The 250th anniversary of Sir Walter Scott's birth is commemorated in a new £2 coin designed by Stephen.
From the Royal Mint's publicity:
Stephen Raw is a textual artist and designer born in London and based in Manchester. His work varies from paintings to cover designs, and commercial lettering to coins. This isn’t the artist’s first coin design for The Royal Mint. His first appeared on the £2 Armistice coin that closed our First World War collection, on which Stephen focused on the words of Wilfred Owen’s poem Strange Meeting. For the 50p coin that celebrated the anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the artist placed the iconic Sherlock Holmes at the centre of his mystery-themed design.
“Like many I grew up with stories of Rob Roy, The Lady in the Lakeand Ivanhoe, which my dad would often act out very dramatically. I think I only read Rob Roy as a teenager but loved the television adaptations – always in black and white! So, when the opportunity to join the celebration of Sir Walter Scott’s life and works came about I was thrilled.
Even though we lived in south London, my parents, in particular my father, loved Scotland. We’d sometimes go on trips to Scotland, and with no motorways it was a real trek. In 2018 my wife and I were driving back from the Edinburgh Festival and, with a less arduous journey to travel, I had time to visit Abbotsford, Scott’s home. It didn’t disappoint.
Firstly, the wonderful position above the river and then Scott's marvellous architecture, morphing from Georgian house to Scottish Baronial style. All quite astonishing. Inevitably I took lots of photos including, as I always do, any interesting lettering I saw. Little did I know a year later I would be invited to submit designs for Scott. To say I was delighted is an understatement.
Sir Walter Scott was such a fascinating character, there were so many routes that you could explore. I experimented with tartan in the design. I saw a pair of Scott’s own tartan trousers at Abbotsford, and he was single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of tartan when he organised a visit from George IV in 1822, dressing the king in the traditional, but previously outlawed, fabric.
Being a textual artist, I’m fascinated by lettering and all of my early designs included some specific lettering reference to Scott. But the route chosen in the end was a combination of distinctive Gothic lettering from the chapel at Abbotsford alongside some lettering used by Scott in the magnificent entrance to his home.
As for the portrait, there was no point in trying to improve on the wonderful sculpture of Scott that sits within his monument on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, so I used that. I hope that when people see the coin they might be encouraged to go and see the real thing and walk up the steps of the monument – the second largest such memorial to a writer in the world they say – and get the views of the city, including the only railway station to be named after a series of novels: Scott’s Waverley.”
Stephen's 50p design for Sherlock Holmes has been released and is in circulation. The text is too small to read with the naked eye. So what do you need? – a magnifying glass! It's your chance to become a detective like the great man himself.
The Royal Mint commemorative WW1 coin programme finished with a £2 collectors' coin for the Armistice. Stephen used Wilfred Owen’s words from the poem ‘Strange Meeting’ in the design. ‘From one who lost his life, we have his heartfelt reaction to war with these lines,’ says Stephen, ‘not the unhelpful, jingoistic nonsense of others.’
The coin’s ground on which the lettering sits was scanned from clay embedded with soil from where Owen was killed in Flanders just a week before the end of hostilities. Owen was a soldier in the Manchester Regiment and in 2012 Stephen made the journey from Manchester to Ors where Owen is buried in the village graveyard (see photos below). The coin has now been released by the Mint. The edge inscription carries Owen's dates.
For more about the design vist the Mint's website:
Strange Meeting WILFRED OWEN
It seems that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sudden hall,
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand pains that vision’s gface was granied;
Yet no blood reached there from upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
‘Strange friend,’ I said, ‘here is no cause to mourn.’
‘None’, said the other, ‘save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil boldly, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery;
To miss we the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now…’