Meet the maquette! Sir Nigel Gresley and mallard on display

ik1Sculptor Hazel Reeves’ scale model (maquette) of the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley has been on public display this month, at Brighton’s Artists Open Houses Festival, and the Society of Portrait Sculptors FACE2015 exhibition in London (details here).

There’s another chance to see the maquette from June 5th to 13th at Society of Women’s Artists Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, The Mall London SWl.

A comment from a supporter who saw the Brighton show:

I went to see the duck statue and the way it’s all balanced, the duck is essential! Such a shame if it goes ahead without the duck.

These photos were taken at FACE2015 by Ian Kay, who said:

Trip out today to see the maquette, looks best with the duck!


Remarkable Gresley

Another excellent comment, left on the petition yesterday:

This is a statue of a great man in a public place so will be seen by many who will not know (or care) who it commemorates – the mallard will inevitably trigger curiosity, recognition and warmth. What a fine memorial that would be compared to what otherwise will be yet another statue to be passed unnoticed.

People look at Betjeman’s statue at St Pancras because it attracts them, don’t let Gresley be unremarkable, give him the mallard. Shame on the Gresley grandsons and the Gresley Society.

History belongs to everyone

John Scott-Morgan, the British Overseas Railways Historical Trust (BORHT) founder and railway author, has made some powerful comments here and here about the Gresley Society Council‘s (ie the committee) recent behaviour. His points are worth highlighting, as they seem to encapsulate the frustration of many supporters of our campaign to get the mallard reinstated on Sir Nigel Gresley’s statue.

It’s the tweedy coat brigade, the 60s well-healed train enthusiast, who are a pain in the neck and out of touch with the way we preserve our heritage today.

These people don’t want to share our history with anyone and only talk to themselves. 

I have a message for them, history belongs to everyone, not just members of the committee of the Gresley Society and the grandsons.

I find it astonishing that the chairman thinks its none of the public’s business, this statue is in a public place, not a private club room. Sir Nigel Gresley belongs to all of us.

Andrew Dow who campaigned for the statue, was a good friend of mine for thirty years, he wanted the duck there and I agree with him. His loss is a great blow to the railway preservation movement, there are few people of his ability around these days.

When you consider all the work and effort, both Andrew and his committee put in to enable the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley to go ahead, I find it mean spirited and small minded of the Gresley Society to behave in the way they have.

I also feel that the whole tone of the Gresley Society is rude and dismissive, they should realise that history belongs to everyone.

great gathering

Giving Sir Nigel Gresley and the mallard a voice

gresleyandmallard (Copy)There are so many great comments on the petition – it’s impossible to keep up with them all. This one from Deirdre Clenet caught the eye today – what a brilliant idea to give Sir Nigel a voice as part of Talking Statues:

[The mallard] will attract a lot of attention to the sculpture. Children will love it and direct the very busy parents to “Look at this Dad or Mum”

It should also become part of the “Talking Statues” project where people can log on, get a telephone call (from the statue) and talk to Sir N Gresely who will tell them about his life, his work etc.

This project already includes the Newton statue outside the British library/ Queen Victoria and even Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.  Your statue would be a perfect addition to the scheme to get MORE people to look at sculpture.

A grave matter

This comment was made on the petition today:

I do not understand why the Gresley Trust don’t just reinstate the duck. I don’t see how the Gresley grandsons can put a stop to it.  I did see Sir Nigel’s grave back in the 1970’s and I felt that it had been neglected by his family for many years, and it was only the Gresley Society which eventually gave it the attention so sorely needed. I feel the Society should ignore the objections of his grandsons.grave




The refurbishment and re-dedication of Gresley’s grave was raised in a letter to the Times at the beginning of April by the man who found the grave in Netherseal ‘scandalously neglected’ but it hasn’t played a part in the statue debate until now.

Photos: Sir Nigel Gresley’s grave before refurbishment (above), and after it was refurbished (below) thanks to public donations.

refurb grave



Andrew Dow (1943-2015) – a tribute

andrew dowRailway enthusiasts will perhaps have heard that Andrew Dow, former Vice Chairman of the Gresley Society, died in April.

Andrew Dow was the driving force behind the Sir Nigel Gresley statue project until his resignation in March over the decision of his colleagues on the Gresley Society Council to remove the mallard. The two other Council members who were working with him on the project also resigned.

This tribute was given by one of them, Nigel Dant, at Andrew Dow’s funeral in Yorkshire last week. It is reproduced here with permission from Nigel Dant and the Dow family.

Tribute to Andrew Dow by Nigel Dant

A number of you in this congregation, like me, will have known Andrew through his love of railways. His interests in this field were many and he managed to spread his time and his talents widely.

Andrew was a past president of the Stephenson Locomotive Society and one time Commercial Director of the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Permanent Way Institution. He also served on the boards of many railway charities and societies, including the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Association, the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society, the Great Central Railway Society and the British Overseas Railway Historical Trust, amongst many others. He was also a prolific writer of articles in the railway press ranging from book reviews to a monthly column.

Indeed, it was his long-running series ‘That reminds me’ in Steam World which particularly drew his name to my attention because he seemed to posses this unique ability to write interestingly and persuasively on almost any railway topic under the sun, however obscure and from the merest crumb of an idea.
So it was that I eventually met Andrew, fairly late in both our lives, through his involvement in the Gresley Society. We had both been Council members for a number of years and I remember there was often an element of tension when an Agenda item particularly grabbed his passion.

Allow me to take you through the last couple of years during which he embarked on his last great project.

When in 2012 the Gresley Society received a substantial bequest from one of its members thoughts immediately turned to how this might be used – in keeping, of course, with the role and aspirations of the Society. Andrew was always a stickler for using the Society’s assets appropriately and wisely. Both Andrew and I separately prepared papers for a Council Meeting at York in March 2013 and between us we came up with between fifteen and twenty suggestions covering all areas of interest.

Out of these suggestions, a bust of Sir Nigel Gresley seemed an idea worthy of further consideration and I was tasked with making some initial investigations around costs and practicalities. This I did reporting back at the next Council meeting with a sum which I thought would blow the idea out of court. Imagine my surprise then, when Andrew chipped in with the question ‘How much would a statue cost then?’ And from that moment the Gresley Statue Project was conceived.
It was almost a forgone conclusion that Andrew and I would form the nucleus of the Sculpture Group (as we called ourselves) setting out on a path which neither of us had trodden before. Where do you start with such a project and, indeed, would any organisation welcome such a statue on their property?

I soon learnt to appreciate both Andrew’s capacity for work and his organisational skills. He was crystal clear when it came to communicating his ideas and always swift to praise a job well done. Equally he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He had an enormous network of friends and colleagues and if he didn’t know the particular person we needed to approach then he probably knew someone who did. So we started with Network Rail since, on balance, we felt a statue of Sir Nigel would sit most appropriately on one of their properties.

Andrew, always one step ahead of the game, had his own ideas on this and whilst Doncaster might have seemed the most appropriate venue, in his mind Kings Cross was an even better one. So through a contact of his in York we were given an introduction to the station management at Kings Cross who pretty much welcomed us with open arms.

As in his writing, Andrew when in face to face discussion could be very persuasive and his argument that the statue should sit in front of the west block of Kings Cross station, below the offices where Gresley and his senior colleagues had worked, was nothing short of inspired. But it wasn’t just Network Rail who we had to convince. Camden Council and English Heritage would also need to give their consent so, nothing daunted, Andrew set up a joint meeting with them to not only seek an initial response but also to ascertain how we might best achieve a positive result.

As with our Network Rail meetings we found both Camden and English Heritage immensely helpful and encouraging. However, we were keen not to prejudice the outcome of any of our discussions or submissions and so agreed that all details of our proposal should be keep under wraps until all necessary permissions had been received. And we maintained this position as long as we reasonably could.

In the meantime we were starting to have long and detailed discussions with Hazel Reeves (our chosen sculptor) about the form of the statue. Hazel was introduced to us through my connections in the world of arts (one of the few areas where I felt I could dare to pull rank on Andrew). I was initially very nervous about how he would receive her. I needn’t have worried. From the outset Andrew recognised her as a true professional in her field. Whilst she might not have been a railway enthusiast (and certainly not a Gresley aficionado – though she quickly became a willing disciple) she had done a great deal of homework before our first meeting and she took copious notes during all our discussions.

Andrew’s enthusiasm for the statue project was becoming infectious and by March 2014 we had Council agreement to commission an initial model (or maquette) cast in bronze which, in turn, would allow us to proceed with making an application to Camden, English Heritage and Network Rail for a larger-than-life statue of Sir Nigel Gresley on the brand new concourse at Kings Cross station.

I cannot tell you the fun Andrew had looking around Hazel’s studio in Billingshurst on one of the occasions when we were inspecting the initial clay models. He was like a child in a sweet shop. Discovering that the lost wax casting process was used in the production of the maquette gave him opportunity to display his knowledge of the subject gleaned from his years at Rolls Royce. By early July of 2014 the finished bronze maquette had been displayed to Council to their unanimous approbation and this was followed a few days later by the formal on-line submission to Camden.

During the run up to the formal submission I was being bombarded by emails and telephone calls from Andrew asking for an opinion on this or a view on that. With the submission made I assumed that there might be a small lull in activity over the Summer. Not a bit of it, during the eight weeks waiting for a decision Andrew turned his mind to the publicity machine to raise the necessary capital, revamping the Society website, the unveiling day and the guest list. All his organisational skills were coming to the fore.

The statue was approved exactly as we had asked for it in a prime position on Kings Cross station. This was almost beyond our wildest dreams. We met several times in London during the last quarter of 2014 and always we would start with a discussion over a cup of coffee sitting on the balcony overlooking the place where the statue would stand. For some reason, I always ended up picking up the tab!
In early 2015 despite all that was going on in the background, we continued to forge ahead with promoting the statue and seeking corporate funding. A hastily convened meeting with East Coast in York, who we knew were ceasing their contract within a couple of months, saw Andrew at his cheekiest . They listened attentively to our story and, whilst making it clear they were not themselves in a position to assist us financially, nevertheless offered to open some doors with their successors. They then asked what sort of sum of money we were looking for to which Andrew replied – without hesitation – ‘well a five figure sum would be very welcome’. Had they been continuing in business, I think we would have got it.
The conversation with East Coast then turned to the unveiling ceremony and we explained that whilst we had a number of thoughts on that, we hadn’t yet settled on any individual. Their advice, which somewhat surprised us, was ‘It is much easier to start at the top and work down; why not try for a Royal?’. I was going to let Andrew write that letter.

However, events overtook us on that side of things.
Andrew had planned that the unveiling of the statue would be a day the railway fraternity would remember, putting both Sir Nigel Gresley and the society created in his name on a national if not international level. And so one of our final acts was to request that on 5th April 2016, up to four Gresley locomotives should be lined up at the buffer stops in platforms 5, 6, 7 and 8 at Kings Cross. Network Rail duly took the request on board, maximum engine lengths were supplied and watering facilities discussed. Their principal concern, apart from getting the locos into and out of the Cross, was to ensure the continued running of the timetabled train service around the locos. In the event they agreed that initially two could be accommodated, but I think, if time and circumstances had allowed, Andrew would have persuaded them to accept all four.

What a magnificent day that would have been.
It saddens me to think that a few individuals have worked so hard to destroy that spectacle.

Andrew, you were an inspirational railway colleague, a man of infectious enthusiasm, a visionary and a true friend.
Rest in peace.

Hundreds say Gresley Society is making wrong choice over statue

We were disappointed to see the comments made to the Scotsman newspaper by Sir Nigel Gresley’s grandson Tim Godfrey last week.

SP-Statue-wall-front-viewThe whole point of starting the petition to reinstate the mallard on Sir Nigel’s statue was to show the Gresley Society’s ‘Council’ (its governing body) that there is strong public support for their original with-mallard design.

The hope was that the Council would use this information to persuade the grandsons their fears of ridicule were unfounded, and that they should withdraw their objection to the mallard.

Judging from Mr Godfrey’s interview on Friday it seems unlikely he will change his mind, even if somebody were able to explain to him that he has got some important details of the project wrong (such as who is paying for the statue!).

It is understandable that Mr Godfrey, 76, feels proprietorial about his grandfather’s legacy. A quick internet search soon shows that he must devote much of his time to appearing at public events commemorating Sir Nigel, and it is perhaps not surprising that he believes a statue of the great man needs no attribute, and that it should stand alone.

However, just about everybody else seems to appreciate the necessity of an attribute – the mallard. And that the attribute becomes more and more important as Sir Nigel and his work fade further and further into past history.

On the face of it, the Gresley Society Council members are in a difficult situation: on the one hand they want to respect the grandsons’ wishes; and on the other they must want this statue to fulfill its purpose of promoting and celebrating their man.  In choosing the grandsons over their original vision for the statue they also lost three of their colleagues – the ones who had been running the statue project. They have a tough job on their hands to bring this huge (for an organisation the size of the Gresley Society) scheme to a satisfactory conclusion.

In some ways the Council’s loyalty to the grandsons is commendable. There has largely been silence for over a month, when Council members might have pointed out, but didn’t, that other members of the Gresley family supported the original with-mallard design back in January, with ‘generous donations‘ to the project. Or they might simply have agreed to disagree with the grandsons and gone ahead as planned (with the mallard).

Tim Godfrey has perhaps given the Council a let-out with his remarks in the Scotsman. The Gresley Society cannot ask for public donations on the one hand and suggest the statue is none of the public’s business on the other (even if they appear to be struggling to attract enough donations to meet the £95k cost). They could not have chosen a much more public place to put it either; surely public interest is the whole point of the statue?

The petition currently has over 1,100 supporters (some of whom, incidentally, are Gresley Society members). The choice for the Gresley Society Council seems simple, it either has a bronze Sir Nigel with no mallard, which will see the statue ignored by the general public and fade into obscurity within a relatively short time. Or the statue includes the mallard, which, as the petition and surrounding debate has shown, will invite curiosity from people of all ages, and in turn promote the works of Sir Nigel Gresley for years to come.

“If they don’t shut up, God knows what will happen” Tim Godfrey

Journalist Ilona Amos from the Scotsman spoke today to Mr Tim Godrey, grandson of Sir Nigel Gresley, about the statue and the petition to reinstate the mallard. He told her (for this article) the campaigners have “no business” calling for the duck to be put back in, and continued:

They are not members of the Gresley Society. They are not contributing to the cost of the statue.

What are they trying to do? Is the duck more important than the man?

It’s a statue for a man, not a stupid duck.

I think the Flying Scotsman was just as important a locomotive as the Mallard – are they going to have a little Scotsman with a kilt and wings sitting on his shoulder?

The Gresley Society, which is instigating and paying for the statue, has 12 councillors. All voted against the duck and dismissed it.

So if the general public, who have no interest in it whatsoever and who think they know better than we do, if they don’t shut up God knows what will happen. It’s a load of rubbish.

We might take issue with a number of points here – every single one actually – but let’s stick to the facts:

  1. The Gresley Society has advertised its fund-raising appeal for the statue in the railway press and on its website since November 2014, asking for donations from all and sundry. Gresley Society chairman David McIntosh has said that members have contributed less than 5% of the statue’s £95k cost.
  2. Some of the people who have signed the petition are Gresley Society members.
  3. The Gresley Society Council only voted to remove the mallard from the statue in March 2015, apparently after Mr Godfrey objected to its presence. It was not a unanimous vote; three Council members resigned over the issue. The man and mallard design was submitted for planning consent in July 2014, so the Council were happy with it for some months before making their U-turn.

The fact that Mr Godfrey thinks the general public has ‘no interest’ in the statue whatsoever leaves me speechless. For now.