In October 1941 Ravilious’ work as a war artist took him to Fife where he lodged with John and Christine Nash at Crombie Point Cottage near Dunfermline.
On the 20th October he wrote to his wife Tirzah: I was so pleased to find your letters and the parcel (most welcome to Christine) when I came home today from my ship….I’m glad Ironbridge is warming up for the Essex winter………Christine has just gone off to London and possibly Wiston so may perhaps see you. She is a wonderful person in any house, and gets us all up with tea in the morning and a splendid breakfast then lights my fire if I work at home and goes off to Dunfermline for beer and cigarettes. What more could you want?
John and Christine Nash.
John Nash, no longer a war artist, was now on the Commander in Chiefs staff at Rosyth. Nash told Eric that he would find good subjects to paint in the east ports of Scotland. Eric had sailed past them and under the Forth Bridge when on his way to Norway.
Channel Fisher, painted at the Firth of Forth 1941 Study. ‘The Firth of Forth’, circa 1940–41.
Ravilious enjoyed being taken around by John and staying with them. He had visits to draw the Rosyth docks and the Forth Bridge. He was also able to visit the Isle of May and other islands in the Forth Estuary. From R.N. Signal Station on the Isle of May he wrote to Tirzah:
I’ve landed her by way of a destroyer – and an RAF launch – and am now living with this small naval mess, five officers and a few ratings. They are all very nice people. The island is rocky and rolling and wild, in peacetime a bird sanctuary. Hooded crows and golden-crested wrens are about; I wish you could see the island. You would love it. There is the oldest beacon – 1636 – in the centre (you light a fire on the roof of a thing like a large dovecot) and the turf is just like a pile carpet. They took me to the lighthouse lantern this morning. I’ve just been entranced with the place all day and explored without working so must have an early bed (one game of darts) and work early tomorrow.
Storm, Isle of May. 1941.
“Convoy Passing an Island” 1941 (painted on the Firth of Forth).
Ravilious stayed longer at an R.N.A. station in Dundee. Ravilious wrote to Edward Dickey (Ministry of Information):
This is an excellent place for work, The address a Fleet Air Arm mess. I spend my time drawing seaplanes and now and again they take me up; this morning rather uncomfortably in the tail, but it was worth it for the view. I do very much enjoy drawing these queer flying machines and hope to produce a set of aircraft paintings. I hope Paul N hasn’t already painted Walrus’s – what I like about them is that they are comic things with a strong personality like a dusk, and designed to go slow. You put your head out of the window and it is no more windy than a train.
RNAS Sick Bay, Dundee, 1941.
These planes and pilots are the best things I come across since the job began. They are sweet and have no nonsense (naval traditional nonsense and animal pride): they help in all sorts of ways and take me up when they can. I must say it is most enjoyable….. it is a joke dressing up with flying suit, parachute, Mae West and all and climbing in over the nose. Sometime this week they promise a trip in the rear gunner’s cockpit which is uncomfortable but has the best view: the only drawback is that I have to do a number of simple (?) mechanical things with hatches when the sea-plane comes down on the water. How trusting they are !
Walrus and dinghy. 1941.
On the 27th August 1942 Ravilious wrote a postcard to Tirzah from Prestwick. It is calm and fine here with no wind and I hope very much we go tomorrow. They did…to Iceland on the 28th. On the 2nd September the air sea rescue mission failed to return Missing, presumed dead.
Graham Bennison, 15th May 2020. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist
Painted on the reverse of ‘The Firth of Forth’, circa 1940–41.