Q: Why does Sir Nigel Gresley deserve a statue?
A: Sir Nigel Gresley (1876-1941) was foremost among many eminent railway engineers in this country, and his influence in other countries was such that we can only regard him as world-famous. He was highly imaginative and inventive. His first patent, taken out on 2 January 1908, was for the articulation of railway vehicles, and this is still highly relevant today. Articulation is used by railway and tramway vehicles of all kinds, and this makes Sir Nigel unique among his contemporaries. It is reason enough to regard him as a great engineer.
More than that, he was inventive in many aspects of locomotive design. All of his locomotives and carriages were blessed with a cleanliness and elegance of line: even his largest goods locomotive was impeccably handsome. The smaller suburban locomotives, and those built for branch lines, all had the characteristic purity of Gresley line.
The elegance of Gresley’s locomotives was seized upon by the advertising department of the LNER at King’s Cross. In particular they appeared on posters, in booklets, timetables, luggage labels – anywhere that the LNER could take advantage of their modern looks. The speed of some of the passenger types attracted much attention from writers on locomotive performance, and thanks to the LNER’s enlightened policy of issuing lineside permits to trusted photographers, Gresley locomotives were well represented in magazines and books.
Some of his trains may rightly be regarded as amongst the most beautiful ever built, and had features that made them stand out as works of great design. The LNER streamline trains introduced the idea of the fixed-formation express train: this is still with us today, as is at-seat dining, with no need for a separate dining car.
It is for all of these reasons that Sir Nigel Gresley should be commemorated by a statue: few enough are the memorials to truly great railway pioneers such as the Stephensons, Joseph Locke, and others. Now, in the statue of Gresley at King’s Cross we are to celebrate a twentieth century engineer of the highest standing. There can be no question that, among the nation’s engineers, he fully deserves it, and indeed in a country not well known for revering its engineers, it is long overdue. By Andrew Dow [source gresley.org]
Q: Why put a duck on the statue?
A: “This duck is no mere whimsy. It is an allusion to Sir Nigel’s most famous locomotive, the Mallard, which holds the world speed record for steam locomotives. It is also an allusion to Sir Nigel’s habit of feeding mallards at his pre-war home in Salisbury Hall”. [source: Gresley Society Trust’s planning application to Camden Council (see Design & Access Statement)]
Grandson Tim Godfrey was three years old when Sir Nigel died in April, 1941 but he said he had memories of living with him in Hertfordshire. He remembers him keeping waterfowl on the estate – a love which Mr Godfrey has inherited – and it was this hobby which gave rise to names such as Mallard and Bittern which adorned many of the engines he designed. [source: Express & Star]
Q: Why not have a model A4 on the statue instead?
A: Dennis Butler, ex Gresley Society Publicity Officer explains:
The Gresley Society Sculpture Group [which was tasked by the Gresley Society Trust Council to commission, plan and promote the statue project] including Hazel Reeves the sculptor, thought long and hard about this, and after going over many options and scenarios the mallard was chosen for its instant recognisability from a distance and association with this genius engineer-artist’s greatest achievement.
It was thought the mallard would work better at attracting attention and arousing interest than a bronze model locomotive – particularly when glimpsed across the concourse.
Q: Why have the Gresley Society decided to remove the mallard from the proposed statue?
A: The official line goes like this:
After widespread consultation, including with our President, Vice Presidents, members and Sir Nigel’s family, we have agreed to make some small alterations to the details of the scheme, amongst which are the removal of the Mallard from the foot of the statue.
Gresley Society Chairman David McIntosh has been quoted as saying:
“It was quite clear if we persisted with the duck we ran the significant risk of falling out with people whose opinion we valued.”
and that Sir Nigel’s two grandsons took the view that the duck
“detracted from the dignity of the statue”.
Q: Who is paying for the statue?
A: The Gresley Society launched a fundraising appeal for the statue’s estimated cost of £95,000 in November 2014, inviting donations from the public.
The state of the Society’s finances appear to have improved significantly in the last couple of years thanks to a hefty bequest or two. According to accounts lodged with the Charities Commission, the Society had over half a million in the bank at the end of the financial year 13/14. [source: Charities Commission]
It is not known why the Society is seeking public contributions for its statue project when it has the funds to cover the cost comfortably.
Q: Won’t the duck get nicked?
A: The statue will stand on a slate slab, flush with the concourse floor. In the planning application (Design and Access Statement), the bronze duck accompanying Sir Nigel was also to stand on the floor/slab. The application says it is probable that the “unexpected presence of the duck will attract public attention, and so its fastening to the floor will be on particularly strong internal steel legs, in case children decide to sit on it”.
Not easy to pinch then, inside a busy station building.
Q: Can I have my money back?
A: If you donated to the statue appeal in the expectation of helping to fund a bronze Sir Nigel Gresley and mallard, as was originally advertised, it would seem reasonable to get your donation refunded. It may be that the Gresley Society is offering refunds to donors, but since the question is still being asked, this seems unlikely. Contact David McIntosh, Gresley Society Chairman, in the first instance (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q: Who is the sculptor?
A: Hazel Reeves, Council Member of the Society of Women Artists and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)