James’s middle child Kate Stirling recalls a holiday in St Ives when summer sun and mischievous children failed to distract her father from his drawings
In my early teens I remember going on a family holiday to St Ives. Eldred Evans had lent us her father Merlin’s apartment. It was the summer of Charles and Diana’s wedding, and we three kids from London had never experienced the delights of the Cornish coast before.
I shudder to think how those drawings might never have made it out of Cornwall
We spent a glorious long weekend being rolled by the waves and eating jam and clotted cream scones. Dad did not go outside, not once. He was working on the cross-hatching to the skies for the Tate’s Clore Gallery presentation drawings, and was not to be distracted. He worked meticulously over these drawings every hour that daylight would allow, like a devoted lover. My brother, sister and I found it hilarious to drop small objects over the top of the balcony that overhung where he was working and watch as they fell on to Dad’s head or the drawings below. Of course Dad was furious every time this happened but we just couldn’t understand what he was doing and why he wasn’t outside, basking in the sunshine. I now shudder to think how those beautiful drawings might never have made it out of Cornwall.
But this poring over the drawings was typical. Dad had a very strong idea of how he wanted them to look and of the way the buildings should be represented through the drawings. Indeed given the amount of time and effort that went into meticulously creating each one, I have often thought their story remains relatively unsung.