Date Posted: 24th January 2023

Found in a skip.
Interior Sekers silk Mill

The Kelly exhibition at the Beacon is already breaking visitor records.  Like the 2017/18 retrospective at Tullie House it is never empty during opening times and I am catching up with people I haven’t seen for ages. Some showed surprise at finding me there on Saturday  and confessed that they thought I’d retired. Excuse me! What’s retired? (I will be at the Beacon every Saturday until 26th February 1.00 – 3.00pm)

Border TV  was in there this morning with cameraman and interviewer. The footage will go out TONIGHT on Lookaround at 6-6.30pm and it will be a long piece at the end if no other stories break this afternoon.  Kieron, the interviewer, was  fascinated by the silk factory interior drawings and paintings which have never been seen before in public. They are the ones I was alluding to with my question in my last newsletter. The riddle was

WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE HAVE IN COMMON?    A plasterer in Maryport; a man up a ladder in Hackney; a London commuter and two men called Ian in Dundee.

THE ANSWER     A plasterer in Maryport was offered 2 paintings that a Whitehaven man found in a skip when the Sekers silk mill at Hensingham was being demolished. The man, a caretaker of the silk mills asked the formeman on site if he could have them, not knowing who the artist was, and he took them home in Whitehaven. Years passed and this man was recently doing a job in London and was up a ladder when a well dressed man walked under it. “tha’ll get 7 years bad luck” the Whitehaven man shouted down. “Yow must be from West Cumbria” the man shouted back. During the ensuing conversation ladder man discovered the man was from Allonby and he also discovered that the works signed PK and Kelly were now valuable and whats more that a man in Maryport  - a plasterer called Neil Mossop – was a Kelly collector. Neil brought them to show me and offered ladder man a good fair price.  I was delighted and asked if they could go in the Beacon exhibition. I had, after 30 years of searching, found 2 of  a commission of at least 11 made by Sir Nicholas Sekers in the 60s.

I was delighted but it put me on the trail again. If 2 had turned up there might be more. I showed Tony Calvin who does some brilliant research for me and he came back with the news – “Hey, there are 4 of that commission in Dundee. Ian the factory manager has sent me photos. I’m going up there!” It was a few days before Christmas when he and his wife Sal brought them back from Dundee in triumph to show me - and with permission to hang them in this show which we are both curating. I have added four more from the same batch that Percy did in the 60s but refused to sell to Sekers so we now have 10 on show alongside all the wonderful paintings of the Copeland area.  

This story is on Border TV -  ITVX  6.00 – 6.30  tonight Tuesday 24th January.

It is also in a fully illustrated 5 page spread in February’s Cumbria Life Magazine out now.

We are recording a more leisurely tour of the gallery with Helen Millican of Radio Cumbria tomorrow.  More about that as soon as I have details.

This retirement lark is really busy! I love it. More surprises to come.