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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Tom Whalen (1903–1975)

Sculptor chiefly in stone, wood and bronze, and architectural carver. Born in Leith, Scotland, he trained as a shipwright, but began whittling figurines from scrap wood in a period of unemployment. These were drawn to the attention of the head of sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art, Alexander Carrick, who secured him a scholarship and a place in the wood-carving class of Thomas Good. A contemporary of Hew Lorimer and Scott Sutherland, he was the first holder of the Andrew Grant Fellowship, and the winner of a Royal Scottish Academy Carnegie Travelling Award, enabling him to study in Paris, Florence and Rome. His first solo show was at the Cooling Gallery, London, in 1933–34, and in 1938 he was commissioned to make large statues for several temporary buildings at the Empire Exhibition, Glasgow, including the 7.6-metre, neo-Romanesque Service for Basil Spence’s Scottish Pavilion. Among his later works are the 2.1-metre bronze figure of The Sower on the façade of Kirkcaldy Town Hall, cast in 1956 by George Mancini, who also cast his Ballerina at Dalkeith High School in 1961. A figure of Maternity in Hoptonwood stone stood for some time outside his studio at 60 Dean Path, Edinburgh. His Mother and Child in Leoch stone stands outside the NHS Lothian Charity, Edinburgh. He was much sought after as an architectural carver, and carried out decorative schemes for numerous churches (e.g., the Parish Church at Kippen, near Stirling), and for hydro-electric power stations in Grudie Bridge, Lairg and Lochalsh. Elected ARSA in 1940 and RSA in 1954, he exhibited at the Academy throughout his career, showing work in a wide range of woods, stones and metals, as well as terracotta and, on one occasion (1966), reinforced concrete.

Bibliography: E. Cumming, Hand, Heart and Soul: the Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland, Edinburgh, 2006, p. 224; E. Gordon, Tom Whalen: Scottish Sculpture (ex. cat.), Edinburgh, 1973), quoted in W.T. Johnston, Dictionary of Scottish Artists (c.2000), Scottish National Library, ref CD-ROM.585; C.B. de Laperriere (ed.), The Royal Scottish Academy Exhibitors 1829–1990: a dictionary of artists and their work in the annual exhibitions, Wiltshire, 1991, (4 vols), vol. 4; P.J.M. McEwan, The Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, 2004; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, vol. 1, pp. 380–82, 457, vol. 2, pp. 82, 462, 463–64, 477–78; F. Pearson (ed.), Virtue and Vision: Sculpture in Scotland, Edinburgh, 1991, p. 114.

Ray McKenzie 2018