This is from the editorial of the Railway Magazine‘s April edition, by Nigel Devereux:
To a child, one statue looks very much like another, so when the Gresley Society Trust succeeded in persuading the authorities to let it place a sculpture of LNER chief mechanical engineer Sir Nigel Gresley on the concourse at King’s Cross, something was needed to make it stand out from the crowd and appeal to the many children who would pass it during the ensuing generations.
Knowing that the great man will forever be associated with his world-record breaking A4 Mallard, the trust’s members came up with the idea of placing a mallard duck down at his feet. This, it was felt, would encourage children to go over to the statue and perhaps ask their parents to explain what the bird was doing there. The parents would then use their smartphones to scan a QR code on a plaque on the wall and, hey presto, another young citizen is aware of the Gresley story.
However, the trust has now reluctantly had to tell the sculptress to leave the duck off… because Sir Nigel’s two grandsons don’t consider it to be appropriate. What a shame!
Their decision is all the more difficult to fathom given the fact that their grandfather was a keen ornithologist!
Here is Sir Nigel with the locomotive Sir Nigel Gresley
The Derby Telegraph has published a thoughtful article about the Gresley statue today. Noting that two descendants of Sir Nigel are unhappy with one aspect of the statue’s design (that being the presence of the mallard), the piece continues:
Art is all in the eye of the beholder, of course, but one cannot help but wonder if these family members are being a shade over-sensitive.
The Mallard holds the world speed record for a steam engine and will presumably now always do so.
This statue seems a neat, and surely inoffensive, way of reinforcing that link.
Nobody is going to ridicule the memory of Sir Nigel because of it.
King’s Cross passengers who may not have known about him and his claim to fame will be educated about this and are much more likely to retain this knowledge after seeing the statue.
There is no doubt Sir Nigel Gresley is much admired by his Derbyshire countrymen and women – over a fifth of signatures on the petition to save the duck are from Derbyshire residents.
The April edition of industry magazine Rail Announcement features an article on the fallout from Sir Nigel’s mallard (see page 11). Here’s an extract:
The proposal by the Gresley Society to erect a bronze statue of locomotive designer Sir Nigel Gresley at London King’s Cross station has evolved into a PR disaster with three members of the Gresley Society resigning and the society suffering much ridicule over proposed changes to its design.
Thanks to Baz Eyres for sending this in.
Dr Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard, played by British actor David McCallum, is one of the main characters in the hugely successful American TV series NCIS. He is the Medical Examiner (pathologist) in the show’s Naval Criminal Investigative Service team, and can be seen in his office here with a model of 4468 Mallard in pride of place.
Now, Ducky would surely approve of the mallard on Sir Nigel’s statue, wouldn’t he?
This comment was made on the petition today:
As a member of the gresley society I’m joining this campaign because at the AGM last October when the model was displayed to the members present not one person was heard to say it was disrespectful and all I heard were comments in favour of it.
Contrast this with the announcement on the Gresley Society’s website that the mallard was withdrawn after widespread consultation “including with our President, Vice Presidents, members and Sir Nigel’s family…”
And then there’s this comment from another Gresley Society member who wants to know who was involved in the decision since members weren’t asked.
The petition now has over 550 signatures, with an amazing 20% from Derbyshire, where Sir Nigel Gresley grew up and is buried.
“Ayup mi duck” is the traditional greeting in South Derbyshire, and duck is a term of endearment. Many of the Derbyshire supporters are from Swadlincote (they call themselves Swaddies). Here are some Derbyshire comments from the petition:
I’m a proud swaddie and this is part of my heritage
The Mallard was important to Sir Nigel Gresley . as it is to all Swaddies . It will raise curiosity and awareness of the Mallard Ducks assaciation to the train . an essential part of the statue.
I am proud of my heritage!
I’m Swadlincote born and bred and proud of him. So come on me duck, put the mallard on!
I think the duck should stay as it symbolises the Mallard engine and also links the statue to the area that he was from as “duck” is a popular term of endearment in the area he was from.
The Society of Portrait Sculptors has selected Hazel Reeves’ bronze maquette (scale model) Sir Nigel Gresley and Mallard for its prestigious annual show, FACE2015, to be held in London next month.
The Open Exhibition is the only forum for contemporary portrait sculpture in this country and consists of about 70 sculptures of which approximately one third is chosen from open submission from non members. It is an international exhibition and open to entries worldwide.
FACE2015 will take place at La Galleria Pall Mall, 30 Royal Opera Arcade, London SW1 6NW 18-23 May 2015.
Opening times are:
- 10.00am to 5.00pm Mon, Tue & Fri
- 10.00am to 7.00pm Wed & Thu
- 10.00am to 3.00pm Sat
The maquette will also be shown by the Society of Women’s Artists in its Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, The Mall London SWl 5-13
May June 2015.
Opening times: 10am – 5pm daily (closes 3pm on 13th June)
The exhibition features the following awards:
HRH Princess Michael of Kent Watercolour Award
£2,000 SWA President’s Award Image 002
£500 Special Fine Art Award
The Barbara Tate Memorial Award
The Caron Keating Memorial Award
Premium Art Brands Award for a Young Artist
The Great Art Award
Derwent Art Materials Award
Frank Herring & Sons Easel Award
Rosemary & Co Art Prize
London Art Co.Uk Website Entry
London Art Co.Uk. Special Sculpture Award
The Artist, ‘Editors Choice’ Award
The St. Cuthbert’s Paper Mill Award
Jackson’s Visitors Choice Award
I have been looking round the Streetsensation website, which says “in London you are never far from a statue. They are not very interesting unless you know who they are.”
Do you know who these statues depict? (Hint: all categorised as pioneers, artists or explorers) Go to Streetsensation for the answers…
The statue of Sir Nigel Gresley and mallard is a golden opportunity to bring Britain’s fantastic railway and engineering heritage to a new audience. It is the incongruity of a bronze duck in King’s Cross station that will grab the attention of passersby and arouse interest in Gresley and his achievements. A bronze Sir Nigel on his own is not going to make anything like the same impact.
This new comment on the petition today (you have signed it, haven’t you?) sums things up beautifully:
.. although I thought it was bit of a gimic at first, I understood why (links with his engine, plus he was a wildlife watcher with a massive duck pond in his garden), the reaction by his grandsons and those Gresley Society members sound like total and utter moaning, miserable, picknicking boars.., Which is the ruination of railway preservation …
There are some great new comments on the petition today as we approach 500 signatures. Here’s a small selection:
This addition will enchant the public and inspire curiosity. Instead of being just another boring statute this will make it fun for children and engage people to read the plaque about this great man. Don’t allow old and boring folk to take away something quirky and interesting from what would otherwise be an incredibly dull statue.
The duck has a real significance and its quirkiness will add to the spectacle. For goodness sake, why not?
The duck is the defining part of the statue. It draws the eye and the mind, while reminding us of one his greatest achievements. It also fits with the typical British sense of humour, lightly poking fun while at the same time showing a great deal of respect, without being to showy.
The Gresley Society Trust’s view is archaic and out of kilter with forward thinking such as Sir Nigel demonstrated throughout his life.
Only the really dull and stuffy would chuck the duck.
I have been a train enthusiast ever since I was a little boy. I have admired Britain’s steam locomotive designs like sir Nigel Gresley’s A4 Pacific Mallard. I strongly agree the duck should be displayed as the symbol of the fastest steam locomotive in the world and one of Gresley’s famous design. KEEP THE DUCK.
I’m signing because we need the Mallard its part of Sir Nigel Gresley and so younger people will learn what a great man he was to the railway history