A GIANT storm-tossed ash tree trunk washed up on the beach in Tenby has been transformed into a tribute to the town’s lifeboatmen.
International artist Robert Raschke was inspired to carve the two-and-a-half ton trunk after it was found by his wife Helen on a stormy September day just over a year ago.
But his plans for transforming the sea-soaked wood into a sculpture of a 19th century lifeboatman ebbed away when high tides and heavy winds carried it away from the Paragon beach, where it had first appeared.
Then, 16 days later, Helen found the tree again on a Tenby shore – this time 400 metres away on the Castle beach.
German-born Robert lost no time in enlisting a shoal of helpers to transport the trunk from the sands to his nearby studio in Sergeant’s Lane, where he has worked since 2010.
Months of work later, and the ash emerged into daylight in its new form – the stunning figure of the old lifeboatman, now named Sandy, which is now in pride of place outside Tenby lifeboat station on Castle Hill.
Robert, 69, said he was fascinated at the thought of the journey of the ash trunk and its potential from the minute that Helen told him of its discovery.
He said: “Celtic mythology refers to the ash tree as the World Tree, a tree that spans between worlds.
“The waves, the ocean currents brought this piece of tree to my beach….from North Wales, from Ireland….or from Canada? Who knows?
“It was a long time in the water. The tree bark was glassy, very heavy, about two-and-a-half tons.”
As he examined the tree, the forms of its bark reminded him of faces, beards and different figures, and an idea was born.
He visualised ‘an old lifeboat man, a coxswain from the 19th century, with a sou-wester rain hat, with a beard, big hands, holding binoculars, a cork vest, growing out of a mighty piece of ash tree’.
But the following day, the tree was gone, only to re-appear just over a fortnight later on Castle Beach.
The trunk spent two months drying out in Robert’s studio before he set to work, and the result was unveiled on Friday.
Said Tenby RNLI press officer Ben James: “Tenby Lifeboat Station would like to give a huge thanks to Robert for this amazing sculpture, which will surely bring a lot of attention and interest.
“We’d also like to extend a massive thanks to Katherine John of Morris Brothers, Tenby for the use of their pallet truck, which transported the sculpture from Robert’s studio to Castle Square.
“Thanks also to Danny Henson of Saundersfoot Bay Leisure Park, whose mini digger was extremely useful in getting around Castle Hill to put Sandy in his new home outside the lifeboat station.”