Across the country stand statues there will outlive us. Unlike a painting which usually bears the painterís signature you often canít find who spent months or years lovingly shaping sculptures. You've probably walked passed one of John's and it'll be an original; there's no copy somewhere else. Here I am near his bones in Manchester's main cemetery.
John was born in County Meath in but struggled to find work beyond being a bar assistant in the White Horse Hotel in Drogheda. Aged 20 he went to Dublin to find work. In the evenings he attended art classes and was so naturally gifted he won a scholarship to study in Milan in Italy. After two years there he moved to Manchester and never left. He studied and later taught at the Manchester School of Art. He won medals and prizes for his work but little is known about him other than his reputation for craftsmanship grew. He was an efficient painter too. He never married and never seemed to buy a home of his own, living in various boarding houses now gone in slum clearance projects.
He rented a studio in Chorlton-on-Medlock (not far from his final resting place) and there he chiselled pieces that will neither weather nor wane for centuries. Dotted around Manchester youíll see lots of his work and thankfully they're so hefty they're nearly impossible to steal. He was lodging in Fallowfield when he became ill. Surrounded by nuns in St Joseph's Hospital in Whalley Range he died aged 79 months before the start of the Second World War. His headstone has been cleaned up but it used to be black with grime and passing time. There wasn't a single object or flower on it. I did a salute and left.
A painting of John...