Obituary: Arthur Dooley

Arthur Dooley, sculptor: born Liverpool 17 January 1929; married Jean Atkinson (marriage dissolved; one son with Linda Fellmingham); died Liverpool 7 January 1994.

ARTHUR DOOLEY became a sculptor almost by accident, his distinctive style evolving naturally from his experience as a manual worker in industry.

After leaving school at 14 he had a brief spell as a deckhand on Mersey tugboats, before joining the Irish Guards as a boy soldier. During his nine years' army service he was trained as a bagpiper and rose to the rank of sergeant, his six-foot-two frame an imposing - and doubtless intimidating - sight at the head of the kilted pipe-band, often seen changing the guard outside Buckingham Palace. He served in Palestine and Egypt but on impulse went AWOL to join the (pre-terrorist) Palestine Liberation Organisation as a mercenary - all without harbouring the slightest animosity against Israel or the Jews. In the PLO he reached the rank of colonel but was caught and returned to the army, which put him in prison for a year.

His exploits sound almost improbably colourful, but although in his youth he looked Behanesque and could display a belligerence typical of the Irish scouse (his great-grandfather came from Belfast), he was not a spinner of tales - nor, in recent years, a drinker. In prison he amused himself by modelling in sand and chipping away at lumps of rock though still without intending to become a sculptor. Only when working as a welder in the Cammell Laird shipyard, where he helped to build the Ark Royal, did he start to experiment in metal sculpture. 'The shipyard was really my art school,' he told Peter Davies, author of Post-war Artists on Merseyside (1992), and he said he was 'privileged never to have had an art education'.

For a year Dooley worked in London, as a janitor and part-time model at St Martin's School of Art, and although he resolutely denied ever having been taught it is no coincidence that his spell at St Martin's coincided with that of Professor Anthony Caro, who produced a distinguished crop of students. He also worked as rubber moulder at Dunlops in Speke, where, again, he developed up some of his metal- casting techniques.

Dooley's earlier work was 'workerist', though only in so far as he liked using industrial scrap for his welded constructions; never any suggestion of the monumental, square-jawed socialist-realist sculpture that might have reflected his membership of the Communist Party. His acknowledged influences were derived more from the starved, long-limbed figures of Giacometti and Reg Butler. As well as being a Communist he was a Catholic convert, but his best work was produced after he had turned away from both faiths to embrace a political and religious agnosticism. Much of his later work was neither industrial nor religious but heavily formalised figurative, like the bulls which London Weekend Television commissioned annually as a trophy for the Cyril Bennett Award for outstanding contributions to television programming.

In 1990 Dooley held an exhibition in the Dungeons at Windsor Castle but resisted all attempts by the art establishment, which he considered 'fashion-ridden and phoney', to get him to London. When a London gallery persuaded him to exhibit a few of his pieces he decided the others shown alongside them were 'bloody rubbish' and withdrew his. The Queen Mother, who is said to have befriended him, must have found his conversation refreshing.

In 1964, after Henry Moore turned down a commission for the Fourteen Stations of the Cross for St Mary's Church, Leyland, near Preston, the Benedictines - with some trepidation, as Dooley had by then acquired something of a tearaway reputation - asked him to do them instead. When he had finished they counted 15, each weighing three-quarters of a ton of bronze. His Black Christ was erected on an outside wall of a Liverpool Methodist church in 1967, and his work is represented in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery. One of his most recent works is the statue of St Mary in the Mariners' Chapel of the Quay in Liverpool Parish Church of St Nicholas. Towards the end of his life he became Chairman of the Liverpool Academy and gave much encouragement to young sculptors. He received numerous commissions and made many sales of his work, but never seemed to have any money because he gave it all away.

As a fiercely loyal Liverpudlian he fought against the spoiling of the city by developers and politicians, first by the threatened socialist-

Utopian Shankland Plan and then a monstrous, Ceausescu-style civic palace envisaged by the - pre-Militant - Labour leader Lord (Bill) Sefton. He is survived by his mother Bessie and his son Paul, a trained stonemason, who latterly worked alongside him.

Without big Arthur the city has suddenly become emptier.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?