I made the buxom lady for one Martin Silver, a wealthy semi-retired gentleman who had done well in the rag trade. Martin approached me in the early 90s after seeing our various sculpted signs in Camden High Street, and asked if I could make him a ship’s figurehead of a mermaid for his railway arch in King’s Cross, which he called Silver’s Boatyard.
The only boat in it was his rather grand cruiser which he was in the process of restoring. Martin’s passion was working with wood, and he and his colleague John designed and constructed all types of wonderful timber children’s toys and furniture there.
The brief he gave was to build a large authentic mermaid figurehead and he was most emphathic that she had to have (his words) “perfect tits”. Apparently his whole reputation depended on it.
So, off I went to my small workshop and, with my limited carving skills, crafted my interpretation of a traditional figurehead, a buxom lady in garish colours with very large nipples.
Finally the figure was ready, some twelve feet long, but the challenge now was to deliver it to the railway arch. So, I strapped it on the roof of my van and drove, if rather cautiously and quite conspicuously, through the streets to King’s Cross.
On arriving, I parked opposite the railway arch and invited Martin out to inspect his new wares. Martin stood aghast and stuttered “th- th- that’s amazing, but…”
“Is there a problem, Martin?” I enquired.
“Well,” he replied, very apologetically, “I’m sorry but the breasts are all wrong. Any chance you can change them?”
I agreed to carry out an enhancement. We then hoisted the lady up from the ceiling in the railway arch, where I cut off the offending boobs and replaced them with delicate ski sloped ones with cherries on the end. Martin painted them in a delicate light porcelain tone and stood back, a very happy man.
The story does not end there, however. One weekend there was a massive gale which dislodged the blocks and brought the mermaid down. Some local guys retrieved the pieces and stowed them behind a car for safe keeping. The next day, Martin began to rebuild her, only to find that the breasts were missing. I imagine they’re in someone’s rockery somewhere.
I was then commissioned to build mermaid mark II. When the arches were finally demolished in the early noughties, we removed and relocated her above a railway arch off Holloway Road.
And the final twist in the, er, tail? Sadly, she was nicked the year before last. But like the mythical creature herself, this iconic figurehead is still out there, somewhere.