Sussex sculptor determined to honour Sir Alec Rose's pioneering spirit

Chichester sculptor Vincent Gray is hoping Portsmouth will act on his proposal for a commemorative sculpture of Sir Alec Rose.

Sir Alec Rose
Sir Alec Rose

Rose famously circumnavigated the globe single-handedly in 1967-68 on board his boat Lively Lady.

A maquette (model) of Vincent’s proposed sculpture of him goes on show in Portsmouth Cathedral on April 6 where it will remain until the end of the summer.

Vincent is aiming also to provide documentation to win support for the proposal – a chance to remember a true pioneer.

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    “A number of years ago I produced portrait busts of Sir Chay Blyth and John Ridgway, the first two men to row the Atlantic. One can’t help but be inspired by such pioneering men and women.

    “Sir Alec Rose (July 13 1908-January 11 1991) was a nursery owner and fruit merchant. He and his wife Dorothy ran a greengrocer shop at 38 Osborne Road, Southsea. After serving in the Royal Navy during World War Two, he developed a passion for amateur single-handed sailing.

    “He took part in the second single-handed Atlantic race in 1964 and circumnavigated the globe single-handedly in 1967-68. His boat Lively Lady is still seaworthy and is used for sail training by the charity Around and Around, which continues to carry out voyages today.

    “Against all odds, Rose and Lively Lady completed the 28,500-mile journey. He was given a hero’s welcome on his arrival in Portsmouth. A day after his return, he was knighted for his achievement.

    “There is a plaque commemorating his global circumnavigation near his landing point at Southsea. Rose passed away in 1991 in Queen Alexandra Hospital, but bequeathed Lively Lady to the city of Portsmouth.”

    Vincent finds himself attracted not just to Rose’s achievements, but also his personality: “He had the pioneering spirit, but he was also a quiet man, and I like that.

    “We tend to boast about our achievements these days, but I like the fact he was a quiet person who just got on with it. He was the underdog. let’s face it. Compare him to Sir Francis Chichester who was quite wealthy and quite well placed to do the things he did. It took Alec Rose 15 years to save up the money.”

    Vincent approached Portsmouth City Council earlier this year with the idea for a life-and-quarter bronze sculpture of Sir Alec Rose atop a stone plinth. The council initially rejected the idea on the grounds the projected cost of £120,000 was too much at the time.

    However, the council has since asked Vincent for the cost for a life-size sculpture of Sir Alec.

    This reduces the cost considerably, as does using an alternative material, bronze resin rather than bronze. Vincent believes the sculpture can now be achieved for a “rock bottom” cost of £40,000 – to which sales of the maquette could contribute. He is waiting for Portsmouth’s response to the new prices.

    Vincent – who has contributed sculptures of Keats and Nelson/Murray to Chichester – believes the cost is richly returned in terms of the benefits public art can afford a community: “Social offerings and openness rank extremely highly in community attachment.”

    But also there is simply the fact that Rose should be commemorated in the city, Vincent believes.

    “He is not represented – and he should be. I have always been interested in these people because of their pioneering spirit.

    “I am on a bit of a mission. These people should be represented.

    “Of course, it is my business to say that as a sculptor, but I do think you have got to ask the questions.”

    If you would like to support the project, get in touch with Portsmouth City Council. If you would like to buy a maquette, get in touch with Vincent on 01243 774354.