THE ADMIRAL COLLINGWOOD BUST
The Story Behind the Bust of Admiral Collingwood -
Recently Unveiled in the HMS Collingwood Wardroom.
|On the 9th June 2019, there was an unveiling of a bronze bust of Admiral Collingwood. This article gives the story behind this project.|
The bust head on - pardon the pun.
|A few years ago I, as the Chairman of the HMS Collingwood Officers’ Association, attended Ceremonial Division where the Association awards a sword to an RN Officer who has contributed to the Establishment above and beyond the normal call of duty. On this particular occasion I met Captain Stephen Healy who is Chairman of the Collingwood Society. Stephen is a Merchant Navy Officer now working for Trinity House based in Newcastle. We started talking about Admiral Collingwood and he clearly is a subject matter expert. He told me that the Asociacion Menorca Brittania had commissioned a life size bust of the Admiral to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his death. After the battle of Trafalgar, Collingwood commanded the Mediterranean Fleet and during this time he lived on the Island. His splendid house “Fonduco” which is now the Hotel Almirante contains much of his history. The bust overlooks the bay at Port Mahon.|
The bust in wax.
Andrew Lacey applying the patina.
|Helen Ridehalgh, a renowned sculptress from Devon, was commissioned to produce the bust. She spent over 6 months researching the subject and, once made, the bust was installed. What I also learnt from Stephen Healy was that a second bust was cast and installed in the Town Hall of Morpeth. Collingwood’s wife Sarah and 2 daughters lived in Morpeth. So Morpeth commissioned the second bust and it was unveiled by Commodore Mike Mansergh, who at the time was commanding HMS Collingwood. I visit Northumberland regularly to enjoy coastal walks and took the opportunity to visit the Town Hall and view the bust. I was really impressed. I am not sure when I actually thought of the idea, but I thought HMS Collingwood should have its own.||
Andrew Lacey preparing to cast the bust.
|Then two years ago we lost Bill Legg who founded the Officers’ Association. Bill described HMS Collingwood as his second home. We all know how much Bill did for the Establishment as a whole over many years. I thought that there really ought to be a permanent memorial to Bill and so I put it to the Committee that perhaps we should procure the third bust. The committee suggested we extend the memorial to include other deceased members which I thought was a very good idea.|
|Captain Charles Crawford, when commanding HMS Collingwood, was offered the chance to purchase the famous Collingwood Tankard which now sits in the Wardroom. Charles went about raising the necessary funds by what would now be called Crowdfunding. I thought we should copy his successful idea.|
|I contacted Helen Ridehalgh to find out if the mould still existed, and fortunately it did. She provided the estimate for the production and so at last year’s Trafalgar Ladies’ Night I launched the appeal to raise the necessary funds. Not sure we would raise the entire total from Association members I received support from the then Mess President that Wardroom funds would be available, if necessary, as a top up. I also contacted some families of deceased members to inform them of this project. Within weeks of the launch we had raised sufficient funds without needing to ask the Wardroom for a top up. I was so pleased about the rapid and overwhelming support of members and families.||
Helen Ridehalgh and Andrew Lacey at his foundry in Devon.
|With funds available I was able to invite Helen to proceed. It was decided that an appropriate occasion to unveil the bust would be on the day of the 2019 AGM, and that is what happened.|
The bust with the Collingwood tankard and portrait in the background.
|Helen decided to do more research to ensure accuracy of the piece. She modified the medals he wears slightly so, despite being the third edition, this is actually unique. Her friend and fellow sculptor, Andrew Lacey cast the bust at his foundry in Devon. I was invited down to witness the application of the patina, which I did. It was fascinating as well as a wonderful opportunity to meet both Helen and Andrew.|
|I had discussions with both the Mess President and Scott Davidson, our Mess Manager, as to where to site the bust and I hope you all agree it has a very prominent position within the Wardroom foyer.
A mess member, Paul Sutton, who worked with Bill over many years kindly agreed to make the socle on which the bust is mounted so Paul, a big thank you from us all. We used a local firm, Hillcrest Engineering Ltd in Fareham to produce the plaque. I am grateful to that Company for the quality of workmanship and support they gave us.
Paul Sutton preparing to install the bust.
|So, it was with enormous pride that, on Sunday the 9th of June 2019 I invited Bill’s daughters, Sonia and Karen, to unveil the bust. Around 90 members, families and guests witnessed the event and we toasted the Admiral, Bill and deceased members and the Officers’ Association.|
|This was my last act as Chairman as I have now handed over to John McGrath. I think the Officers’ Association is important. One of the reasons I offered to become the Chairman was that many of the members taught me and supported me during my naval career. To them I offer my gratitude. To all those who donated to enable us to install this exceptional piece of artistry I also offer my thanks.
PS. Need to book a visit to Menorca, it’s now on the bucket list!