Craft&Design March/April 2014: Art is Craft with Meaning: the sculpture of Ray Lonsdale

For Craft&Design’s latest issue, I was privileged to meet Ray Lonsdale, a sculptor tipped to be ‘bigger than Anthony Gormley’.


I was glad I met Ray when I did, as he’d recently completed his tribute to the soldiers of the Great War, ‘The Last Cigarette of Michael Duffy’.

The last cigarette of Michael Duffy by Ray Lonsdale

The last cigarette of Michael Duffy by Ray Lonsdale

I was able to see ‘Michael’, who stands around fifteen feet tall, up close and in the flesh, so to speak. It’s an opportunity that others may not have, as next day, Ray texted to say that ‘Michael’ had sold to a private collector.


I’m not suprised, as it’s a powerful piece of work: powerful in scale, in subject, and in impact. Ray set out to make people stop and think, and he succeeded.


Michael Duffy was a real man, his life cut sadly short by the Great War. Ray, who is based in Co Durham, explains: “I wanted a real soldier of the First World War who was not remembered for anything else – no mentions in Despatches, no medals, etc. Just one, for all who went over the top.”


Ray had planned to go to the Durham Light Infantry Museum, to seach for such a man, but then chanced to meet a friend who had a relative who’d died in the Great War. Ray says, “He had a picture, a name – Michael Duffy – and a story. So I used him. I’ve always had an interest in WWI – the first piece I ever did was about that. This is one I’d wanted to do for a long time, but I was waiting for the time. The time is right now.”


Ray says, “As a young man in the early 20th century, Michael Duffy was a miner in a Durham Pit. On finishing his shift one day, he saw a request for volunteers for a special project. He answered the call, and found himself down another hole in a foreign country: he was a clay kicker under the Messines ridge, preparing the area to receive mines. On completion of this task he was redeployed to the front, the mines were detonated, and Michael Duffy was killed just a few days short of his twentieth birthday.”


The sculpture, adds Ray, “Is intended to represent all of the soldiers who simply did their duty…a memorial for the common man.”


Ray, who originally trained as a steel fabricator, spent nearly five months creating ‘Michael’, who stands fifteen feet tall. Ray began making sculptures fifteen years ago, when his pent-up creativity burst out.



Read more about Ray’s art in Craft&Design Magazine



See more of Ray’s works at and



About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

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