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There’s A Sadness In Those Eyes

March 4, 2013


Picture the scene, your twenty-nine working on the first equestrian sculpture to be commissioned in Edinburgh for seventy years, you’ve finally made it after all those years of struggle. Then there’s a knock at your studio door it’s your Father he’s not looking good and he says it, “Wendy’s (my sister aged 31)  dead she’s been murdered” and in that single moment my life changed forever, though I didn’t know it at the time. I struggled on with the sculpture but the pain we all felt as a family was close to unbearable, there was guilt, anger and every emotion you could think of boiling away under the surface and you have to learn to live with it. But it’s always there gnawing away at you, you wake up in the middle of the night with a start you know someone close is dead but you can’t remember who then you do and it’s like you have to relive that  dark moment of discovery again. So there is no rest your innocence has been stolen and the course of your life changed forever by an act of pure destruction. Little did I know at this time what was to follow as my life slowly unfolded, but this act had torn so deeply into my being that I would never return to being that young ambitious sculptor because life was now so different. I limped on in a wounded way but I was vulnerable and somewhat weakened in my resolve, I wasn’t aware of it untill recently after what I can only describe as an awakening of my consciousness following a long period of reflection. I can now see how far off course I was knocked as my priorities changed and it’s with great sadness that I confront these regrets and try to make up for lost time as I now try to  fast-track my creative development so that I can be in my right place as an artist and once again feel proud of who I am.


Ten years later I had completed a second equestrian sculpture for the city of Edinburgh and had remained very close to my other sister Amanda and my Mother Maisie whom I would speak to on the phone once or twice a day. I had just become a father for the first time and my sister followed with her third child some two or three weeks later which brought us even closer as we had wonderful sons of  the same age. I spoke to my sister on the phone who told me how happy she was and how she hoped nothing else bad would happen, she was just so happy with her beautiful son. The following day there was a knock at my door and it was my mother and father who both looked so sad and they told me that Amanda was dead, she’d died of a brain hemorrhage with her newborn son at her side, at first I couldn’t believe it or take on board the absolute horror of the situation, but I had too. I can only describe a feeling of numbness but we had to carry on as there were young children and we had to mask the grief  as best we could so that they wouldn’t suffer too much. On a personal level I was never able to accept the sheer agony of my mother’s grief, Maisie was a good woman and didn’t deserve such heart-break. Her suffering was not deserved in any way and to this day I am haunted so deeply by it that I still find it unbearable to think about. I am so grateful to the warmth and humanity gifted to me by my mother and carry it with me still, because deep down no matter what happens I have a warm reassurance within that gives me the strength to carry on and believe in myself.

maisie1                                                                                                                                               Portrait of Maisie (1982) a

So we all had to carry on trying to mask our grief but suppressing it was creating a time bomb and eventually something would have to give. As a family we were shattered and at night when my son was asleep tears would come into my eyes as I thought about my mothers unbearable sadness at losing her two daughters. I Was lucky enough to be having a big exhibition in Edinburgh and we dedicated it to my sister Amanda (who’s nick name was Bam age 42) it proved to be a lighter moment and we had a reunion of old family friends, but it was all too brief.

In 2004 my Mother fell ill at my house and rested a while before we took her home just 4 miles away, she remained ill for a few days and I visited her regularly which would cheer her up, I was expecting my second child and knew it was a boy but hadn’t told anyone though I told my mother because I knew her illness seemed somewhat grave and I wanted her to know. I remember telling my mother to hang in there because I still very much-needed her in my life but we both knew her will had been broken and my plea was in vain our connection was too strong to hide anything. I came home and then later that evening there was a knock at the door and it was my father with the sad news that my mother was dead, as I write this tears are once again coming into my eyes after four years without a tear. She had died of a broken heart both literally and metaphorically, I went straight through to see my mother  gave her a kiss told her how much I loved her and said goodbye. From here I had nothing left, I was all but destroyed apart from my children for whom I had to maintain a brave front. I proudly carried my mother’s coffin with some fellow Scots dressed in kilts to her final resting place next to her two daughters. I was unable to return to the three graves untill last year because the pain was too great and I feared confronting the harsh reality of my own existence.


Not long after Maisie’s death my second son was born followed eighteen months later by my daughter and they have been my salvation though times were difficult as I hit rock bottom, I kept my sculpture going and made a living but would often drink wine late into the evening to numb the intense feelings. I always felt things were kind of OK  I put a brave face on for the kids and carried on, I didn’t get too worked up about things because I’d think hey I’m alive what more could you want. But in a way this was leading into a fairly negative pattern of behaviour where I was starting to exist only and not really live, I was becoming passive and things happen to you more as opposed to you making things happen and as a man who had always been proud and driven I was becoming lost. Grazing in the wilderness is how I like to look at it now.

wendy                                                                                                                                                A Naive painting I did of Wendy

So three years ago I decided to stop drinking after a chat with a friend and it started a whole new chapter of my life, I was able to face up to and confront my many demons, but it’s been a slow and difficult process as I had become entrenched in a way of being and felt tied to it by myself and others too. But I have fought my way out  with my art leading the way at first through raw passion and instinct and now through concerted effort and hard work`. Slowly but surely I am reconnecting and becoming whole once again and my work will take shape and move on as I have found the courage and belief to push all my ideas forward no matter how random or obscure. I have a story to tell and I’m going to tell it whatever it takes and this time I wont be foiled by any obstacles.

Creativity is fundamental to human activity and gives meaning to your life, through my struggles I have learnt a great deal and have a rather interesting perspective on art, what I feel is an objective overview, so there is much to do and prove. As for the future I hope one day to feel that I’ve overcome the negative impact from my losses and that I may achieve something near to my potential as a tribute to the beautiful family that I lost.

I will never seek happiness but will settle for spiritual wellbeing.

It was important for me to write this brief synopsis of a part of my life because for so long it has been bottled up inside where it fuelled my discontent, I hope that this symbolic gesture will release me further.  🙂

Family Life                                                                                                    And here is my daughter who likes nothing better than painting my face 🙂

  1. ophelia permalink

    Wow. If you look at your life as a hero’s journey, there’s no doubting you’ve been to the underworld and back. Sometimes I wonder if it’s good for children to hear about their parent’s grief. They always know when we’re unhappy and it helps them to know they’re not responsible. Your mother sounds like a very compassionate woman who got more than anyone deserves to bear.


    • I never knew what to do about telling children because I was confused and as a person who believes in being open it just magnified the problem. But I do take my children to the graves now and they lighten the situation by lying on them and pretending to be one of my sisters. I also tell them about the cause of death but don’t elaborate with Wendy’s beyond head injury. With my Mother it really was so unfair. 🙂


  2. Nancy Newberg permalink

    Thank-you for shareing your pain, I felt it all. If I could carry some for you indeed I would . Bless you


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