I have a water colour on the lounge wall of a fishing boat on a beach somewhere in Scotland and it is signed Albert Strange, who happens to be my great grandfather on my father's side of the family. I have often wondered if my children and I have inherited our love of Scotland from him, but other than the fact that I knew he had been an art master at Scarborough Art College and had designed some yachts, I knew little about him. He died before my father was born and really was not mentioned much at all.
Recently however; maybe due to the fact that my Dad is gone and my Mum's memory is fading fast, I have been wondering about my ancestors and so I googled Albert Strange.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is an Albert Strange Association with members all over the world and a Friends of Albert Strange Society based in Scarborough. Seemingly 9 of the yachts built using his designs are still sailing from harbours around the world, the oldest being 113 years old!
I contacted the Friends of Albert Strange and to cut a long story short, found myself speaking to approximately 50 people yesterday evening at Scarborough Art Gallery and with my sister, officially opening a month long exhibition to celebrate his work and his life.
Strangely, (pun intended), at the exhibition I saw for the first time a photograph of Albert and his family dated around 1900. His daughter Dolly (real name Dorothy) would have been about 16 then and I honestly I thought I was looking at myself aged 16 wearing Victorian clothes. The resemblance is uncanny. Sadly, she died aged 21 of TB but the necklace she received for her 21st birthday was given to me some years ago by my Mum, (that's one story that was passed down through the generations).
It turns out, our Albert was very highly regarded in Scarborough, at the age of 27 he had already exhibited several times at the Royal College of Art in London and he was headhunted by the governors of the new art college for the position of Head, which he held for over thirty years. He was a founding member of Scarborough Yacht club and Chair of the Hull and Humber Yawl Club for many years. He sailed all over Europe, painting and writing for sailing magazines as he went. He was also a keen musician, writer and speaker, all traits I can see in own children. In fact, my eldest daughter is Head of Art at an Academy in Grantham and a fine artist in her own right.
I have found out many wonderful things about Albert and his wife Julia and their lives during the last 24 hours and am amazed that so many people around the world are sailing his boats, collecting his art and keeping his story alive.
I feel like I have been in an episode of "Who do you think you are"!
Sometimes, we are so wrapped up in our own busy lives, we forget to think about past generations and the fact that we owe our features, our characteristics and often our talents to them. Standing in front of a large photograph of Albert yesterday evening, I hoped we were all doing him proud.
If you enjoy my blogs, you can read more of my work in my book available here www.amazon.co.uk/Words-Walks-Wisdom-Wendy-Bowers/dp/1671172353