Hew Lorimer RSA, OBE, LLD
- Born : 1907
- Died : 1993
- Associate Elected : 19/03/1947
- Academician Elected : 13/02/1957
RSA Obituary, transcribed from 1993 RSA Annual Report
Hew Lorimer died peacefully on September 1st 1993 aged 86 years at Craigmount Nursing Home, St Andrews.
The Academy’s senior sculptor, he was elected an Associate in 1947 and an Academician in 1957.
Born in Edinburgh on 22nd May 1907, Hew was the second son of the celebrated architect Sir Robert Lorimer. He received his early education at Lorretto School in Musselburgh, although it would appear that this had little influence on his later choice of career as an artist. On leaving Lorretto, Hew spent a year studying at Magdalen College, Oxford but again, this appears to have had little bearing on his later development. What appears to have been of greater significance is the period immediately after Oxford when he spent the summer in Blois studying French and drawing churches and castles.
On his return to Scotland, he enrolled as a student in the School of Architecture at Edinburgh College of Art under the tutelage of his father’s friend, John Begg. In 1929, Sir Robert Lorimer died and future plans for Hew’s entry to an architectural practice were abandoned. Hew transferred to studying jointly in the Schools of Design and Sculpture where he came under the instruction of Alexander Carrick, R.SA, who encouraged him to pursue the art of ‘direct carving’ in stone in the manner of Eric Gill and Jacob Epstein.
In October 1934, on completion of his Diploma, Hew was awarded a Grant Bequest which he used to study under Gill at Piggotts in Buckinghamshire. This turned out to be of seminal importance in Lorimer’s sculptural development. The young sculptor became imbued with Gill’s love of stone and Lorimer’s almost exclusive use of this material throughout the rest of his working life dates from this period. He was also greatly influenced by Gill’s sculptural tenets. Furthermore Lorimer was deeply influenced towards Catholicism by both Gill and his assistant Anthony Foster which ultimately led in the course of time to Lorimer’s conversion and wholehearted embracing of this faith. These two factors: namely an intense sense of satisfaction in the act of carving stone and an abiding religious faith were to remain with Lorimer for the rest of his life, strengthening and gaining in depth with the passing of the years; underpinning all his thoughts and actions. Lorimer once said: “What the true artist is expressing is not himself but his response to the eternal continuing process of Creation”.
After the war Hew and his family moved permanently to Kellie Castle which he and his wife Mary began to lovingly restore.
The period immediately following the war was one of great activity for Lorimer. His works of this period are too numerous to catalogue here. However his immense granite “Our Lady of the Isles” on South Uist is most worthy of mention together with the 20ft long highrelief of “St Francis returning to Assisi at the end of his life” for the Church of St Francis in Dundee and his series of figures of the liberal arts on the facade of the National Library in Edinburgh.
Hew’s lifelong interest in architecture which probably derived initial impetus through his father’s influence, found tangible expression in his long active involvement in the work of the National Trust for Scotland and led him to be instrumental in founding the Trust’s “Little Houses” Scheme under whose auspices there are more than one hundred such houses conserved in the East Neuk of Fife.
In 1970 Mary Lorimer died and Hew continued to live at Kellie although the castle which had been bought from the Earl of Mar and Kellie in 1950 was purchased for the nation in 1970 and given over to the care of the National Trust for Scotland with Hew as its first resident representative.
In addition to Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Hew was made an Hon.LLD. of Dundee University in 1984 and awarded the O.B.E. in 1986. However the honour which probably touched him most was the conferral of a Papal knighthood of the Order of St Gregory shortly before he died.
Hew was a kindly, friendly, gentle, self-effacing man. His deep religious faith never occasioned him to view life from an over-solemn perspective and he was possessed with a lively sense of humour. He was also unfailingly courteous and at home in any company.
The abiding memory which those of us privileged to know him will retain is of a dedicated sculptor and a man of great dignity who exuded a sense of true contentment with his lot in life and a deep affection for his fellow creatures. He will be sadly missed. Our deepest sympathy goes to his family, sons Robin and Henry and daughter Monica.