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Saturday, 1 October 2011

How Those We Have Loved Live On ...

Sometimes we are filled with a wave of ineffable sadness by the death of someone we barely knew. That person need not be universally celebrated – so it is not a matter of public hysteria - and the empathy is solely on behalf of the bereaved.

Photographer Neil Roland from Didsbury has been comissioned to take pictures as wall art for a London court 

Bi-line  greatly appreciated markwaugh.netThus it was this week when I read a loving tribute to Ruth Roland, the respected British artist and sculptor by her son, Neil.

The family is based is  Manchester where Neil and I met as colleagues on one of the local Jewish newspapers. He still writes extensively but is now a successful photographic artist with many exhibitions to his credit.

I never met Mrs Roland in person - nor it turns out, was I fully aware of the depths of her talent – but I did know of the particularly close relationship Neil enjoyed with her and with his father, Theo who has also outlived her.

Neither Neil nor I are ‘devout’ Jews, but as I pen this piece during the sober, reflective days between Rosh Hashana ( Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) I ponder on the majestic power of art and how very gifted people suffer in – and for - its creation.

This summer we witnessed the deaths of the young singer,  Amy Winehouse and the enormously influential artist, Lucian Freud and I then considered how they had paid for their talent.

So too,  Ruth Roland, who  also produced most significant work and was greatly admired by the Salford painter, L S Lowry with whom she forged a strong friendship.

Part of her development surely followed the untimely deaths of her first husband, nuclear physicist Leslie Ward and then Neil’s older brothers, Cedric and Russell.

Neil wrote in his South Manchester Reporter column this week:

“When my brothers died - now 20 and almost 30 years ago - I thought I'd never be able to smile again, or that if I did, I would very quickly realise that mine was not a life for laughing. Yet as the years went by, and the body of time in which we had not shared the same planet grew and grew, I was able to recall the good times and could enjoy, to a degree, bringing them into my mind without the taste of tragedy on my tongue.

But I am able to conclude on a lighter note: In 2003, Neil published his first novel, Taken for A Ride, a sweet, frothy tale based on his knowledge of the Jewish community where he lives.

The cover photograph, which he took (below) shows his mother’s lovely face through a stained glass window typical of those in  houses of the area. He dedicated the book:


“For Ruth and Theo, my exceptional parents.”





I – most probably along with many other well-meaning friends – have suggested that eventually Neil may wish to organise a tribute retrospective of his mother’s work. I am unsure if this could include her bronze bust of Lowry as I don’t know if it was retrieved after being stolen from the Lowry Hotel, Salford in October 2002!


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