Monday, 15 August 2011

Muirtown and Duncan Forbes Primary Schools (Inverness) Murals

The multi-media mural at Muirtown Primary School, Inverness (1976) is by James Selbie and his students from Inverness Royal Academy. Created at the time the school was built, the mural celebrates Muirtown Basin industry, history and communications by having panels featuring Mackinlay's Glen Albyn distillery (now replaced by a Co-op supermarket and Comet), the dredger 'Fairway', the Caledonian Canal (replete with swing bridge, davit crane and safety winch) and the Inverness and Ross-shire Railway (through the still extant Clachnaharry Signal Box). This, it would seem, was the first of Selbie's school murals after he had moved to Inverness from Anstruther. The dragonfly and reed panel is signed 'Sandra MacAskill', presumably a student from Inverness Royal Academy where Selbie was principal art teacher.

A year later, Selbie created another foyer mural in yet another new Inverness primary school - this time Duncan Forbes Primary at Culloden. With the school being built on the grounds of Culloden House, the Forbes family home, the mural paid homage to Duncan Forbes (Lord Culloden, President of the Court of Session, 1685-1747) and his wife Mary Rose of Kilravock. The couple are known to have courted at a trysting stone under an old oak tree on the Kilravock estate. Selbie places the couple (in high relief) around the central tree and, through a combination of a variety of vibrantly glazed and enamelled ceramics, revels in the local flora and fauna.

The two Inverness murals complement one another in their distinctive styles and subject matter, both becoming, for those passing through the school, something of a 'wonderwall' (to coin the term of Bruce McLean, as envisaged for a North Ayrshire Primary School two decades later).

I am immensely grateful to Andrea Borsden, daughter of Jimmy Selbie, for telling me about these murals and for providing me with her excellent photographs. There will be more to come on Selbie (1920-1984) - who early on in his career was a roving puppeteer in Aberdeenshire, and who, besides a remarkable painting and ceramic mural oeuvre, has left some unique film and audio records. Together these provide invaluable glimpses of his approach, concerns and knowledge. His contribution and path will make for very interesting and fruitful comparison with those of Pat Tew.

Barclay School, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Photos of the Kenneth Rowntree mural (above with graffitti). Below, the Henry Moore family group sculpture and its original, now empty, plinth outside the main entrance of the school.

The Barclay School, Stevenage, Herts, was the first purpose built secondary school anywhere in the country after WWII. Completed in 1949 it is a comprehensive community school. From the outside, after over 60 years the school looks in a state of some disrepair. This is unlike the County Council originally thought it would be perceived. In a County Education Officer's Report on School Building in 1949 it stated that the Barclay School "will in many ways be unique and it will not only be local pride... there will be few, if any, other schools in England to compare with it." It was suggested that this flagship school should have a piece of sculpture "by the distinguished modern sculptor Henry Moore... whose work is generally recognized both in this country and abroad as being among the finest produced by any English living sculptor." The County Council could not afford to buy a Henry Moore even in 1949. But it was possible through private donations of"interested people" to raise half the cost "and for Mr Moore to materially reduce his price because a copy of the work concerned can also be sold to the U.S.A... By this means the County Council will acquire a specially commissioned and designed piece of sculputre at approximately one-fifth of its actual value".
Henry Moore actually chose the position of the sculpture and the entrance to the school was shaped around it. Sadly, in 2010, an attempted theft was made of the sculpture. It is now positioned inside the school reception area. It is cramed, rather unceremoniously against a metal railing. It is valued today at £4.5million pounds. The sculpture is stunning and gracious. It exudes warmth.
In the reception area the school also has a fantastic Kenneth Rowntree Mural. He was a very well respected English Artist (1915-1997) and for many years Professor of Fine Art at Newcastle Uni. His mural is on the wall where pupils queue for the dining room. The result is graffitti and wear and tear. But somehow it is almost part of the furniture. This bold 1950's mural has really stood the test of time and still looks amazing.

Vlog 15 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Jeremy discusses Patricia Tew's murals & his quest to find her family.

Vlog 14 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

A past student of Templewood, Briony, talks about what Patricia Tew's murals mean to her. Briony hadn't been back to the school since she left some years ago.

Vlog 13 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Patricia Tew's granddaughter discusses the discovery of the murals, Pat's life & art.

Vlog 12 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Stephen Novey, Pat Tew's stepson, talks about the discovery of her murals at Templewood school.

Vlog 11 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Current students of Templewood popped in to tell us what they think of the murals.

Vlog 10 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

A current student at Templewood talks about Patricia Tew's murals.

Vlog 9 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Patricia Tew's daughter Jo, talks about the Templewood murals, Pat's life & her art.

Vlog 8 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Former country Arts Development Officer for Hertfordshire County Council discusses her involvement in the county art collection and the discovery of Patricia Tew's murals at Templewood.

Vlog 7 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Soo Hitchin discusses her love for Patricia Tew's murals at Templewood and her involvement in their restoration.

Vlog 6 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

The current headteacher at Templewood discusses her discovery of Patricia Tew's murals.

Vlog 5 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Grant shares his memories of attending Templewood with his daughter Elizabeth, a current student at the school.

Vlog 4 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Annie Renonciat discusses the Decorated School project.

Vlog 3 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Past students discuss their memories of the murals at Templewood.

Vlog 2 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Past students of Templewood discuss their memories of Patricia Tew's murals & the benefit of artwork in schools.

Vlog 1 ~ The Decorated School ~ Templewood

Past & present students from Templewood, mother & daughter, discuss Patricia Tew's murals and the impact they had on their school lives.