Died: July 9, 2021.
TONY Morrow, who has died aged 66, was a well-known sculptor whose work features in public and private collections around the world. He was best-known for his large public works in Scotland and, in particular, Dundee.
Often based on popular characters and public figures, his work had a sense of occasion and a sense of humour while being embedded in popular culture and myth. His statues of Lobey Dosser, in Glasgow, and Desperate Dan, in Dundee, were ample evidence of that.
The 8ft bronze figure of Desperate Dan shows the cartoon character, belly filled with cow pies, striding down the main street of his home town. Behind him is his faithful companion, Dawg, and behind them is Minnie the Minx, on the point of firing a catapult.
Unveiled in 2001, it was a suitably anarchic way to celebrate two of DC Thomson’s biggest comic-strip stars.
Lobey Dosser, meanwhile, was the star of a much-loved cartoon strip by Bud Neill which ran in the Evening Times from 1949 until 1956 and then in the Sunday Mail. The idea of a memorial to Neill was launched by The Herald Diary, then in the hands of Tom Shields, as an event for Glasgow’s Year of Culture in the heady early days of 1990.
Standing in Woodlands Road in Glasgow, the sculpture, which was erected in 1992, portrays Lobey Dosser, the Sheriff of Calton Creek, his sturdy but two-legged steed El Fideldo, and the resident villain, Rank Bajin.
Morrow and his co-creator Nick Gillon were art students at the time and took no fee for designing and building the monument, which has become something of a landmark and has intrigued and amused many visitors to the city.
Morrow had originally trained as a mechanic, his father having urged him to learn a trade, but, in the words of W.J. Weir, a friend who shared digs with him in their first year at Duncan of Jordanstone art college, “his true calling was sculpture”.
Trevor South, another fellow student, described Tony as a talent with true passion. “He was a superb storyteller and I will always remember his humour and humanity,” he said.
Morrow grew up in Govan and, later, Easterhouse. His father, Patrick Joseph Morrow, was a wood sawyer and machinist. His mother, Barbara, was a seamstress who took in jobs to make ends meet.
His father also made musical instruments and taught Tony the drums – something which he loathed at the time but grew to love; in later life, he played drums and many other instruments.
After school – although the artistic ambitions had never quite gone away – he became a mechanic in the fire service and it was not until the late 1980s, when he was in his 30s, that he finally went to art college as a mature student, where he studied under sculptor Alistair Smart.
Smart was later asked to create a dragon sculpture for Dundee’s Murraygate, based on a local legend of a dragon that killed nine maidens before being slain by their father. Smart died before he could begin the work, but his family requested that Morrow, his former student, take over. Tony took the initial sketches and ideas and created the final sculpture.
It was the beginning of a career in art for Morrow that was often linked with Dundee, where he created a number of pieces, often in collaboration with his second wife, Suzi.
In 1998, he created a plaque on Riverside Drive which celebrates the world’s longest seaplane flight. It features a relief of the two planes involved, Mercury and Maia, which took off from the Tay estuary in 1938 and created a record that still stands today. A new bronze version was installed in 2002.
Tony and Suzi also created the plaque of Nelson Mandela in Dundee’s Central Library. Mandela had been awarded the freedom of the city in 1985.
Morrow worked as a teacher in sculpture. After completing his college studies he stayed on to teach the subject and life-drawing, as well as working on numerous private commissions.
Other noted pieces of public art are the sculptured heads in the National Galleries of the poets Hugh MacDiarmid, William Sydney (W.S.) Graham, and Hamish Henderson. He also created a bust of Scotland’s last First World War veteran, Alfred Anderson.
A few years later, in 2016, Morrow created five mini-sculptures of Dundee pies and Forfar bridies. They were auctioned off in support of the Marie Curie charity.
In 2017, he created a small sculpture of a Dundee ‘peh’ made of wood from the city’s RRS Discovery. The wood had become available for use when the vessel was closed for months to allow for its masts and rigging to be repaired.
In 2006, Morrow opened an exhibition at the Meffan Gallery in Forfar of more than a dozen new works. The sculptures, inspired by excerpts from his diaries, represented the highs and often lows of his life between 1992 and 2006, and were created from castings of found or discarded objects.
Steve Paterson, a friend and fellow sculptor, said: “As much as Tony Morrow will be rightly remembered for some treasured pieces of public sculpture, in a fairer world his vast catalogue of personal work is what should have, and may yet make him, make, him a national treasure
“He was one of those rare artists with an utterly unique language who could place a few objects together and make the sum of them add up to something much, much more – like the best musicians can with a handful of notes or a master chef who knows how flavours work”.
Suzi Morrow herself describes her time with Tony as very much “black and white”.
“There were dazzling highs but there were lows that were so black so it seems appropriate that he was eventually diagnosed with a rare bipolar disorder”, she said.
“Part of that meant that he lived life to the extreme at both ends of the scale with little thought for himself. He loved people and the human condition in all forms, he talked to everyone from all walks of life, and he shared and gave freely to all often to his own detriment.
“It made him one of the best teachers/facilitators I have ever known and I owe much of what I have done in my professional life to his encouragement.
“Many have gone on to great things because of that faith and encouragement and have remembered him fondly and with respect” she added.
Tony Morrow, who latterly lived in the village of Inchture near Dundee, is survived by his first wife, May, and by Suzi and their son Ruairidh.