The Mearns village of Catterline has a new memorial to one of the nation’s greatest artists who took the community to her heart and found inspiration from its natural magnificence.
In the centenary year of her birth, Joan Eardley has been remembered in the unveiling of the special marker sited close to the home she bought after falling in love with the old fishing village south of Stonehaven.
Sussex-born Eardley spent the final years of her life in Catterline, before cancer tragically claimed her at the age of just 42.
But that period brought some of her richest works, created in the changing North Sea seasons Eardley revelled in.
Gift to village
The new memorial and plaque was gifted to Catterline by local heritage enthusiast Dave Ramsay and his wife, Dorothy.
It is their thank you to a community where the couple have lived for quarter of a century.
The unveiling was carried out by Patrick Elliott, chief curator of modern and contemporary art at the National Galleries of Scotland.
“Joan Eardley was one of the giants of British art.
Patrick Elliott of the National Galleries of Scotland
His new book, Joan Eardley: Land & Sea – A Life in Catterline has been published to coincide with the important anniversary.
Dave Ramsay said: “After 58 years since Joan Eardley died, this is a significant day for the community of Catterline, now having a permanent memorial to celebrate her life and work, in this centenary year.
“It was a pleasure to have Patrick Elliott here to provide a tribute to Joan Eardley.”
Mr Elliott said: “Joan Eardley was one of the giants of British art.
“And she painted what I and many others consider to be her best works right here.
“She first visited the village in May 1951.
“She had an exhibition on in Aberdeen at the time and took a car ride in the area with her friend, Annette Soper.”
He added: “She fell in love with the village and returned the following year.
“She saw that the Watch house, or the Watchie, was for sale, but didn’t have the £40 to buy it – but Annette did.
“Eardley came back and stayed there frequently – and liked it here so much she started renting No.1 South Row in 1954.
“This, remember, was before the cottages had electricity or running water, but that for Eardley was part of its appeal.”
The artist bought No. 18 for £250 in December 1959 and it was only then that she started painting the sea.
Eardley would ferry her art materials around in an old pram and zipped around on a Lambretta scooter.
“Catterline was perfect for her,” added Mr Elliott.
“It was small, the people were friendly, and it provided her with all the subject matter she could need just steps away from her front door.
“She spent just ten years here – she died in 1963, aged just 42 – but she put Catterline on the map.
“You should be proud that Catterline counts as one of the great artistic centres in the British Isles.
“And proud also that this fact is now recognised with the plaque that Dave Ramsay has established by the salmon bothy, where Joan Eardley painted some of her greatest works.”
The memorial stone lay in the shingle on Catterline beach for over 75 years.
It now stands a few feet from where her ashes were scattered on the Makin’ Green.
The new plaque also contains a QR code, which will now allow visitors to access much more information about Eardley and Catterline.
A Historic Environment Scotland bronze plaque, awarded in 2018, is on the gable of the village’s Creel Inn to the memory of Eardley.
Mr Elliott presented a signed copy of his book to Catterline school, whose pupils were part of the memorial event.
The primary and Patrick have maintained a strong relationship as they have jointly been involved in a number of Eardley and community projects.
A new book by David Johnston RSW, also about the artist, was also presented to the school.