Bill Landles started his working life as a grocer’s message boy and became a self-taught sculptor with pieces in collections worldwide.
Encouraged by the celebrated Borders artist Anne Redpath, he made the transition from Co-op store to international acclaim via Edinburgh College of Art and is recognised as one the finest sculptors Scotland has produced in the last 50 years.
Born in Langlands Bank, Hawick, the son of a hosier, William Landles, and his wife Jane, a bobbin winder in a local woollen mill, he was educated at Hawick High School, leaving aged 14 to go into the grocery trade.
He began delivering milk and provisions by bike and after completing his apprenticeship became a grocer in the town’s High Street Co-op shop, going on to win an impressive £250 in the 1951 Festival of Britain window dressing competition for a display featuring Mars Bars.
But behind the shopworker there was a greater artistic talent and heritage that had already been evident for some time: his father was an amateur artist and photographer who became one of the first members of Hawick Art Club and as a boy Bill, who had taught himself how to sculpt, had a model of his father’s head exhibited at the club when he was 16.
As a result he came to the attention of Redpath, president of the club, who greatly encouraged the young artist and was instrumental in him eventually gaining a scholarship to Edinburgh College of Art. Subsequently, for five years he left Hawick daily on the 6:15am train to study in the capital. He graduated in 1956 and returned to Hawick High School as an art master, where he taught until retiring in 1982. Meanwhile he exhibited almost annually at the Royal Scottish Academy and became well-known for his figurative work. Three pieces of his public art stand in and around Hawick: the bronze book memorial on a cairn to Border poet Will Ogilvie, situated on the hill road to Roberton, with an exact replica in Bourke, in Australia; a bust and plaque in Hawick High Street of composer Adam Grant; and a sculpture of “Border Bard” James Thomson on the bridge which bears Thomson’s name. Thomson – a neighbour of Landles’ great great grandmother – who wrote the words to Rule Britannia.
Landles’ work features in galleries across the country, in collections worldwide and was collected by textile designer Bernat Klein. In 2006 Hawick Museum and Gallery at Winton Lodge Park mounted an exhibition, Shape and Form, in tribute to the artist which showcased his style and included photographs of his work at graduation and the bust My Father, which he made as a teenager.
In his younger days he was also an accomplished pianist and played with a local jazz dance band, The Modernaires. He met his wife Joyce Summers in 1946, whilst still working in the Co-op, and they recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
In 2010 the couple moved from Hawick to Cleadon in South Tyneside to be closer to their daughter Linda and her husband Ged and children. Two years earlier Landles had illustrated the cover of a book, The Wizard House – And the Return of the Lost Locket, written by his then nine-year-old grandson Harry.
A quiet and self-effacing man, respected by friends and colleagues in the art world as well as generations of pupils, he died in South Shields but was returned to Hawick where he was laid to rest in Wellogate Hill Cemetery.
Predeceased by his son Eric, he is survived by his wife, their daughter and grandchildren Eliza and Harry.