I was sad to hear of the death of Stephen Crowther. I didn’t know him well as he lived in the north and I lived in the south, but on the few occasions we met, usually at RBA private views, I found him a kind and generous man with a fine sense of humour, and on one particular occasion I will always remember him with affection.
In 1949 a group of us students from different schools at the RCA, were given a special rate to visit Italy in order to study the many arts of the Renaissance. We were painters, designers, potters, illustrators all ready to go, but for one thing which we overlooked – the travel situation was unreliable. Ferries and trains could be cancelled without notice and we were often left stranded, having to improvise. However we managed quite well considering how little money we had, until on our way back returning to Dover, we were told we had to stay the night in Calais as the ferries were not running till the morrow. So I had to find lodgings for myself and my wife to be, Margot. I looked in my wallet and there was nothing there. So I had to borrow enough for a nights sleep and breakfast. The cost was all of 5 shillings (50p in today’s money).
The only person who could help me out was Stephen Crowther. He didn’t know me, but he lent me enough to see us through and I promised to pay him back at the beginning of next term.
What I didn’t know was that it was Stephens last term in the painting schools. I tried to locate him but failed. But many years later, after I was elected to the RBA, we met at last at a Private View and I reminded him of his generous loan. He laughed and said that the interest after 30 years would be enormous. It remained a joke between us forever after. I never did pay him back!