Fife woman ‘humbled’ after chance reunion with world famous art mentor

Jo with Harold Riley.
Jo with Harold Riley.

A Fife woman had a surprise meeting with the internationally renowned mentor who inspired her love of art.

Artist Jo Macfarlane met her friend and inspiration Harold Riley for the first time in more than 35 years at his new exhibition in St Andrews.

Mr Riley, who worked with the great LS Lowry, was at the opening of Two Over Par at the Fraser Gallery when the reunion took place.

Jo, who is based in Anstruther, first met Harold in 1977 when, as a seven-year-old, she entered a competition to paint her street on the children’s TV programme Magpie.

Her prize was to be tutored by Mr Riley, who had won a competition as a boy which resulted in his lifelong friendship with the Matchstick Men artist.

Long after the show finished, Harold and his wife Ashraf kept in touch with Jo and her parents Betty and Ron and they visited, especially when the Open and the Dunhill came to St Andrews.

“Painting has always been a huge part of my life,” said Jo.

“And despite being accepted into art college I ended up working for an airline for 16 years, travelling long haul from London until seven years ago when my son was born.”

It was only when Archie, 7, arrived that she picked up her brushes again.

“It was an ambition, first fuelled by my contact with Harold, that had always been simmering in the background for years and years.”

As well as having paintings in several Edinburgh galleries, she also now does hand-painted furniture and luxury candles.

Mr Riley, who is renowned for his portraits, including Nelson Mandela and several American presidents, has a love of golf stretching back almost 70 years.

But it was by chance that the Fraser Gallery, where his latest exhibition is being shown, heard of his other great connection with the area, namely the Macfarlane family.

Jo has good memories of her competition win which brought her in touch with Mr Riley, and of all her trips to the studios and starring role in the long- running children’s show.

“It was very humbling being reunited with the man who made such an influence on my entire life,” she said.