The statue was the work of W. Birnie Rhind of Edinburgh. The bronze figure stands 9 feet and 6 inches (almost three metres) high on a pedestal designed by South Australian architects Garlick, Sibley and Wooldridge. The pedestal is of grey and red granite, with some parts polished and others rock faced. The whole composition is more than 15 feet (four-and-a-half metres) high.
The statue was commissioned as a result of the decay of the sandstone monument and memorial erected in memory of Light marking his grave in Light Square. A committee established in January1892 decided it was “desirable to perpetuate the memory of the late Colonel Light, founder of the City of Adelaide, by the erection of some substantial monument in the city for that purpose”. The Adelaide City Council, the Government and the public were approached for donations. The citizens of Adelaide donated £368 towards the statue, and the Government and Council promised £1000 and £500 respectively. However progress in erecting the statue was slow and it was not until 1905 that the Government and Council handed over their promised amounts. A committee was formed in 1904 to call for designs and select a site.
In 1904, it was also decided that a replacement monument should mark Light’s grave in Light Square. The committee selected one of the 13 designs submitted in May 1904, by architect H.L. Jackman, for a granite column topped by a surveyor’s theodolite. The Light Square monument was unveiled in June 1905. It has been placed on the Register of State Heritage Items.
In December 1904, the model of Colonel Light by the Scottish sculptor Birnie Rhind was chosen from nine designs submitted. The Council’s Annual Report of 1905 states that the casting of the winning design was under way and was expected to be ready for unveiling in early 1906. There were long delays as the sculptor found it difficult to establish the proper uniform for Colonel Light’s regiment, the Royal Engineers, in 1836. There were also problems casting the figure at the bronze foundry in England. The statue was shipped to Australia in September 1906 and arrangements made for its unveiling in early December 1906.
William Birnie Rhind was born in Edinburgh in 1853 and died there in 1933. He was the son of the sculptor John Rhind. William Birnie Rhind studied at the Edinburgh School of Design and the Royal Scottish Academy. He was elected a full member of the Royal Society of Art in 1905 and is noted for sculpting several monuments and memorials in Edinburgh, most notably those in the Scottish National Gallery and the statues and bas-reliefs on the various regimental memorials after the Boer War. Architects Garlick, Sibley and Wooldridge were commissioned to prepare the pedestal. The statue cost £1000, with the pedestal costing £510.
The statue was unveiled before a large crowd on November 27, 1906, by the Governor Sir George Le Hunte, with the words, “In the name of the King and on behalf of the State of South Australia, I unveil this statue of the founder of Adelaide.” The date was exactly 70 years after Light decided on the site for Adelaide.
On October 12,1919, Sir Henry Galway unveiled a bronze wreath attached to the pedestal. The wreath was the outcome of the first Town Planning Conference held in Adelaide in appreciation of Light’s imagination and foresight as a town planner.
In January 1938 the Council received a letter from the Pioneers’ Association of South Australia asking it to consider commemorating the centenary of Light’s death in 1839. Among their proposals was the idea of moving Light’s statue from King William Street to the vicinity of the newly improved lookout and sundial on Montefiore Hill. The Pioneers’ Association provided estimates for a further improvement and extension of the area, including a grander platform and the creation of a roadway to encircle the lookout site. The design was provided by the architect F. Kenneth Milne. Council decided not to improve the area, but to simply move the statue and place it on the site of the sundial. The President of the Pioneers’ Association, Sir Henry Newland, suggested the lookout be renamed “Light’s Vision”. It was decided that there would be no function to mark the moving of the statue and it was re-erected on its new site in May 1938.