TITLE St Mary’s Lighthouse

Oil on canvas
70cms x 70cms

I stumbled across St Mary’s Island a few years ago when on my way north on a painting trip; I was enchanted by it. Sitting on the north east coast of England St Mary’s Lighthouse is one of the iconic sights of coastal Britain. The island – joined to the mainland at low tide by a causeway has a chequered and sometimes violent history:

In 1739 one Michael Curry, an employee of the Royal Sovereign Glass Works in Seaton Sluice, was executed for murdering Robert Shevil, landlord of the inn at Old Hartley. It was the custom to hang the body of murderers within sight of their crimes, so Curry’s body was strung from a gibbet on what is known today as Curry’s Point – the mainland end of the causeway.

There is a tale about two men drinking in the tavern at New Hartley not long after this – one man challenged his friend half a gallon of beer that he would not go up to the corpse and say “How are you, Curry?”. Full of Dutch courage, the friend set off across the fields to the point, but unknown to him his challenger had taken a short cut and got there before him. He climbed up and hid behind the body, so that when his friend called out “How are you, Curry?”, a deep hollow voice replied “Very well”. Sober with fright, the poor man took to his heels across the fields, and may well have signed the pledge!

In 1989 a plaque was unveiled on the point to commemorate Curry’s execution exactly 250 years previously.