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APRIL 1971

Dramatic things were happening to the Landfall. The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company informed us that they intended to permanently seal the swing bridge and that Canning dock would be allowed to dry out. We had to decide whether to stay or move.  Retrospectively the decision to move was a bad one, for had we elected to stay put the Landfall would still be there now, for the authorities later changed their mind about the closure. We decided to move to Salthouse Dock.

Canning Dock had been scheduled for re-development. It was an ultimatum - we had to get out! They offered us an alternative berth in the adjacent Salthouse Dock. The evacuation took place, because the dock authorities had decided to permanently close the dock. If we had elected to stay, we would have been blocked in forever.

The consensus was: that as the dock would in all probability be filled in and used for construction purposes - the risk was that the Landfall might have to be broken up to make way for new buildings. In retrospect, it was the wrong decision, for the development never took place, and had we elected to take a chance and stay put, we would have been slap-bang in the middle of Liverpool's main tourist attraction - The Albert Dock complex. Unfortunately, we did not have a crystal ball. On Friday April 16 1971, the Landfall had to evacuate Canning dock where she'd lain for more than 23 years, to move a hundred yards into the adjacent Salthouse Dock.

On a bright, windy, sunny morning, we disconnected the shore electricity supply and other services, and hauled up the gangplank. Complete with an assorted crew of barmen, kitchen staff, hostesses, their families and one large dog that had somehow sneaked aboard, the Landfall slid slowly out of the Canning Dock. Under tow from two motor-powered gigs, we were eased out of our position and across the windswept water into our new berth. At one point, the fresh wind caught the Landing Craft amidships, and threatened to blow her up against the dock wall, but the small gigs managed to put her back on course. In 30 minutes, the job was done: a job that was expected to have taken two hours. The club was open for lunch as if nothing had happened.

Eric Carr the well known Liverpool sculptor lived aboard Landfall both as a friend of the owners and also as an unpaid shipkeeper. To Eric, a bachelor, the Landfall with the master mariner membership, and river folk clientele, is a home from home. At most nights round 11 p. m. you ~ hear the staccato roar of an outboard motor, as Eric makes his way back to his studio by boat, with the lights of the city glittering and popping round the water as the swell from his boat flutes the lagoon-like surface of the dock. Part of his studio forms a self-contained flat, with small bedroom, At simply by calor gas. "People always ask me if I am afraid at nights, being by myself on unused dock quays and with empty 18th century warehouses around me. The answer is a definite no," says Eric. And the reason he gives is the beauty of the surroundings. 'When I look through my window at night it is more beautiful than Venice, with the reflections on the water, and the side views of the Pier Head buildings mirrored in the dock," he told me.

Nevertheless, the average mortal shudders slightly at the thought, particularly when the wind howls through the Albert Dock warehouses and the Mersey lashes the dock wall. How anyone could live alone there, with the occasional scurry of a rat seeking a more sheltered spot, and the fantastic cacophony of sounds big and small when the wind whistles in, is a worry that simply does not disturb Eric Carr. How did Eric become a sculptor? "It's a long and varied story," he smiled. Born in Everton, he went to Heyworth Street School as a boy. "As a kid I used to get chalk from the school, and make shapes with it. Just before the war, I got a job with a Liverpool sign-makers doing painting and embossing," he narrated. In fact Eric was to develop into an artist with paints and still does important commercial work-half the pub signs of Liverpool and district, including
The George, depicting George III in Crosby, The Punchbowl at Sefton, The Twenty Row in Wallasey, The Morris Dancers in Scarisbrick and The Jutland, showing a battleship, in Stanley Road, were done by Eric. Because of his first love for sculpture however, he decided to try to get a job in the potteries when he left school, and was hired for artwork at Etruria. The war broke out two days later, and I was called up," said Eric.

For the next six years, Eric was to spend quite long spells afloat. He served on aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and did a stint with Air Sea Rescue, being based at Anglesey. It was this experience, plus messing about with boats, that gave him this permanent itch he has to be near to water. Came the peace, and Eric got a job as a carpenter with Bertram Mills's Circus. There he had to paint scenery and do the bewildering variety of shapes and colours and cut-outs in wood that go with the big top.

"It was a great experience, one that made me fully realise the possibilities of wood-carving," he says. As a sideline there was designing cages for animals. It seems an unusual step from the pomp and brass and ballyhoo of the circus life to the whisper world of church furnishings. However, Eric tried the crossing across the chasm. to a firm in Liverpool. He found it, surprisingly. just as exciting as the circus, more so, because the art involved was muck more creative," he admits. There were angels, saints, figurines for ornamental furniture, figures for cribs, symbolic designs to be done, and somehow or other, when he branched out on his own in the sixties, he had to mix in pub signs, and occasionally elegant carvings of stylish models for the ordinary art world. He somehow managed to fit into this diversity of tasks, commissions to do murals, sometimes in shops or supermarkets, as one superb south sea island scene in a stylish fruit mart in Waterloo, and more recently a superb set of murals in the Cabaret Club's new Country and Western lounge in Duke Street, depicting Indians, and sunsets across the West, wagon trains and cowboys.

But his main work is in the field of religious carvings, and he intends it to stay that way. Here in the past few years his reputation has grown rapidly. "Most of my work in this sphere is with the Catholic church; although I am not a Catholic obviously know a lot about it, because the theology can matter very much in executing a commission for a church." What sets Eric apart in his belonging to the world of the artisan rather than the arty set? Possibly, the background knowledge of tools and wood, and his own personal experience may account for this. He certainly seems most at home with his waterfront crowd, with the occasional docker or the policeman who calls in for a chat-and maybe a cup of tea. With a woodbine cigarette in his mouth, a curved axe in his hand, and emitting a modest and friendly scouse voice, he is hardly classifiable as "arty". Only when one studies him closely-the enormous life sized drawings from which he prepares his carvings, and the delicacy of sizing and balancing, one realises he is truly an artist.

He seldom philosophises about art, but when he does, he is worth listening to. Some strains in modern art he sees as good, buoo much of it is a smokescreen for mediocrity, in his opinion. He is alarmed, too, at the environmental take-over of art by industrial design, and the pressures of the 20th century "economic rat race". "Art is too big for simple definitions. But by and large I think it should communicate with humanity at large, or it becomes a form of intellectual incest," he says. Having done commissions in Scotland, London, the Midlands, and North East, as well as in his hometown, he is entitled to speak. Recently I heard someone say of Eric, "He's Liverpool's Michelangelo in wood." That's quite a tribute to an artist whose best work may yet come in the future; but who provides the City's waterfront with an extra glint of greatness to a great skyline.