In the last blogposting I bewailed (lovely word!) the fact that the truly saintly and gentle St Cuthbert had no statue in the north-east (without adding that the vicious Lord Londonderry has). Well, if you’ve been keeping up to speed, you’ll know that Brenda added a comment to the blog that included a link to a statue on Holy Island that turned out to be of St Aidan.
Not to be outdone, the amazing Brenda has now posted a new link in the Comments box - and this time, it really is a statue of St Cuthbert.
To be honest, I’d forgotten about it, even though I’ve seen it several times. Looking at the picture of it, I can see exactly why I’ve forgotten about it.
Let’s face it - it doesn’t do our patron saint many favours, does it? Compared to the simple grace of the statue of St Aidan, it looks clumsy, contrived and almost pedestrian. At least, it does to me.
I appreciate that beauty is in the eye of the beholder - but so is ungainliness and ugliness. For me, Mr Lawson’s sculpture says little or nothing about Cuthbert’s life and humble spirituality; it doesn’t evoke the feelings of affection and pride in him that I want to feel.
I just don’t like it - which is a shame when it represents a person of whom I am very, very fond. I would much rather, in this case, that ‘modern art’ gave way to a more traditional image of St Cuthbert. I reckon I would be moved very deeply - and feel much more that he ‘belonged’ in his place - if he was portrayed with a donkey (a ‘cuddy’) and a duck.
This whole question of statues and sculptures has - thanks to Brenda - got me thinking, though.
My time on the Blue Bus showed me that there is a surprisingly large number of notables of one kind or another who do not seem to have been immortalised by statues in their native north-east. Before I drafted this blog, I scribbled some names down…
* Robert Smith Surtees, from County Durham - the immensely popular author of the Jorrocks stories in the 1830s and 1840s.
* William Mills, from Sunderland - who invented the ‘Mills bomb’ (a type of hand grenade) in 1913. I’m aware that memorialising a ‘man of war’ may not be to everyone’s taste - but Mr Mills’ invention certainly helped to win World War One; and Sunderland needs as many memorials as it can get.
* Emily Davidson, the suffragette killed by the King’s horse at the Derby in 1913, should also have a statue, preferably in her native Morpeth.
* William van Mildert, the last Prince Bishop of Durham, whose name and philanthropy is scandalously little-known. It was through him that the palatinate of Durham was finally abolished in 1836 so that the University of Durham could be founded. His statue in the Cathedral should be moved to the centre of Palace Green at once. Or better - to the Market Place to replace the appalling Lord Londonderry.
* Tommy Armstrong, who wrote the words and music to some of the north-east’s best-loved songs: Wor Nannie’s a Mazor, Durham Jail, Hedgehog Pie, Oakey’s Keeker, Trimdon Grange Explosion, Stanley Market, and many more. It would be splendid to have a mighty statue of this humble man atop one of the heights around Tantobie, where he lived and died.
* Thomas Hepburn, the extraordinary social reformer from Pelton - yet another local man whose memory is shamefully neglected.
And that’s just for starters. I’m sure you can think of others. Any votes for Neil Tennant? Jonathan Ive?
LE BLOG À PÉPÈRE
You can see some photos of a visit Serge and I made to Tynemouth Market while he was here recently on his blogposting 192.
It was a great day; thanks to everyone who greeted us so warmly - and practised their atrocious French!
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