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lived in Falmouth 1909-1919 and, as a teenager, modelled for Tuke
The small snapshot in the Tuke Collection shows three of us sitting on the bank, probably at Sunny Cove on a day when we were swimming. We used to swim at Sunny Cove early on Sunday mornings. Webber is in the photograph, also George Elliott who was my age and at school with me. I used to 'fight his battles' at school. He became a Church of England minister later. I don't think Tuke took the photograph, as I don't ever remember Tuke using a camera. He must have been given the photo by someone else. Very few people used bathing costumes in those days, we always swam naked at Sunny Cove, which was well away from the town.
Before I left school, the then Postmaster of Falmouth, R.W.Rivers, came to my school early in 1915 and appealed for lads to join as messengers to replace men who had been called up. This appealed to me, and I had a special concession to leave for the job before my fourteenth birthday. I started at the Post Office as a messenger on 1st March. The Post Office then was next to the Polytechnic, with its back yard in what is now New Street, but then was Porhan Street. Mr Rivers was also a choir master, and played a little American organ at the tin church which I attended, on the Moor next to Jacob's Ladder across from the Wesleyan Chapel.
Tuke saw me bathing at Sunny Cove early on Sunday mornings, probably in 1914, and he asked Webber formally would I pose for him. Webber took me out to Tuke's studio, and I was introduced to him. I did not pose for Tuke until I had left school. Thereafter I posed for four summers, 1915-1918, and appeared in many of Tuke's bathing pictures. Tuke paid me 2/6d per session; possibly I was paid as much as £1 for 4 sittings, each sitting about an hour, but 3 or 4 hours if one counted getting there and waiting for the tide or sun to be right. I earned altogether about £80 which I used for buying furniture when I got married later in London. My father died in 1917, when I was sixteen.
never painted me in the studio, but always out-of-doors, usually on the
beach, and always nude. My attitude to the whole thing was rather naive;
I took it very light-heartedly but Tuke didn't hold it against me, and
we were more like friends than master and man. I went or I didn't as the
whim took me. He would say sometimes "the tide is wrong" or "the light
isn't right" in a cross way, then we would natter in the studio and he
might put on a Caruso or a Tetrazzini record. He was nuts on her "Le
Echo" I think was his favourite record [Louisa Tetrazzini born 1871, was
an opera singer who made her debut at Covent Garden in 1907]. He might
be touching up paintings nd discussing techniques: the importance of
clouds, sky, light being correct. My skin colour was important as Tu did
not want sunburn, and I could not sunbathe in off times.
Often ideas for pictures came by chance.
"Summer Dreams" (top photo) happened one day, when posing at Newporth
beach. I had probably been on night duty, and was tired. Tuke said to me
"Do you think you could get in that position again? You were sound
asleep!" and Summer Dreams was born. The picture was in his studio
between exhibitions, and travelled all over the world. He was loath to
part with it, and never did.
was probably in the summer of 1917 that a party of Tuke's friends came
to stay at Budock vicarage for a month, from London. They used to picnic
on Newporth beach, to Tuke's annoyance. He used to curse them because
they took up his painting time and brought huge hampers of grub. It
didn't please H.S.T. at all.
I remember Tuke painting a picture of me standing towelling my back (picture above) and I think a friend of Tuke's, a Colonel from London, saw it in the making in the studio and bought it, I fancy for £50. This must be R912, bought by Colonel Lomer]. I gave Tuke one more sitting in 1919 after I had worked in London for a time, in order to finish it.
I left Falmouth for London on 1st January 1919, and didn't have a holiday from my new job for twelve months. I went to work for the Commercial Cable Co. and stayed with them all my working life. I met my future wife in September 1919 at her brother's wedding. His best man was in the same lodgings as I was, and my future wife was a bridesmaid. We were engaged on my 21st birthday, 11th March 1922, when I was on holiday from Ireland, where I went to work for my firm 1921-23. We were married in 1924.
Tuke tried to persuade me to stay in Falmouth and be a regular model for him, but I wasn't interested! I once met him by appointment to visit Burlington House where there was a picture of me on show [Under the Western Sun]. We stood well back from it, and he told me to get among the crowd admiring it and listen to the comments.
Tuke's studio was built of wood boards, with a big light in the roof. It was not dusty, and was fairly dry. It was stacked with paintings in disarray against each other, and he would grumble if anyone tried to tidy up. The cricketing had finished before 1914, but a concrete batting pitch was still there behind the studio, and he used to tell me of the famous who had been along there, "W.G." and Ranji. He had a bat autographed by them. He had a telescope for watching the shipping, and had a knowledge of the flags used for signalling. When I had Spanish 'flu in 1918 Tuke visited me at home and brought me some eggs and other things. Once I had dinner by candlelight with him, just the two of us in the room of his cottage on the left of the front door.
He would often tell me where he would be
going that evening to dine, to the Bulls or Foxes etc., and would ask me
to go in with losses or gains when he played bridge. Of course I was not
used to gambling and always refrained. Next day he would say "pity you
weren't in, as I won so-and-so" but then he would give me 5/- as he had
had a good night! Sometimes in the evenings he would go to one of the
clubs, Athenaeum or Falmouth Gentlemen's Club, and play poker. Mostly he
would win. He would ask me beforehand, would I like to wager 1/- if he
lost against 1/- for £1 he won. I never did, but he would often hand
over two or three bob next time we met! You must remember I was a mere
lad of fifteen or so, and was not much interested in the people I used
to meet there. But he was a great guy!
From BD Price's 'Tuke Reminiscences' (1983). Photos are from the Tate collection.