Monday, 29 June 2015

An exhibition in Moy

I spent my childhood and all but four months of my teenage years in Moy, a charming little village with a huge history on the Tyrone-Armagh border. The local primary school was where I learned to play football, recite my tables by heart and draw. When my mother told me there was an art exhibiton being held in the halls of the Presbyterian church I had grown up in I was interested.

I contacted the organiser asking if I could just exhibit and not sell, and while he didn’t pour cold water on my idea he wasn’t over encouraging either. He said he’d get back back to me in a few days. He took my name, telephone number and I never expected to hear from him again. Two minutes later my phone rang and we were working out an agreeable price, £25, for me to show five paintings. I guess that’s what happened when he rung someone more in the know and found out my family’s 60 years connection to the church.

It was the first time I had been in the new church halls. I reminisced with Eileen Riddell and Barbara Abraham about the days we learned catechism in the upstairs Sunday School with Bill Patterson, Muriel Pinkerton and John Barr and for me personally where I had dib, dib, dibbed and bob-a-jobbed in the cubs under the late, great Will McKee. This attractive new edifice hadn’t erased the memories they had simply removed the physical context. The rickety tennis courts where I didn’t learn to serve and volley very well was now my father’s resting place and that of the Grahams, Mrs Adams and Norman Finlay. Progress meant the beautiful new had replaced the worn out old and I was OK with that! 

It was quite a moving day to be back among old friends showing off my art and recalling the past in equal measure. I walked from the hall into a more recognisable church, looked at the old familiar pews and stared up at our usual seat in the balcony where my mother tried her best to control her five rascals. I looked at the plushly carpeted choir area, Vera’s organ, the hymn boards and thought that nothing had changed very much here. I looked at murdered RUC officer Roy Leslie's memorial and wondered where my brother Kenny’s was – or wasn’t!

I was surprised by how many had entered paintings. TV watercolour celebrity Dermot Cavanagh declared the exhibition open and even put a few of his paintings on show at scary prices. I enjoyed seeing Mrs Nesbitt’s watercolours. I had no idea she was so talented. She was my Primary One schoolteacher and the mother of three of my friends growing up! Judith her middle daughter would be a big player in the art world - a director in the Tate Galleries and a judge of the prestigious Turner Prize for the past few years. And to think I used to go to concerts in Belfast with this eminent lady in her teenage years!

 If I had been forced to buy one it would have been a very narrow framed portrait painting of Scrabo Tower. Not sure who did it but it was wonderful.

Hopefully they will allow me to exhibit again in two years time.