The campaign to save the mallard duck on the controversial statue of railway engineer Sir Nigel Gresley has received a boost with the support of eminent railway authors and artists.
The 7 foot 4 inch high bronze sculpture of Sir Nigel Gresley was commissioned from award-winning sculptor Hazel Reeves by the Gresley Society Trust. It is due to be unveiled on the Western Concourse at King’s Cross station in London on 5th April 2016, the 75th anniversary of Sir Nigel’s death. The project, costing £95,000 is crowd-funded.
The original statue proposal included a mallard duck at the engineer’s feet, symbolising the Gresley-designed locomotive Mallard, which attained the world speed record for steam on 3rd July 1938. The mallard was also intended to draw attention to the statue and pique interest in Sir Nigel and his work.
Earlier this year, with half the funding secured, the Gresley Society announced that it had decided to remove the mallard from the statue because Sir Nigel’s elderly grandsons feared it would cause ridicule.
A petition and campaign urging the Gresley Society Trust to reinstate the mallard was then launched, attracting overwhelming support for the duck in social media, national and railway press.
Amongst the campaign supporters are railway authors and artists, who this week spoke out against the decision to remove the mallard.
Don Hale OBE, in Mallard: How the ‘Blue Streak’ Broke the World Steam Speed Record, explains that the locomotive Mallard represented the pinnacle of Gresley’s career, saying it was the most magnificent locomotive he ever created and when it recorded the world speed record in 1938 it made him world famous, also out-running the Nazi German rival and giving Hitler his first humiliation and taste of defeat. He said:
“Gresley and Mallard were like a marriage made in heaven. Without Mallard he would have just been known as one of many outstanding railway engineers of his time. And without a tribute to Mallard, it will completely devalue this statue and make it worthless and futile.”
“How nice to spark the imagination of a new generation of young people with this witty statue of Gresley and the duck. I live just up the road from King’s Cross station, and I know my own young children would love it…”
Christian Wolmar, whose many railway books include The Iron Road and Fire & Steam: How the Railways Transformed Britain, described Sir Nigel Gresley as one of the greatest ever locomotive engineers, and said:
“I support the duck!”
Joining the authors in support of the mallard on Sir Nigel’s statue are four top artists: Malcolm Root, Fellow of the Guild of Railway Artists (FGRA), Philip D. Hawkins FGRA, Jonathan Clay GRA and Matthew Cousins GRA. All have given examples of their work to be used in the campaign to reinstate the mallard.
Jonathan Clay, whose Birds In Flight drawing for the this website depicts a mallard flying ahead of the locomotive Mallard, and the mallard duck shown here, said:
“The inclusion of the mallard duck on the statue is an inspired idea. I urge everyone to sign the petition to keep the mallard.”