Yes, the decision was unanimous. Sir Nigel Gresley would be depicted quizzically surveying the new Western concourse at King’s Cross, with the Art Deco-esque lines of the new balcony and the incredible new ‘tree’ canopy. Sir Nigel was quite a showman, so this seemed the perfect stage-set for him, with his old office building – now a grade I listed building – as the perfect backdrop. With his back to the old, he would be looking out towards the new, towards today’s busy commuters traveling near and far on trains influenced by his feats of engineering.
Caught off guard in a moment of reflection, Sir Nigel appears relaxed and relatively informal, with his hand in his jacket pocket and a copy of his trade journal, The Locomotive, in his other hand. This is his terrain. This is where he works. A twinkle in his eye suggests his good sense of humour. He was an authoritative yet not an autocratic man. He demanded excellence and commanded loyalty.
But why the duck? This is no mere whimsy. This companion to Sir Nigel, alludes to his record-breaking Mallard locomotive but also his well-documented love of waterfowl. According to his Grandson Tim Godfrey, Sir Nigel “used to live at Salisbury Hall in Hertfordshire, which had a moat, and he started a collection of wildfowl – wild ducks and so on – that he was very keen on….some of his locomotives were named after them” (Shropshire Star, April 29, 2013).
In addition, the Mallard duck was to rouse the curiosity of those unfamiliar with the man, including the younger generation: getting them to come closer, to read the wall plaque and scan the QR [Quick Read] code, to find out more about this incredible engineer. So, the inclusion of the Mallard was to attract interest far beyond the ranks of committed railway enthusiasts.
The go-ahead was given and I started to sculpt this pose in clay, as the final maquette (35cm), for casting in bronze.