You know what makes me grumpy? All the Grumpy Old Men who appeared on the BBC TV series were younger than me, that's what makes me grumpy. Mutter, mutter....

The Grumpy Old Artist

The Grumpy Old Artist
Would YOU pose for this man???

Exhibition Poster

Exhibition Poster
Catterline Event, 2011

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Helford River, Cornwall

Oil Painting by Jim Tait

Oil Painting by Jim Tait
Full-riggers "Georg Stage" and "Danmark"

Other Recent Works

Other Recent Works
Fordyce Castle and Village

Hay's Dock, Lerwick

Shetland-model Boats at Burravoe, Yell

Tall Ships Seascape

The Tour Boat "Dunter III", with Gannets, off Noss

The "Karen Ann II" entering Fraserburgh harbour

Summer Evening, Boyndie Bay

1930s Lerwick Harbour

Johnshaven Harbour

"Seabourn Legend"

Greeting Cards!

Greeting Cards!
Now Available in Packs of Five or in Assorted Sets of Four

Sunday, 31 July 2011


I caught my first glimpse of one of the participating vessels in this year's Tall Ships Race on the gloomy, damp morning of Tuesday 19th June.  The ship was the Dutch gaff-rigged ketch "Urania", and she was at anchor in Gulberwick bay as my brother Peter and I were on our way, through the Black Gaet, to Scalloway.  At our village of destination, we found another participant, the Bremen-registered "Esprit" (another ketch, of more recent build), and a very smart little ship she was. When we returned in the afternoon, she had been joined by the Dutch three-masted schooner "Eendracht".  Meanwhile, in Lerwick, the Norwegian ketches "Auno" and "Wyvern av Aalesund" had arrived, and another couple of small ships had arrived at Cullivoe, Yell.  Shetland's role in the 2011 Tall Ships race had begun to be played, and people were looking anxiously skyward, as well as seaward, to see if the weather was going to be kind.....

It was - briefly.  Next morning dawned bright and fair, with light winds, although there was a bit of cloud cover coming and going.  I sat at my window, enjoying a cup of tea with my sister Mary, who was one of the liaison officers for the Colombian barque "Gloria", watching her ship picking up the pilot off the Bressay Light and making her elegant way in towards the harbour.  Mary went off to perform her diplomatic duties, and I was left to try concentrating on doing a day's work.  Some hope!  I kept stopping to look seaward, as more and more of these beautiful ships approached.  The almost indefinably-rigged "Pelican of London", the Polish barquentine "Pogoria" and the Dutch topsail schooner "Gulden Leeuw" arrived during the morning, followed by the "Lord Nelson", "Dar Mlodziezy" and "Alexander von Humboldt" in the afternoon.  Other smaller, less easily identifiable, ships were also making their appearance.  That was a happy day for me, with my greedy eyes almost getting their fill from what was before them.

The next day, Thursday, was the first of three consecutive ones for which I'd booked a stall to sell my arty wares.  My brother Peter had agreed to help me transport my goods and display units down to the Toll Clock Centre in a car he had hired for his holiday here.  I am very grateful to him for his help, which speeded this process up, as well as saving me a taxi fare.  The wind was freshening from the north, although otherwise the weather was still quite pleasant, dry and bright.  Most of the participating tall ships had arrived by midday, although it was early evening before the Norwegian barque "Statsraad Lehmkuhl" arrived at her allocated berth at Shearer's Pier.  The sound of rock and roll music could be heard  from the stage at Holmsgarth.  Shetland had started to boogie, and my brother caught the ferry south that evening with the sounds of the party ringing in his ears.  The view of the harbour from the ferry would have been spectacular too.

I had arranged to leave my display units at the centre for the next couple of nights (at my own risk, of course), so that I only had my bags of cards and prints to transport back and forth each day.  I was glad of this facility as, with my brother gone, lugging all that stuff up and down my stairs each day would have been a pain - literally.  I had also arranged for my friends Lynne and Malcolm to look after the stall for a few hours on Friday, while I went out to Whiteness to pay my usual visit to my mother and see that she was OK for the weekend.  By evening the wind had risen to near gale force, from a northerly direction, although it was still dry and quite bright, and it bore the sound of the Levellers all over town, from the Holmsgarth stage, that evening.

Saturday dawned dry, and still reasonably bright, but the strong winds were becoming an issue.  With no improvement forecast for Sunday, the decision was made to postpone the departure of the ships (which had been previously scheduled for Sunday) until the following day when winds were expected to ease.  My last day at the Toll Clock Centre was a busy one, and by close of business, I had far exceeded my notional target figure for the three days takings - it had certainly been a worthwhile venture for me.  I had met many old friends, including one with whom I'd done business only online, and made many new ones.  I had added Slovenia to the list of European countries in which my artwork is owned.  As Captian Gabriel Perez of the Colobian barque "Gloria" was presented with one of my prints as a souvenir of his Lerwick visit, my artwork is now in every continent of the world!

I am grateful for the help of Jim Wilson of Allied Taxis in getting my display units and remaining stock of cards and prints back upstairs to my flat after my successful three days at the Toll Clock Centre.  There, on the news, on Saturday evening, I first heard of a shocking event which had taken place near Oslo, Norway, in which a gunman had gone on a killing spree of youngsters at an island camp......

That evening, lying in bed, I was listening to the gale-borne sound of Bjorn Again on the Holmsgarth stage.  This was interrupted, at midnight, by the explosions of the firework display, after which there was a brief pause before the ships' sirens began a symphony of their own.  Lerwick was still in party mode.

I had hoped to go for a walk around the harbour with my camera next day, but this notion was soon eliminated from my plans by the weather  - driving rain borne on a north-westerly gale.  There would be no point in taking a camera out of its case in such conditions, which only eased late in the day.  Sounds of music, presumably hastily-arranged gigs by local artistes (of whom there are many!) were still to be heard on the wind, as my sister Thelma and I went out to see our mother at Whiteness in the afternoon. She was well, although missing her summer visitors (first my sister Angela and her husband Nigel, then my brother) terribly.

I hate goodbyes too, and multiple departures are hard for me to take.  In the gloom of a leaden-skied Lerwick last Monday, I watched from my window as the first of the tall ships left the harbour, led out by our own "Swan", followed by the Dutch brig "Morgenster".  Over the next few hours, these beautiful vessels put me through the torture of the Parade of Sail.  Some of the ships won't be back - ever.  I understand that the green sails of the "Alexander von Humboldt" have graced their last Tall Ships event, as shortage of funds means that an essential refurbishment cannot take place, and she will have to be either sold or scrapped.

The last farewell was to my friends Lynne and Malcolm, to whom must go my last and most deeply-felt expression of gratitude.  I had a few lagers with them on Monday evening, and they departed on the Tuesday night ferry on the first leg of their journey back to Tyneside.  They had three of my paintings with them, and they had given up some of their own holiday time to look after my stall on the Friday while I attended to other essential matters elsewhere.

Now I look at the empty Lerwick quaysides, and wonder if they will be graced by such lovely ships again in my lifetime.  Who knows?  We Shetlanders certainly know how to organise and enjoy a good party, regardless of prevailing weather conditions.  It must surely happen again.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Here is my portrayal of the Aberdeen trawler "Paramount" (A309) ploughing through a moderate North Sea swell in fine weather as she searches for the white fish shoals.  She was one of a pair of sister ships, built for Peter & J Johnstone Ltd by the Mitchison yard at Gateshead on the Tyne, in 1959.  The other boat was the "Partisan" (A310).  They fished out of Aberdeen until the mid-1970s, when most of this class of side-trawler had become obsolete.  I don't know the fate of the "Paramount" - whether she was scrapped at this time, or sold abroad, as some were.  Perhaps someone will be good enough to enlighten me.

This painting represents my strategy to turn out some simpler and less detailed seascapes, which are  less time-consuming to complete than the more complicated landscape scenes I had been doing up to then.  Time is a very finite resource for me, as I try to get a reasonable-sized body of work together for the Catterline exhibition at the end of this year.  However, being something of a martyr to my own cause, I've now embarked on another complicated work of Stonehaven harbour.  The only way I'm going to keep the momentum going is to do a couple more seascapes concurrently with this.  Work, work, work!

Talking of seascapes, the Tall Ships are making their way towards Shetland as I write this post.  This evening, I was amazed to discover, from my Ship AIS, that our own "Swan" has taken less than 36 hours to make North Uist from Greenock.  Now that's going some - and this stage of the event (the Cruise in Company) isn't even a race! 

Sunday, 3 July 2011


The latest oil painting from my curmudgeonly artistic brush is this portrayal of the Aberdeen trawler "Vigilance" (reg. no. A204) approaching her home port in choppy weather.  Part of the long stretch of sandy beach, which extends northwards from the harbour, is visible in the background.

The "Vigilance" was one of several Aberdeen trawlers built of wood at various shipyards in the north-east of Scotland in the late 1950s, in this case at Peterhead in 1958.  She was 90-odd feet long and 149 grt.  She appears with the Aberdeen registration in Olsen's Almanack until the early 1980s, and I don't really know her fate thereafter.  Maybe someone will enlighten me.

I'm currently working on another Aberdeen trawler, the steel Tyne-built "Paramount", which I hope to have completed this incoming week.  I've also started a painting of the inner harbour at Stonehaven.  This will take longer, and I plan to do other seascapes concurrently.  All this work is intended for the Catterline exhibition which I am still hoping to hang in early November of this year.

Wish me luck, and have a nice week!


Take a look at and you will find there is a new range of four A6 greeting cards featuring my oil paintings of tall ships.  These, and many other products, will be on sale at my stall at the Toll Clock Centre during the Tall Ships visit from 21st July.  There are also a couple of new giclee prints available.
The cards were produced, to the usual high standard, by Digital Colour Services of Crediton, Devon.  I'm sure that David Cole will be grateful for the website plug

As usual, I haven't had the best of luck with my choice of subject-matter.  Three of the ships featured on the cards were here for the last Tall Ships visit in 1999, but they aren't coming this year!  These are the Danish full-riggers "Georg Stage" and "Danmark", and the German schooner "Johann Smidt".  C'est la vie, as they say around the Esplanade of Lerwick.

If you happen to be in Lerwick for the nautically-themed fun and frolics from the 21st to the 24th July, please feel free to drop by and take a look at what's currently on offer at the Tait Gallery stall. The Toll Clock Centre is close by the Morrison Dock, where many of the ships will be berthed.  Come on - you know you want to!