Montrose artist’s “remarkable” story will never fade away again

Anne Keddie, Provost of Aberdeenshire Jill Webster, Alma Stone, Peter Christie, Provost of Angus Helen Oswald and Dave Ramsay with the plaque
Anne Keddie, Provost of Aberdeenshire Jill Webster, Alma Stone, Peter Christie, Provost of Angus Helen Oswald and Dave Ramsay with the plaque

A Montrose artist has finally been given recognition more than 60 years after his death.

A special event was held at Sleepyhillock Cemetery to unveil a Historic Scotland plaque to Hillside sculptor Adam Christie last Wednesday (May 7).

Christie from Aith, Cunningsburgh, Shetland, suffered from severe depression and was sent to Sunnyside Hospital in Hillside.

He died there in 1950 at the age of 84, having spent almost 50 years there.

During his time at Sunnyside he developed an innate talent for art, creating stone sculptures and paintings using very basic tools.

The event was the second phase of a seven year long project by Dave Ramsay, a singer/songwriter from Arbroath, but now based in Catterline, who has been campaigning for greater recognition for the artist.

He said: “I’m happy it is all coming together.

“The Historic Scotland plaque for Adam was only one of 12 awarded for the whole of Scotland, and that places him in a new light of recognition.”

The Provost of Angus, Helen Oswald, and the Provost of Aberdeenshire, Jill Webster, provided the joint address of the plaque, which was unveiled last Wednesday to mark the 64th anniversary of Christie’s death.

In 2009 it was uncovered that Christie made a plaque at Sunnyside to mark the occasion where Robert Burns and Willie Nicol, stopped to water their horses in Hillside on the Bard’s Highland Tour in 1787.

C.J. Shaw, Superintendent of Sunnyside, and two orderlies Joseph Harris, Willie Herd, and Christie inserted the plaque in the wall in 1930.

Some of the Bard’s family hail from Aberdeenshire and Mrs Webster said: “It is fitting that the two neighbouring counties join together in celebration.”

Mrs Oswald said: “The Historic Scotland plaque will ensure this remarkable story of this remarkable man will never fade away again.”

Last month, a rowan tree was planted in the free ground at Sleepyhillock where Adam was buried in a pauper’s grave.

The plaque was placed beside the tree, facing towards Hillside and Shetland.

Christie’s grand niece and nephew Alma Stone and Peter Christie travelled from Shetland for the event and a second plaque will be handed over to the Christie family to be placed in Shetland.

“It was a momentous day for us to be here to see this,” said Alma at the event.

The brother and sister said it was “unbelievable” and “fantastic” that Christie was finally getting recognition.

The Rev. John Anderson of Hillside and Dun provided the dedication to Christie, while Glasgow piper Johnny Gauld played a cheerful piece called ‘Regards, Good Luck and Keep on the Sunny Side’.

He said: “I thought the life and times of Adam Christie and his artworks are to be celebrated.”

In 2008, the late Ken Keddie, who was a consultant psychiatrist at Sunnyside in the 1970s, published a book about Christie called ‘The Gentle Shetlander’ and Dave wrote a song about Christie based on the book.

Ken Keddie’s widow, Anne, said: “The hospital records painted Christie as a highly popular and curiously revered character.

“Ken commented that despite his long stay in hospital, Adam’s precious talents flourished. It shows that with encouragement art will flourish and at the hospital staff definitely provided this.”