Adolf Kuechel: A Grateful Artist

Over the last few years I have heard Adolf mentioned. Today I took the time to ask about him properly and I am so glad I did. It is worth noting here that Adolf is not a relative of mine, however our families share a rather beautiful moment in their stories which I would like to share. Adolf Kuechel was held as a Prisoner of War in Kirkcudbrightshire during WWII. My dad described Adolf’s army service as ‘conscription’, meaning he had no choice but to enrol. Knowing he was not on the ‘good’ side, Adolf decided to stay in Scotland after his release rather than return to his home in Germany. Some time later, his wife and young son joined him as they tried to start afresh in Scotland. To put Adolf’s decision in perspective, my dad described the only two games boys of his generation played: Cowboys and Indians, and Brits versus Gerries. Almost 20 years after the end of the conflict, Dad vividly remembers nobody wanted to be a Gerry (a German), such was the stigma even all those years later. As a German in post-war Britain, Adolf did not find work particularly easily. I mentioned before my grandfather James was a plumber. In a town as small as Castle Douglas, workies stuck together. Although I am unsure of the exact events, I do know that Jim offered a hand of friendship to Adolf by helping him find work. Where Jim was working a job that required a painter and decorator, he would invite Adolf to do the job. Adolf was so grateful for Jim’s kindness and provision that he asked Jim if he could paint him and Doreen a mural to say thank you. The oil mural was painted directly onto the hallway wall and depicted a beautiful lakeside view looking to some mountains in the distance. I don’t know whether he painted a scene from a memory or from his imagination. Either way, it is a beautiful scene and a very unique gift. To our knowledge, Adolf painted murals in only two other houses, both as gifts of gratitude. To this day, the mural remains in tact in Jim and Doreen’s old home. Many years ago, my dad was able to contact his Adolf’s son. He had apparently been unaware of his father’s mural so he and his then-elderly mother made the journey back to Castle Douglas to see the mural and to be reunited with Jim’s widow Doreen, an original recipient of Adolf’s beautiful gift. A few years later, my dad was invited to speak at church as part of their Remembrance Sunday service. In a moment of serendipity, the minister spoke of making peace with our enemies after times of war without knowing that my dad was to follow him by telling Adolf and Jim’s story. While I have seen photos of it, I would like to see Adolf’s mural for myself one day. It’s pretty amazing that it still greets people as they enter that house over 50 years after it was first painted. I believe the mural remains as testament to the amazing story that saw its creation, which in itself is incredibly special.

Update: last month I visited Castle Douglas so went with my dad to the Rae’s old home. The current homeowners graciously invited me in to admire the mural. No records could ever have told me of its existence or the story behind how it came to be. That in itself is a pretty amazing gift for my family’s story and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Adolf's gift to the Rae's

Adolf’s gift to the Rae’s

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Jim and Doreen: A Diamond Duo

Sixty years ago today, this photograph was taken:
Jim and Doreen's wedding photoApril 1st 1955 was the day Miss Doreen Brown became Mrs James Rae. She was very proud to be Mrs Rae. Even when she re-married after being widowed, she made it clear that she would always be my Granny Rae. Neither Jim or Doreen survived to see their diamond anniversary but today I am remembering it.

This sparked a fun conversation with the family I work for today about first dates. Mrs Boss described how she lured Mr Boss to their first date by pretending she had an extra ticket to a show (the ticket was intended for him all along). My uncle just knew he was going to marry my aunt and decided he just couldn’t wait to ask her: they were engaged less than two weeks after their first date. They’ve been married for over twenty years now. As for Jim and Doreen, they met at a dance in the early 1950’s. I knew Doreen to always be honest and straight talking so I imagine that she made it clear she liked Jim. Jim was a gentleman but presumably less forward than his future wife, since he got his friend to walk Doreen home at the end of the night. It clearly didn’t matter who walked her home; from then on, Doreen was Jim’s girl.

I look forward to the day I am able to tell my children and grandchildren about this handsome pair. Today I simply wish this legendary couple a happy Diamond Anniversary.