Fountain, 1999 limestone, Private Collection
Heywood Hill, sculptor, and his family have lived near The Rodd since 1974. He became a friend of Mary and her family, later discovering that his two unrelated uncles, one a bookseller, the other a painter, both knew Sidney.
“Sometime in the late 1990s Mary Nolan asked me to help her realise her wish for a memorial to Sidney, to be in the garden of their house, The Rodd, on the Welsh border.
Sidney had once made a drawing of two lovers in close embrace, sitting on a hammock or swing in the shape of a large fish. Mary was very taken by this image and I had the impression that it represented something of the life that she and Sidney had enjoyed together. Her idea was to have a stone fountain cum bird-bath, from the edge of which the lover would dangle their legs in the water. She had a clay maquette of the couple cast in bronze. In addition she had modelled the reptilian head of a ‘monster’ which would spout water from its mouth onto the couple below. Cast in bronze, it is now embedded into the stone garden wall, at the back of the fountain itself.
From a suitably sized chunk of Purbeck limestone I carved a basin to hold the water. It sits on a short support made from the same stone as the wall. A much smaller basin is fixed above, which catches the monster’s water before it overflows onto the lovers’ heads. Mary asked me to carve into the stone rim of the larger basin the words “Monster loved for what you are”, the penultimate line of the poem ‘Near the Ocean’ by Robert Lowell, American poet and friend of the Nolans. The poem finishes “till time, that buries us, lay bare”.
A drawing by Sidney is incorporated onto the cover design of a collection of Lowell poems with the eponymous title ‘Near the Ocean’ (1st ed. 1967). Sidney’s work featured on many book covers, especially those by Australian authors. I remember new novels by Patrick White arriving at my parents’ home. Their graphic and colourful dust jackets have stayed in my memory far longer than the contents within.”