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Nautical treasures by Wyllie surface in clearout

IT is one of the last surviving links to one of Scotland's most famous artworks - and for years this simple boat was hidden by brambles in the artist's back garden.

CRAFT: Wyllie's back garden hid some of his work.
CRAFT: Wyllie's back garden hid some of his work.

A tender boat, or pram dinghy, used by the late Scottish artist George Wyllie when he was creating his famous Paper Boat in 1989 was recently rediscovered by his daughter while clearing his home of belongings.

Wyllie, who died in 2012, aged 90, was a self-taught sculptor, painter and writer who created the Straw Locomotive, in 1987, the Paper Boat and the Running Clock outside Glasgow's Buchanan Bus Station, and has been lauded as one of Scotland's most influential artists of the past 50 years.

Louise Wyllie thought a large overgrown area of his Gourock backyard held an old oil tank, and proceeded to investigate further with the aid of a friend, Tom Blackmore.

Instead, she found a box, and inside the box was the boat, marked with the letters QM.

Inside the tender boat, built by Wyllie, was another boat, so it appeared that Wyllie had created a smaller version and put it inside, like a Russian doll.

Wyllie, who worked for years as a Customs and Excise Officer, would have used a tender boat many times to visit large ships.

Ms Wyllie said: "We were on the last leg of cleaning out my father's home, and we had the scrap metal people coming - there has been 12 tonnes of metal removed.

"Near the garage there was a big lump, covered in brambles, and I thought it was maybe an old oil tank - but instead we find this immaculate little pram dinghy, and another model of itself.

"I didn't know it was there, but it's a real link to the Paper Boat."

Wyllie launched the huge Paper Boat on the Clyde as a statement about the decline of Scotland's shipbuilding industry.

The 80ft-long Paper Boat was exhibited at The Tramway in Glasgow and at other sites, including a placement on the Hudson River in New York, for which it carried quotations from Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

The artist spent time in the Royal Navy before embarking on a career as a Customs and Excise officer.

He moved to Inverclyde in the late 1950s and while keeping watch for ships coming into the docks in Greenock from his house overlooking the Firth of Clyde, he "made time for art".

The National Galleries of Scotland are interested in collecting items relating to the Paper Boat or the Straw Locomotive and the new discovery could become part of a group of items that could go into the national collection.

Ms Wyllie added: "My father kept everything. He had a box with 'crispy ones' written on it, and inside it were insects he had made with wings made from cornflakes, poppadoms and crisps.

"Finding a boat is probably not as remarkable as that.

"We are not sure what will happen to it - it may be in need of some work to be seaworthy but it is in general good condition."

A "Wyllieum" dedicated to the sculpture, art and writing of Wyllie is being planned for his home town of Greenock.

The foundation has already received £200,000 from an anonymous donor to buy key artworks that will form the basis of the Wyllieum.

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