royal College of Art. She returned and established a studio in Collins Street in 1931. She was inspired by Ivor Innes’ Elfin Oak in London’s Kensington Gardens.
She spent three years carving the Red Gum, which contains imps, dwarfs, fairies, goblins, elves and animals. Completed in 1934, Ola presented it to the general public and in particular, the children of Melbourne.
In November, 1977, the trunk was extracted from the ground for chemical treatment and or removal of rotten wood. Following this it was mounted on a concrete base in an effort to preserve the work. The restoration Was generously supported by Lions Club City of Melbourne (Host) Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and Friends of the Fairies’ Tree.
Ola provided a further dedication as a gift to the children of Melbourne in the foreword from her book “The Fairies’ Tree’ “I have carved a tree in the Fitzroy Gardens for you and the fairies, but mostly for the fairies, and those who believe in them, for they will understand how necessary it is to have a fairy sanctuary – a place that is sacred and safe as a home should be to all living creatures. Therefore I dedicate this book to children and fairies, as it is to them I owe my inspiration”.
Ola Cohn died in Melbourne 23rd May 1932