East Lancs decorative painter wins trophy in pal’s name

Blackburn Citizen: Walter Riley hard at work Walter Riley hard at work

A GREAT Harwood decorative painter drew on all his knowledge and experience to win a trophy dedicated to a late friend and colleague.

Today, the silver jug, named after Whalley craftsman John Fleming, has pride of place in Walter Riley’s Blackburn Road home, after he became its first recipient.

The award was created by The Association of Painting Craft Teachers, following John’s death at the end of last year, at the age of 78 — both men had been long time members.

And though painting craftsmen from all over Britain were invited to vie for the trophy, it came ‘home’ to east Lancashire for its first annual presentation.

Said 76-year-old Walter, who entered a series of panels showing his expertise in wood graining and marbling: “ I am very proud, but surprised, to be the first to win this award in memory of a good friend.

“It’s almost unbelievable that it has ended up in Great Harwood, just a couple of miles from John’s home, when it could have been awarded to anyone in the country.

“John was highly regarded within the association; he judged competitions, travelling all over the UK and abroad and organised demonstrations and exhibitions, including in Blackburn.”

The two men both worked in the painting and decorating trade all their lives, John with Blackburn Corporation paints department and Walter had his own business, before moving to Thwaites’ brewery paints section.

Both, however, were also highly skilled in creative painting techniques, such as gold leaf, marbling and wood graining and once taught at Blackburn College.

John was also the co-author of a marbling and graining ‘bible’ titled The Life and Times of Ernest Dobson, which included 122 master classes in various techniques and was one of only a few to have held a gold award City and Guilds in painting and decorating.

Walter, who was recently asked to restore the wood graining at the home of Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell, in Manchester, said: “Many years ago, decorating was a lot more decorative than today, involving graining and marbling, though I think we are beginning to see the craft making a come back.”

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