Stephen Hayward and the Mermaid of Balintore

 mermaid

Sculptor Steve Hayward of Hilton, Easter Ross, is best known for his 10 foot sculpture of a mermaid that adorns the rocks at the fishing village of Balintore. Hayward worked with project co-ordinator Will Aitken to produce the sculpture and it has proved a great attraction for visitors.

The mermaid forms part of the Seaboard Sculpture Trail, a fascinating project that also includes three giant salmon and three slate monuments. The people of the Seaboard villages of Balintore, Hilton and Shandwick have relied on the sea for survival for centuries and the sculptures were created to celebrate those strong links.

Will Aitken said: “What’s amazing is the range of people coming. From pensioners to kids, everyone wants to see the mermaid and it’s not just local folks – they’re coming from all over.”

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The three giant salmon that now stand on the shore represent the fishing industry that was so vital to the villagers in the past. They were originally situated so that they were submerged by the high tides but they are now visible at all times. The mermaid represents ‘folklore’ and sits on a rock gazing to the shore. Hayward had to create her to fit the rock, an unusual large pink granite glacial erratic rock left over from the ice age.

As he was required to create a piece that was too large for a well seasoned piece of timber and would inevitably be exposed to extreme conditions, he used a laminated carved wooden core and bonded bronze finish. The project was funded by organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Highland 2007 and the Highland Council along with grants from the Scottish Executive.

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Hayward was also commissioned to carve two giant wooden replicas of the Lewis Chessmen for the community of Uig in Lewis. He started carving in 1984 whilst serving as an officer in the merchant navy and went full time as a carver and sculptor in 1992. He began selling his work at home and soon began to receive commissions from overseas including high relief decorative panels for restaurants in Florida.

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The 1.5 tonne Lewis Chessmen are among the largest of his commissions but he also creates small decorative pieces including intricate spoons and Celtic work. The wooden chessmen were based on the 93 walrus ivory Norse chessmen found nearby in 1831. Most are now in the British Museum in London with some remaining in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

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His work has developed through several different phases from the more traditional to the abstract and all shades in between. He feels that the inspiration for a piece of artwork can come at any time or at any place. After several years of working out of Kiltarlity, he has now set up his studio beside the sea in Hilton in Ross-shire.

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