Hillside sculptor Adam Christie finally gets recognition

Dave Ramsay with the tree that has been planted at Sleepyhillock Cemetery in Montrose in memory of Hillside artist Adam Christie
Dave Ramsay with the tree that has been planted at Sleepyhillock Cemetery in Montrose in memory of Hillside artist Adam Christie

A six-year-long project that has sought to acknowledge and commemorate Hillside sculptor Adam Christie is nearing completion.

Christie, from Shetland, was diagnosed with severe depression and admitted to Sunnyside Hospital. He died in 1950 at the age of 84, having spent almost 50 years there.

During his time at Sunnyside, he carved faces and figures into stones he found in nearby fields, using unusual tools, such as files as hammers and a six inch nails as chisels.

His life work was meticulously researched by the late Ken Keddie, who was a consultant psychiatrist at Sunnyside in the 1970s. He published a book about Christie, called ‘The Gentle Shetlander’.

In 2008, Dave Ramsay, a singer and songwriter from Arbroath, wrote a song about the sculptor based on the book by Ken Keddie.

Since then, Dave has campaigned to gain greater recognition for Christie, whose remarkable talents were recognised by William Lamb, the renowned Montrose sculptor, who took Adam under his wing.

The last three stages of Dave’s project are nearing completion, and this week a rowan tree, of the aptly named variety ‘Joseph Rock’, was planted at in the free ground at Sleepyhillock Cemetery, in Montrose, where Christie is believed to have been buried in a pauper’s grave.

Dave, who is director of The Howe o’ the Mearns Heritage Association, said: “This has been a major project, but to see national and local recognition coming to Adam and his descendants makes it all worthwhile.”

The second stage of the project will see a memorial plaque by Historic Scotland being erected beside the tree, facing towards Hillside and Shetland, which is hoped to be in place by May 7, the anniversary of Christie’s death.

“The Historic Scotland plaque for Adam was only one of twelve awarded for the whole of Scotland, and that places him in a new light of recognition.

“The local support for fund-raising and raising awareness of this remarkable story is also a tribute to the late Ken Keddie, without whom, this story would never have been told,” said Dave.

During his research, Dave made contact with Christie’s family in Shetland and a second plaque will be handed over to them.

The third and final phase will see a stone carved memorial being erected in Montrose, the location of which yet to be determined.

Last year, with the help of funding from Burns clubs, Montrose Rotary Club, The Friends of William Lamb, The Howe o’ The Mearns Heritage Association and local businesses and heritage enthusiasts, Dave was able to promote an exhibition of Christie’s work at Montrose Museum.

Dave said: “This was a great success thanks to the work of Montrose Museum staff who acquired pieces of Adam’s work from the Shetland Museum and around Scotland, and made a great success of visually presenting his work, and increasing the public awareness of his life and work.”