Denny artist creates sculpture in honour of First World War hero

Denny artist Helen Runciman is pictured with the sculpture of Private William McFadzean and the First World War Hero's great-great-nephew Jack
Denny artist Helen Runciman is pictured with the sculpture of Private William McFadzean and the First World War Hero's great-great-nephew Jack

A Denny-based artist has told of the immense pride she felt after being commissioned to create a sculpture honouring a Victoria Cross recipient.

Helen Runciman (59) was hand-picked by the Ancre Somme Association to form the piece of art in dedication to Private William McFadzean, who was awarded the UK’s highest military honour after he gave his own life during the Battle of the Somme to save his fellow soldiers by throwing himself on top of live grenades.

The Lurgan-born man was just 19 when he dived on top of the explosives after realising their safety pins had been removed when a box was accidentally dropped in the trenches in Thiepval Wood on July 1, 1916.

The explosion killed the 14th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles soldier and wounded two others.

Helen was selected as the sculptor by association members who had been impressed with a sculpture she had made of Rangers legend Sandy Jardine.

Following several months of work, the design was complete and she and her fellow artist Bob Montgomery, both of Artists’ Studios in the town, were invited to a ceremony in Lurgan where the artwork was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of County Armagh, Lord Caledon, on October 13.

Helen, who also met with Private McFadzean’s great-great-nephew Jack, said: “It was a huge honour.

“Jack was a very nice guy and you could see a slight resemblance there of William who was such a brave man in the war.

“I had done the sculpture of Sandy Jardine at Ibrox and they wanted a sculpture like the one I’d done for him.

“I did a few sketches to help raise funds for the large sculpture, which is about 22 inches high.

“I made the clay sculpture first and then it went to Powderhall Bronze Foundry in Edinburgh and on to Lurgan.

“Bob and I went over and it was a really emotional day.”

After starting work as an artist in 1990, Helen followed a rather unconventional path in that she taught herself and didn’t study art at college.

The dedication she has shown to her craft is evidently paying off.

Helen added: “I’ve been asked to be an honourary member of the Ancre Somme Association.
“It does a lot of good work going round the schools educating children about the war.”