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Artist returns to her Great Yarmouth masterpiece

PUBLISHED: 11:08 14 November 2010

Painting by Patricia Mackerel (Field)  for the festival of Britain in 1951. It is the first time she has viewed it since then.

Painting by Patricia Mackerel (Field) for the festival of Britain in 1951. It is the first time she has viewed it since then.

Archant © 2010

GAZING at the scene she painted 60 years ago, and never expected to see again, was for artist Patricia Mackrill like discovering a long lost child.

The bold and striking image of fishing trawlers unloading their catches on the bustling harbour was a familiar one to generations of people in Great Yarmouth.

After being displayed for decades in the former Post Office on Hall Quay, Patricia feared her magnificent mural had been lost or destroyed.

But last week the 84-year-old was reunited with the stunning artwork created for the Festival of Britain in 1951 – a national exhibition in London aimed at lifting a war-hit nation towards progress and recovery.

The 27ft canvas had been taken from storage and placed in Yarmouth Library for Patricia’s visit to the borough last week.

It represented the successful conclusion of a long quest to track down the Hull-based artist by Norfolk Museums Service eastern area manager James Steward.

Patricia said: “It is tremendous to see the mural again – I imagined it on a debris heap somewhere. It wasn’t painted to last and I am pleasantly surprised it has survived 60 years. I feel I have found a long lost child.

“A photographer from Hull tracked the painting down. He told me the Post Office had closed, but the mural had been rescued and was crated up in storage.

“We contacted James and it was super to know that someone that was caring for it.”

The mural depicts the vibrant scene at Hull’s fishing port in 1950, and after it was displayed at the festival site on London’s South Bank Patricia lost trace of it.

She discovered it had found a new home in Yarmouth when a photo of the mural was published in a Post Office magazine.

“After the festival finished I got in touch with the authorities to ask what was going to happen to the mural,” recalled Patricia.

“They said they no plans and I asked to take it back to Hull. But I was told it belonged to the Ministry of Works and they would decide where it was going.

“I heard no more until I saw a picture of it in a Post Office magazine when the new branch opened in Yarmouth.

“I think it came here because the town had an important fishing industry.

“It depicts a bygone era; the fishing fleet in Hull has all gone now. My father took me down to the dock at 5am to sketch the trawlers unloading the fish.

“Yarmouth has such distinguished fishing heritage that it is a shame for the mural not to be displayed.”

She added: “I went to the Post Office to see the mural with my late husband. We asked to go behind the counter to take a closer look, but the staff didn’t believe I had painted it.”

After the Post Office closed more than 10 years ago the mural was placed in the library but later put in storage. A replica is on display at Yarmouth Time and Tide Museum.

Norfolk Museums Service eastern area manager James Steward had been trying to trace Patricia for several years.

He said: “We had various appeals locally, but were using Patricia’s maiden name, Field, and she comes from Hull so was not known locally.

“So many people in the town have stood and looked at this. It is an iconic image.

“It is a familiar and much-loved artwork that we would dearly like to have back on display.

“Everybody, without exception, is overwhelmed by the scale and the efficiency of the artistic achievement.”

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