My gift to Scarborough

Maureen Robinson celebrates her purchase of the seafront sculpture..'114770b. Picture Kevin Allen.'25/11/11.
Maureen Robinson celebrates her purchase of the seafront sculpture..'114770b. Picture Kevin Allen.'25/11/11.

A BENEVOLENT Scarborough woman has given the town a special gift to remember after buying a huge sculpture in the North Bay.

Generous Maureen Robinson, of Malvern Crescent, revealed her true community spirit after purchasing the giant £48,000 Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers statue to sit permanently in Royal Albert Drive.

The steel sculpture, fashioned by artist Ray Lonsdale, depicts an old man wearing a cloth cap and overcoat who is sitting admiring the view out to sea. It was due to leave Scarborough next month.

However, Mrs Robinson made the huge gesture after a campaign was launched by local woman Jakki Wilby to keep it in Scarborough, and revealed she had a very special meaning for making it an ever-lasting fixture on the seafront.

Mrs Robinson said: “The sculpture was due to leave Scarborough on December 10 which is mine and my husband Michael’s wedding anniversary.

“For about 20 years I have wanted to donate something to Scarborough.

“I absolutely adore the town and I’m so passionate about the sea and countryside and when I met my husband we went everywhere together in the area.

“With its departure coinciding with our anniversary, I did not want the chance to go by to have the statue here forever.

“Michael does woodwork sculptures and when he saw this he was completely overwhelmed by it.

“It is our version of the Angel of the North but so much better.”

Mrs Robinson, who writes weekly countryside walks and cafe reviews for the Evening News, made a frantic dash to Scarborough Council headquarters to express her interest in buying the statue, and said she had an anxious wait to find out if her dream had come true.

She said: “My heart was in my mouth because I kept thinking if I don’t do anything now someone else would come in and it would have left Scarborough forever.

“I just love the tranquillity and the serenity of the sculpture and it is a wonderful thing for the town.

“It is something that people can relate to and so many people have already said how much they like it.

“I’ve been a saver all of my life and this was something that I really wanted to do so I just thought ‘go for it’.

Mrs Robinson’s benevolence has been hailed by Rowena Marsden, Scarborough Council’s Culture Officer, who originally received an offer to have loan of a sculpture in Whitby from Mr Lonsdale and endeavoured to extend the artwork display to Scarborough.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled at the strong public reaction and interaction that Freddie has generated – that’s the whole point of public art.

“Freddie has had such an impact with the public that every time I go down to see him there’s up to 15 people there photographing him, whatever the weather.

“The artwork was specifically sited there as it needs a large open space to be appreciated in and Ray requested that it be looking out to see.”

The sculpture is due to be temporarily moved to The Art Festival, in The Old Boatyard, in Sandside, on Saturday December 10 and Sunday December 11.

The exhibition will feature hundreds of original works from national and international artists.

Janet Deacon, Area Director of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Freddie is here to stay.

“He has been a huge hit with visitors and residents alike and we are proud to have him here in Scarborough as a permanent resident.”

The statue is based on a retired miner who was one of the first soldiers to liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany at the end of World War Two.

It took three months to create and was previously displayed at the Sage in Gateshead.