Gifting Cambus O' May Bridge Watercolour to Prince Charles
It is not every day that you are invited to present one of your artworks to royalty, but at the end of August 2021 that is just what I was asked to do.
On the banks of the River Dee in Aberdeenshire, in front of the Cambus O’May suspension bridge that spans the river, I handed over my original watercolour of the structure to His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, The Duke of Rothesay. It was quite a moment, and certainly not one that I ever contemplated as I applied the first brushstrokes to the painting many months before.
Prince Charles was there to view the work
that had been undertaken to repair the bridge after it was significantly damaged around five years earlier. Through his charity, The Prince’s Foundation, he had donated money to support the Edwardian structure’s restoration. I was there with my framed watercolour of the bridge, having sold prints of the artwork to help raise funds for the repair work.
The Grade B listed cast-iron suspension bridge, which was built in 1905, was severely damaged by floods during Storm Frank in December 2015. It reopened in March 2021 following major repair work, which was funded by Aberdeenshire Council, private donations and the fundraising efforts of the Ballater Royal Deeside charity.
After hearing that the Ballater Royal Deeside charity was raising funds to support the bridge’s repair, I offered to create a watercolour painting of it. From this I produced limited edition prints and coasters featuring the artwork and donated the proceeds. The products were sold in the Brakeley Gift Room in Ballater and were available online through my website.
The original watercolour painting, which depicts the bridge in autumn, was due to be auctioned to raise further funds for the restoration project, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented this. The Ballater Royal Deeside charity instead asked if I would like to present the artwork to Prince Charles – who is also avid watercolour painter – as a lasting acknowledgement of his contribution to the restoration project.
It was a surreal experience to meet Prince Charles, or The Duke of Rothesay as he is known when in Scotland, and present him with one of my watercolours, but also a real honour. Once Prince Charles had completed a viewing of the bridge and its repairs, I was then formally introduced to hand over the work. We spoke about the challenges that painting with watercolours presents and during our conversation I think forgot to breathe. It is lucky that one of the duke's aides reminded me to hand over the painting, as I was so nervous I almost forgot to! Straight afterwards I was pulled off to the side to be interviewed by STV and the Press and Journal, which I was not at all prepared for!
When handing over an artwork that someone has commissioned there is always a mixture of nerves and accomplishment. It always feels great to see the finished product, but I'm always worried about the painting living up to the expectations of the recipient. Although the duke hadn’t commissioned the piece, I was really hoping that he would be pleased with it. Thankfully he was suitably impressed and even more surprised when he learned it was a gift to him, and not just to be shown!
I have fond memories of the bridge from growing up and cycling past it many times over the years. It is a beautiful structure in a stunning setting, and it was sad to see what had happened to it. When I heard about the fundraising efforts, I wanted to help in whatever way I could and am very pleased to have contributed in a small way to bringing the bridge back to its best.
It is certainly a day I will never forget and quite a momentous one in the history of my wee business KimberleyART.