Terry Brodie-Smith: One of Edinburgh’s most flamboyant characters

Terry Brodie-Smith at the FAB party, The Scottish Gallery. Picture: Contributed
Terry Brodie-Smith at the FAB party, The Scottish Gallery. Picture: Contributed
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THE DRESS code for the Edinburgh party, promising “a FAB evening,” was Film, Arty or Bling.

Only one guest fulfilled all three criteria – the gloriously eccentric art collector Terence “Terry” Garraway Brodie-Smith. And here he is, pictured in his glittering pomp, in 2005, at that party at the Scottish Gallery, in Dundas Street, bedecked with baubles, bangles and beads like a glitzy Christmas tree, giving new meaning to the phrase absolutely fabulous.

Indeed, he’d have put many a festive fir in the shade on that evening when he wore – as was his wont – only a modest few dozen pieces from his unique collection of objets d’art and contemporary jewellery, a selection of which will be auctioned in Edinburgh next month. Indeed, the keen-eyed will be able to bid for some of the designs with which Brodie-Smith festooned himself on that memorable evening.

“He looked very Hollywood, very artistic, very bling,” recalls Scottish Gallery director, Christina Jansen, who knew Brodie-Smith for the last 15 years of his life. “We shall not see his like again,” she continues.

“He was a complex personality, sometimes infuriating but a wonderfully colourful figure, a fanatical collector and patron of the arts, always encouraging to young art students, as well as being extremely intelligent and knowledgeable.”

Nonetheless, he loved to bring on the bling – he just wanted to be adorned. A weel-kent figure on the capital’s social scene, he rarely missed a private view, where he always outshone the exhibits.

For Brodie-Smith, who died last October at the age of 84, was a living work of art, an arty party in himself, as well as being the giver of legendary parties in his art-stuffed New Town flat. By 1991, he owned more than 500 paintings. His walls were hung, floor-to-ceiling, with work by all Scotland’s major artists, from SJ Peploe to Alan Davie, John Bellany and many more.

According to his friend, Scottish Gallery managing director, Guy Peploe, Brodie-Smith delighted in the fact that one year he had more pictures hanging in his home than were being shown in the annual exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy. “And, yes, I hung every damn one of them!” Peploe exclaimed in his funeral eulogy, adding that Brodie-Smith left an indelible mark on the Scottish art scene.

That mark will be celebrated when more than 60 stunning lots of jewellery and silver from his collection will be put under the hammer at a forthcoming jewellery and silver sale. Lyon & Turnbull jewellery specialist Ruth Davis, who has catalogued Brodie-Smith’s collection with Jansen, says it’s expected to fetch in excess of £10,000. It’s a substantial sum since much of it is not made of precious gems or metals.

“His tastes were varied and often bold and I 
really like the fact that he wore and enjoyed much of what he bought,” says Davis.

“He had a strong connection to the Scottish Gallery so he bought regularly from them and often befriended makers, such as the silversmith Malcolm Appleby, whose engraved silver bangle, along with a collection of buttons and a pair of gold earrings, and a witty ‘Hippoposthumouse’ brooch, make up one lot, with an upper estimate of £500.”

Another friend of Brodie-Smith’s was renowned jeweller Wendy Ramshaw – a pair of archetypal Swinging Sixties acetate earrings (estimate £100-£200) were a gift from her, while an intricately folded paper bracelet by Nel Linssen could make £120.

A number of unapologetically flash lots of glittering Butler & Wilson pieces (£150-£250) include a Daliesque weeping eye brooch, spiders, an articulated lizard and a sparkling scarlet scorpion with raised tail.

Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe this dazzling array of statement jewels, says Davis, explaining that it’s rare for this kind of contemporary jewellery to come to auction in such large amounts.

So who was the stylish Terry Brodie-Smith?

Born in Newport, South Wales, in 1928, he was an only child until the age of 11 when his sister, Margaret, was born. In 1941, the street where the family lived was bombed and 13-year-old Terry dashed into the house to save his two-year-old sister. “Clearly, that incident made a deep impression on his psyche – he often talked about it in vivid detail and spoke of how his father pulled dead neighbours from their shattered homes,” says Jansen.

After studying dentistry at Bristol University and National Service in North Africa, he returned home to run his father’s sock factory, supporting his parents and sister.

“The origin of his knowledge and passion for art and objects went back to those difficult years, when his solace and respite was to pore over books and catalogues,” says Peploe.

Eventually, he was able to give up the factory and his first grand gesture of freedom, allied to a brief romantic confusion, was to buy a lighthouse on the Gower peninsula. He never married but was engaged briefly at this time. Eventually, he moved to Bath and began building up various collections – dealing became the source of his income and collecting the source of his expenditure.

When the Scottish Gallery began showing at the Bath Art Fair, Peploe and Brodie-Smith became firm friends. In the mid-1980s, he moved to 67 Great King Street, in Edinburgh, and began obsessively collecting British, particularly Scottish, art. “His eye was impeccable and wide-ranging and he made many discoveries which brought substantial profit,” remembers Peploe.

“He loved the company of young people – perhaps because his own youth had been rather blighted.” His wide circle of friends included actor-turned-award-winning writer Simon Donald and his photographer partner, Carol Gordon, as well as artists such as Barbara Rae, John Byrne and Alison Watt. “He was also deeply anti-establishment,” Peploe says. “He might have made a first-rate dictator!”

Sadly, Brodie-Smith did not take great care of himself – existing on a daily diet of Smash and chocolate biscuits – and in later years became increasingly frail. He down-sized to a splendid “bedsit” in the city’s old Assay Office, in Blair Street, which goes on the market soon.

Surrounded by the chaos of his countless collections, his eyesight began failing. “He had an amazing memory, despite the state of the place,” says Jansen. “He always knew where everything was and he knew the story behind every piece he ever bought.”

In 2012, the Scottish Gallery held two exhibitions of his collections – his silver in May and his jewellery in October. He was at the private view, exuberantly attired as ever, then died just before the exhibition closed. “That was a first –alive at the opening and a funeral on the last day,” says Jansen.

How very Terry Brodie-Smith.

• The Terry Brodie-Smith Collection will be auctioned by Lyon & Turnbull, Broughton Street, 10-11 July. For details of viewing dates in London, Glasgow and Edinburgh, contact Ruth Davis, 0131 557 8844, ruth.davis@lyonandturnbull.com