Read it and weep...

Finished reading this biography of Montrose-born sculptor and artist, William Lamb, yesterday.

It's written by John Stansfield and was published at the tale end of last year by Edinburgh-based Birlinn.

I asked for it for Christmas after seeing it at the home of my friend, the artist and curator, Kim Canale, in Montrose. Kim runs a gallery in the town and is very much rooted there , just like William. Lamb.

I've been sort-of aware of Lamb's sculptures, from seeing them dotted around Montrose - a sea port in the north east of Scotland - where he lived and work for most of his 58 years.

He was a contemporary of Hugh MacDiarmid, who lived and worked in Montrose for a spell as a reporter on the local paper. The two men were friends and Lamb's head of the radical Scots poet is so alive.

I knew nothing about Lamb's work. Now, I feel I've fallen half in love with him.

I actually cried when I reached the last page, but not because it was designed to make the reader cry. The book is written in a very straightforward way, with absolutely nothing schmaltzy wrapped up in its 200 or so pages.

Author John Stansfield shows but does not tell in recounting Lamb's life and times. He died at Stracathro Hospital outside Montrose of kidney failure. He'd never married but he was much mourned by his friends and extended family.

As Stansfield makes clear, this un-prepossessing artist didn't do the salon thing. He just wanted to make work in his own time and in his own space.

This youngest son of a ship's captain was born in an era when young men were sent like lambs to the slaughter. Literally.

He survived the horrors of the First World War and returned to his home town physically and emotionally traumatised.

Unable to use his right hand, the naturally right-handed artist just re-trained himself to carve and draw and paint using his left hand. He overcame so many hurdles just to make his art, not least of all eschewing the love and companionship of a life partner.

Had he been more of a born marketeer or a charismatic Bohemian, you might have heard of his name... this after all was the artist who depicted a future queen in 3d, playing with her and getting to know the six-year-old Princess Elizabeth in her nursery so that the bust he created of her was just so.

He did the same thing with her two-year-old sister, Margaret Rose. I found myself wondering what the Queen recalls of this playful, yet shy and retiring Scotsman who was one of the first of many artists to try to capture her likeness.

She - or her little sister - gave him a nasty dose of mumps too which manifested itself as shingles.

By the end of his life, Lamb was viewed as a slightly bizarre figure cutting about Montrose on his bike in a checked red, green and black lumberjack jacket sent to him by his sister, who had emigrated to America years before.

When asked who he was, one carter said to another: "Jest a poor cratur that rins aboot the toon on a bike."

As the work he left behind testifies, he was so much more.

More about the book HERE

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