My mum came round today to visit and dropped of a file of clippings and photos of my Grandad Ted and some of his sculptures.
Every now and again I do a Google Search for my Granddad on my mother’s side, Ted Roocroft. I have very fond memories of my visits to his and Grandma Edna’s small holding in Cheshire as a boy, just south of Knutsford. Unfortunately he fell out with my mother and I stopped seeing him when I was about 8. As well as being my Granddad his chief claim to fame was that he was a Sculptor and a lecturer at Manchester Art School (now part of Manchester Met).
I’ve been aware of this film for some time, Manchester Met has it in their public archive. It’s by a film student and makes big about the fact that he’s an ex-pig farmer turned sculptor. Warning the quality is a bit iffy (since it was done a good 36 years ago) and there’s a bit of a meandering intro so my Grandad doesn’t start talking about his art until a good minute in.
What this film doesn’t tell you is about his career in the military Police at the end of WW2 in the British Zone in Berlin, the most of which he told my dad on a visit to the pub once, leaving him visibly shaken afterwards and would only repeat his quote “It’s amazing what someone would do for a cigarette”.
Or the fact that by this time this film was made he was a Senior Lecturer, a member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts (apparently the only sculptor at the time). He also makes big of the fact that he keeps most of his work, unless someone wants to buy it, in the film but neglects to mention that he also made casts of his work that his agent used to sell abroad. So between that and the day job (which was only four days – he had Friday off) he was comfortably off. He was crafty like that and liked to spin a yarn.
His tale of how him and Grandma came over from Ireland in a cowboy wagon and how he defeated a Giant and his pet sabre-tooth tiger to take possession of his small holding which he told me when I was knee-high is probably responsible for firing my imagination up and all the Roleplaying nonsense I’m into now. In fact the whole short film is a typical Ted Roocroft yarn 😉
It does mention his love of animals. I was quietly surprised to hear of his obsession with pigs (the pig farm was long gone by the time I knew him). He would regularly take me out to Chester Zoo, the Reptile house was always a highlight (and I’m glad even with the modernization I can still see the old tanks) and one of my more vivid memories of his work was of an elephant carved from a 6 foot oak trunk! He also took me to the Salford Museum and Art Gallery and the Victorian Street there has a magical place in my young memories.
Ted’s influence on my early life, through only a few short visits (at most we went twice a year for a couple of days), was huge. He’s definitely the strongest male role model from my immediate family, and while I’m aware of his flaws, he was a bit sexist ( there’s a very telling quote in the film which as a modern man made me wince) and could be quite over bearing, which is why my mum fell out with him, I miss him greatly.
(Although I do wonder what he would make about me being a vegetarian 😉 )