FIFTY years ago Malcolm Torry, a metallurgist at Darwins foundry in Tinsley, used some spare time in the company lab to create five stainless steel sculptures. It was his own private way of marking the half centenary of Harry Brearley’s discovery of the rustless material in Sheffield.
“I originally put them on the hearth at home,” says the 80-year-old. “But they’ve been in the garage for 20 years. I did it for my own interest so I didn’t show many people.”
Until, that is, this week.
For now, five decades on, as Sheffield starts to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Brearley’s 1913 discovery, those sculptures have been plucked from the dark and dust and put on public show for the first time ever.
The abstract pieces will take centre stage at a centenary exhibition at The Famous Sheffield Shop in Ecclesall Road. It is an arrangement which came about after grandfather-of-four Malcolm mentioned the 50-year-old project in passing to owner and Sheffield steel expert Paul Iseard.
“Well...” notes retired Malcolm, of Whirlow. “Three of the five sculptures will go on show, anyway. We can’t find the other two. I can’t begin to remember what might have happened to them. If the other three get picked up and sell for thousands I’ll be kicking myself, won’t I?”
For the sake of his limbs, let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
But the sculptures – created using lost-wax castings and finished with polished wood bases – are already impressing people.
“When I first saw them,” says Paul. “I thought he might be kidding that he’d made them. I thought they might be Barbara Hepworth’s. I can’t believe they’ve sat in him home all this time.
“But to give them their debut public exhibition for the centenary celebrations feels really right.”
And Malcolm’s fair pleased with the response too.
In fact it’s fair to say this remarkable man hasn’t been so chuffed since... well, since he was made a Member of the British Empire in the New Year Honours list last month. That was for something slightly different – for services to sailing and helping people with disabilities through Carsington Sailability in Ashbourne.
“Which means the most?” he muses. “Well, I’m happy with both – although obviously you don’t become an MBE every day.”
Next stop? An OBE for his sculptures, perhaps?