Isle of Wight Hidden Heroes

Arthur Williams 1884-1961

Arthur Williams

Arthur Williams was the self-proclaimed Mayor of Gatcombe.

According to Arthur his family originally hailed from Wales but were “drummed out of the area,” for horse stealing. His father and Grandfather were both stone masons living in Gatcombe. Arthur’s father was said to have supervised the installation of a fireplace at Farringford House for the poet Lord Tennyson.

Survived the Battle of Ypres
Arthur was sent to France during the First World War and took part in the Battle of Ypres.

Wounded he returned home to convalesce, one of the few survivors of the battle.

Sent to Palestine
Once recovered he was sent to fight in Palestine. His experiences prompted him to write the book ‘Memories from Golden Hill to Jerusalem’.

Arthur returned home on a hospital ship in 1918 suffering from malaria.

Always a colourful character
In 1952 he was presented with his own spoof mayoral chain by the Mayor of Ryde.

Arthur was a colourful character, appearing on the radio show ‘Have a Go’ chaired by Wilfred Pickles.

He attended the launch of the ‘MV Gatcombe’; under strict orders to keep quiet by Sir Vere Hobart, but stood up after the speeches and told the room tales of his beautiful village.

Remarkable People. Remarkable Stories. Remarkable Island.

Ferry Lights artwork moves to IBM’s London HQ

ferry lights for HH website news blog

The fantastic Ferry Lights artwork by artist, Deborah Davies (Dd), commissioned for the Isle of Wight Hidden Heroes exhibition, is picking up new fans in London.

The interactive artwork – that tracks the movement of the ferries and hovercraft across the Solent – was designed and built in response to our very own Isle of Wight Hidden Hero, Andy Stanford Clark.

The artwork is now based in IBM’s Client Centre on London’s Southbank.

Read more about the installation over at News OnTheWight.

Celebrating IW Hidden Hero Joe Carstairs on USA’s National Maritime Day

newg in east cowes

In the United States they celebrate National Maritime Day on 22nd May 2018.

The national holiday was created to recognise the birth of the maritime industry – marking the date in 1819 when American steamship, Savannah, set sail from Georgia on the first ever transoceanic voyage under steam power.

Here on the Isle of Wight we’ve had plenty of American sailors and powerboat racers pass through, many of them having an impact on the boat-building industry.

‘Fastest woman on the water’
If you are familiar with our Isle of Wight Hidden Heroes, you’ll know all about Marion ‘Joe’ Carstairs – the openly gay, female powerboat racer – who came to the Isle of Wight to take part in powerboat racing in the 1920s.

When she arrived on the Isle of Wight, Joe commissioned Sammy Saunders to build her a powerboat.

She went on to set up her own boat yard on the River Medina, Sylvia Yard, employing Islanders to work on the design, build and testing of her sleek powerboats.

Despite leaving the Isle of Wight at the end of the 1920s, she continued to support her chief engineer, Joe Harris (pictured above with JC). When he passed away, she continued to support his family until her death in Florida, aged 93 in 1993.

Find out more
What better day to visit the visiting the Classic Boat Museum Gallery, where you can find out more about ‘Joe’ Carstairs.

The gallery also currently has an excellent maritime-focused Hidden Heroes exhibition.

The Classic Boat Museum Gallery is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10am – 3.30pm and can be found in the Columbine Building, Columbine Road, East Cowes.

Image: © Classic Boat Museum

Paul Armfield

paul armfield

Paul Armfield has in the last two years completely reinvigorated the Quay Arts Centre.

Through relentless hard work and determination he has not only made it a far more vibrant hub for Island artists of all varieties, he has stabilised it financially through successful programming and helped secure vital sponsorship and future funding for it.

All this has been done with a tireless vision and selfless determination that is typical of him.

He is my hidden hero.

Image: © Donna Woodward Taylor

‘Lady of the Isle’ back home at Carisbrooke Castle Museum


We’re very excited to see that one of our favourite Isle of Wight Hidden Heroes is making a return visit to her former home.

‘Lady of the Isle’, Isabella de Fortibus, was forced to sell the Isle of Wight on her deathbed in 1293. Until now, the only representation of Isabella at Carisbrooke Castle Museum (where she once lived) were photographs of a stone bust and a re-enactment during the Victorian period.

Click on image to see larger version
Isabella de Fortibus - created by Hannah George

Isabella on tour
However, thanks to Isle of Wight artist, Hannah George, you can now see Isabella at the Museum.

Hannah was commissioned to create a piece of artwork for the major Isle of Wight Hidden Heroes exhibition at Quay Arts earlier this year.

Her response as an artist to Isabella’s story was outstanding.

Why is she back at the Castle?
When the Quay Arts exhibition ended in March, Hannah got in touch with the Manager of Carisbrooke Castle Museum (which, by the way, has no connection to English Heritage who own the Castle itself) to see whether they would like to display her Isabella.

Hannah told us,

“It seemed a shame to dismantle Isabella and not give her a second outing.”

Not surprisingly, the Castle Museum were delighted to find a home for Isabella. Hannah continued,

“I was really excited to take Isabella back to her home! We chose a spot by a big fireplace and the dark wooden and brick surround really makes the whiteness of her cloak, head and child faces stand out.

“As you enter the room you see her from the back and it’s actually quite a ghostly sight now.

“The fragmentary nature of her face, made from scraps of blank white paper was to hint to the fact that we actually know very little about her and must build up a picture of her life and of her qualities as a person from the scraps of information we can find out.

“We must project our own colours onto her through our own particular contemporary eyes.”

If you haven’t seen Isabella now back in her home at Carisbrooke Castle Museum, do pop along, she looks magnificent. Our thanks to Museum volunteer, Charlotte Reynolds, for use of her photographs.

Click on image to see larger version
Isabella - created by Hannah George

Check back in the future for more details about how Hannah created Isabella.

Images: © Charlotte Reynolds

Julia back on the BBC

tomasz and gail at dimbola

Dimbola Museum and Galleries and Isle of Wight Hidden Hero, Julia Margaret Cameron, are back on the BBC.

Both feature in the BBC1 programme, Civilisations Stories – Art, Us and the Truth (7.30pm).

Schafernaker’s inspiration
Presented by the well-known meteorologist Tomasz Schafernaker, who happens to be an superb portrait artist (see some of his work below), the programme tours of some of the south of England’s art treasures.

During the snow period, Tomasz makes a visit to Dimbola to meet Gail Middleton and discovers more about the captivating portraits by the pioneering Victorian photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, inspiring him to take more risks with his own art.

Work by Tomasz Schafernaker
Watch this short video to see just how great an artist, Tomasz is.

Tune into BBC1 at 7.30pm or catch up after the broadcast on iPlayer.

Image: © BBC

John Cattle

john cattle's skate club

John is a passionate skateboarder and has been skating for all his life, which has taken him around the world and alongside some of the biggest names in skateboarding.

Here on the Isle of Wight, he founded skateboard company Wight Trash and has been fundamental in promoting the skating scene, from sponsoring local skaters, to fundraising for skate parks.

Skate parks provide important opportunities for kids (and big kids) to get outside, exercise, expand their boundaries and just have fun.

Skate Club for all ages
John also runs John Cattle’s Skate Club teaching all generations including the next to skateboard.

Based in a purpose-built training skate park in Wootton, he excels at teaching all ages and abilities (from 3 to 50+) with no previous experience necessary, in a safe and fun environment.

A real legend
Through sharing his skills and enthusiasm, John gets people more active, and involved in a great community.

That’s why John Cattle is my Isle of Wight Hidden Hero.

Ian Boyd

ian boyd

I’d like to nominate Ian Boyd as one of the Island’s kindest, brightest, productive and most unsung heroes.

A polymath by nature and a brain-poppingly knowledgable ecologist, he’s quietly and gently worked to conserve, restore, reimagine and revitalise landscapes, places, buildings, communities, developments, wildlife and people all across the Island… either directly, picking up a shovel and getting planting or painting, designing trails or commissioning artists, or indirectly behind the scenes writing funding bids/supporting campaigns for Island-enhancing projects even including the Biosphere.

He’s added the essence or sparkle to countless projects and lives, founded I2K, G2N, Island Rivers, Shaping the Bay, Arc, Artecology, Discovery Bay, new not-for-profit The Common Space and more – all to make the world a better place.

He works non-stop to connect people & wildlife, from a calendar of always-imaginative science and nature events such as Under the Pier on his days off, to making space to sponsor and support students or in fact anyone, of all ages and abilities, and including some of our most vulnerable people.

He’ll drop everything to support and direct people to become the best of themselves, with endless patience and enthusiasm.

Thanks to him, numerous people have been inspired by nature, or enabled to work in the environment, many of whom may not even be aware of it. His actions or advice have made a huge difference to species and habitats too.

Thanks to his imagination and experiments, the Island has acres of marvels and new opportunities; bee fields and biograffiti walls, rare elm trees and white letter hair streak butterflies, new artificial rockpools bringing hope for marine wildlife against sea level rise, universities visiting the Island, and £1000s has been raised for regeneration projects in the Bay area for example in just the last couple of years.

Believing in the importance of public realm, he’ll often spend his own money, spare time or last ounce of energy to make things happen – the Willow Walk a latest example, even planting hundreds of coastal plants by himself.

He advises on national environmental work from Bournemouth to Edinburgh. And all this is only a tiny bit of his output. I think good people, true heroes, don’t blow their own trumpet and their purpose is clear and genuine.

They meet adversity with integrity, invention, humility, humour and spirit, they look for and act on every opportunity to improve things for their community, and they always say it was a team effort! That’s why they’re hidden, presumably.

Ian’s a truly valuable human being and Island hero. But best of all, thanks to him, there are poems on our pavements, and orchids in our fields, we know why a weevil’s got a long nose, where to find a sponge garden or where to hear a nightingale sing at sunrise.

Image: © Portrait of an Island – Steve Blamire and Julian Winslow

Martin and Rob Drake-Knight

Rob left Mart Right Rapanui

Martin and Rob are fairly well-known on the Island as founders of eco fashion company Rapanui.

From starting out in an industrial unit in Bembridge, they’ve grown the business to now occupy the old Co-op supermarket in Freshwater and have had quite a journey along the way.

Constantly developing staff and providing opportunities to get into not just a fashion or production, but a tech business on the Island, is just one of the reasons why I’m nominating them.

Their years of campaigning around plastics is also highly commended, but if you dig deeper in to the workings of the Rapanui and Tee-Mill factory, you’ll see a burgeoning team working on AI, automation and robotics.

Not bad for a little fashion company on the Isle of Wight?