A long-time member of the Trust and well known for his artwork featuring the Wey & Arun Canal, John Russell-Hayes died in March aged 83.
John’s interest in canal restoration inspired many of his drawings, and was a love that began some fifty years ago. “I have no idea what drew him to canal restoration, but I remember when our children were little trudging across fields looking for Pallingham Lock,” recalls his widow Thelma. “John found the idea of recovering the lost route to the sea fascinating.”
The family lived in London, but spent weekends in Middleton-on-Sea, West Sussex, and when John retired in 1994 and moved to the area permanently, he had the opportunity to explore his interest further.
His talent for art was one that was discovered late in life – John’s professional background was as a company director for a wholesale business, far removed from the tranquillity of the towpath. However, in retirement he could follow his enjoyment of art and went on to provide the Trust with drawings (his favourite medium) to frame, and adorn cards and calendars.
His art often focused on projects while they were undergoing restoration, rather than the finished article, illustrating his attraction to seeing the canal coming back to life.
Says Thelma: “He didn’t always want to reproduce an accurate replica, but it was the restoration work and the people that were working on it that provided a fascination. John was very pleased to have seen the restoration achieved.”