A portrait of one of Shaftesbury’s departed characters has been creating interest after it was hung up in his ‘local’.
Richard Clegg painted a picture of his friend Eric ‘Joe’ Ferrett, whom he befriended at Ye Olde Two Brewers. Earlier this month’ landlady Lynne Damaliti asked the artist if his painting could be placed alongside the bar of the St James Street pub. ThisIsAlfred spoke with Richard about his art and his adventures around the world before he settled in our town.
Richard Clegg is a self-taught artist and the St James resident of fifteen years didn’t pursue his art for a career. In 1974, Richard headed down under, bought a camper van and drove along Australia’s North East coast. “I got myself a Combi – a Volkswagen van – and I drove up the coast to Queensland. I worked in a workshop up there. I’m a joiner by trade,” said Richard.
Richard later took the VW all the way down to Canberra for work and after a time there, he accepted an unusual role in New Zealand. He headed to a small lakeside town called Wanaka in a mountainous and remote part of the South Island.
“I was a deer hunter, shooting them from the helicopters. The firm was called Alpine Helicopter,” Richard recalled. “They were flown by ex-Vietnam pilots because, at the time, the fighting was still going on over there. I got a job and I lasted a week. I don’t like heights,” he laughed.
Richard explained how he would have to hang out of the helicopter door to shoot at the deer. “The helicopter would come down a bit, you would jump down into the snow and harness a deer up and then it would go back to base. After that I went on foot. It was an amazing time.”
Richard’s next Antipodean experience was unique. He ended up living and working for almost three years on Melville Island, 60 miles northeast of Darwin. The remote part of the Northern Territory is home to Australia’s indigenous Tiwi people. “The Tiwi have been there for 50,000 years. They’ve got their own laws, which they stick to,” said Richard.
He ended up there because he had applied for work as a carpenter. He quickly bonded with his interviewer who was also English. Richard was offered a position almost immediately after their meeting. “That evening, he said ‘give me a ring’. I rang him up about five o’clock and he said, ‘Be at Darwin airport at six o’clock in the morning’,” said Richard. “I walked to the airport, because I was camping out. On the tarmac were two Dakota DC3 wartime planes. We flew for about 25 minutes and we could see the sea and the inlets and the animals down there. It is an amazing place. We landed on this airstrip which was grass and gravel and you could see the old trucks.”
Life in the island’s largest settlement, a place of just 500 people, was very different to the Australian mainland or England. “As we came from the airport on the back of a Ute truck, lots of young kids, teenagers, were all laughing and giggling. We got back to the village, which was called Milikapiti. It was just wooden huts. It was an American base during the war. Battleships filled up the bay.”
On Christmas Morning 1974, Cyclone Tracy struck and flattened the city of Darwin, making half of its residents homeless. Richard was back on the mainland, camping over 2,000 km away in Northern Queensland, but he knew something was up with the weather.
“The sky changed and it was weird,” said Richard. “I camped out that night about 20 miles from Cooktown, where Captain Cook repaired his boat. I looked out in the morning and it was very quiet. There wasn’t much life about but the beach was pink all the way around, as far as you could see. It was krill – little tiny prawns – that had been washed up overnight, so something had happened. I scooped up a saucepan full and put four eggs in it. Then I cooked it up and that’s the best omelette I’ve ever made!”
Eventually, Richard decided it was time to come home. “I didn’t want to die in Australia. I wanted some green grass and a good old pub,” he said. He found Shaftesbury by chance. Richard had been in the area previously but he came specifically to see the setting of Britain’s most famous commercial.
“I arrived here and walked down Gold Hill. I had thought it was in Yorkshire because of the adverts for Hovis,” said Richard. Like many people, he had been confused by the northern accent of the voiceover on the iconic ad.
Richard found a job working at Semley barns and decided to stay in Shaftesbury. ” I walked past the pub here and popped in – and sitting in the corner was a little old man. He looked at me.” That man was Joe Ferrett. “I told him where I had been. He said, ‘Alright Blue. Come in, have a drink’. He was a wonderful character,” Richard reminisced.
‘Blue’ is a term of endearment that Aussies use. Richard explained that Joe had told him how he had served in North Africa alongside Anzac troops during the war. “I kept calling into the pub and seeing Joe,” said Richard. “He was at his little spot where he used to sit and would be cracking jokes and having a laugh with his mate, Brian Glover, who passed away on the 13th of March.”
At first, Joe wasn’t sure about having his portrait painted. “’What do you want that for?’ He said that with a smile,” recalled Richard. “And I said, ‘because, you have got a good face’.” Richard set to work and Joe did get to see his portrait. “He was walking by one day. I called him in and he looked at it. He didn’t say anything about it, but it was a strange experience when I painted it, like you can get into somebody’s soul,” said Richard.
“I don’t know, if you have ever experienced a feeling when you hear a lovely piece of music, and you get the shivers?” asked Richard. “But that’s the feeling I got when I was painting his eyes. I thought ‘this is strange’ as though I didn’t do it and that somebody else did it, or I was getting help with painting it. It was a weird sensation.”
Richard decided to offer the pub the painting after he had a chat with new landlady Lynne Damaliti. “He brought me down his portfolio with all his paintings in it,” said Lynne. “He is an absolutely amazing artist. We started talking about Joe. I just said to him, ‘what are you doing with the painting?’ He said, ‘it’s just in the house’.”
Lynne offered to hang the painting at the spot where Joe used to sit. “I think Richard was really happy about that. So many people have walked through the door and said, ‘Oh, my God, is that Joe?’ They know straight away who he is. Obviously he was a real character in the town and Richard has captured his face, by all accounts.”
Richard has enjoyed hearing the reaction to his painting of his late friend. “I like to sit in the corner and look up at Joe and I’m quite amazed that it is hanging up there now. People say that they know that face. And they say, ‘you have got his hat as well’.”
Lynne took over Ye Olde Two Brewers in February this year. She says that she was keen to maintain a connection with the area’s past and its people. “We’ve got him in a place where the light shines right on him. It is part of the local history. Everybody loves it,” said Lynne.