IT was to earn a few coppers to help keep his five brothers and

sisters that 12-year-old George Wiseman started sketching the ships in

Aberdeen harbour. Now, 71 years later, the artist whose paintings are

hung in every major port throughout the world, has finally been

recognised by his home city.

The man who once ran Aberdeen's famous Harbour Cafe and who spent much

of his working life as a storeman is being honoured in an exhibition of

his paintings at the Aberdeeen Maritime Museum.

George was just five years old when his mother died in 1910 and the

youngster turned his hand to anything to help ''keep the pot boiling.''

He was born within sight and sound of the North Sea so it was natural

that he turned for some income to the ships on which his dad worked and

he could see from his dockland home.

At first he would offer to run errands for the crews of the visiting

vessels who were unable to get ashore and remembers heading to the

grocers ''with a list as long as my arm.'' Then he found a new sideline

when one of the ladies with the astrakhan coats, collars and cuffs, on a

cruise from Scandinavia, asked if he could find her party a good hotel.

The young lad led them round to the Central Hotel in Bridge Street

where the delighted owner offered him the princely sum of 6d a head for

any other guests he brought in. It became a lucrative business for young

George and the owner, ''a delightful lady who was typically Victorian

with her high-collar dresses,'' would often give him a bonus -- such as

the remainder of a roast which he could take home to his brothers and


George had the time for his money-earning exploits because, when he

was 11, the First World War started and his school was turned into a

hospital. He was moved from Sunnybank to Kittybrewster cramming all his

learning into the mornings.

''Drawing was my hobby even then,'' he remembers, ''and I was forever

getting into trouble for scribbling on the back of my books.''

It was the master of a Swedish cargo boat, Framnas, which brought

granite to Aberdeen, who set him off on his professional career as an

artist. The Aberdeen loon was struck by the sight of the Swedish boat

and did a sketch of it from the pierhead. The captain saw his efforts,

was impressed and bought it ''for four or five bob.''

He showed it to some of the crew and they wanted one as well and he

never looked back. Each time the vessel docked the captain would bring

him a photograph of a vessel which a friend wanted a painting of and

George had another commission. Soon the shipyards got to hear about his

talent and he was invited by every major yard to do a painting of the

boats they built.

In the 1930s George and his wife Nelly ran the Harbour Cafe which was

a focal point for seafarers and the German, Icelandic and Faroese

trawler skippers would not only eat and drink there but more often than

not, when ordering groceries, would also order a painting of their boat.

While the First World War provided George with the opportunity to earn

a few coppers the start of the Second World War lost him a lot of income

from the German trawlers which were his mainstay. Business slumped and

he sold the cafe and started work at an Aberdeen engineering firm with

whom he remained until his retirement.

George and Nelly now live in her home town of Bradford and, with his

eyesight failing, he has reluctantly decided to pack away his

paintbrushes for the last time. ''I am finishing a painting of a

sixteenth-century Spanish galleon for friends in Spain and that will be

my last,'' he said.

''I believe my paintings are all over the world. I have done them for

shipping offices, skippers, and friends from many different countries. I

have even painted them for shipyards from the plans to show what they

will look like when they are built.''

The exhibition of George's work, which runs until November 25, is the

first in Aberdeen and he feels a little let down that it has taken his

birthplace so long to give him any form of recognition. Indeed, he was

unaware that the exhibition was taking place.

''Many years ago Aberdeen Art Gallery had an exhibition called The

North Sea Fishing Industry and Shipbuilding and before it started I went

along and asked if there would be any space that I might hang some of my

paintings,'' said George.

''The gentleman in charge told me that there was no space left and

when I asked him if there was even a corner he insisted it was packed.

Not too long afterwards the same man who had snubbed me came to my door

and asked me if I would do a painting of a converted trawler. I told him

I had no paint, no brushes, no canvas, nothing -- I turned him down


George may not have happy memories about the Art Gallery of old but he

is quick to recall many fascinating memories of Aberdeen of yesteryear.

Since boyhood he has been captivated by the sea and through his

paintings has provided a priceless historical record of the changes in

Aberdeen's harbour scene from the steel steam drifters to the North Sea

support vessels.

Some of that history will be revealed in the exhibition which has

drawn on the museum's own works and private collections. Also featured

is a video profile of the artist compiled by Grampian Television.