Walking through the concourse of Liverpool’s Central Station today I came across a statue I hadn’t seen before. It’s a 6ft bronze statue of a “Liver Bird” (a fictional bird which is a symbol of Liverpool). It was designed by Rick Myers and constructed by Barry Eaton-Canning . It is dedicated to the memory of Paul Rice , the former chief executive of Liverpool Commercial District Partnership – which provided initial funding for the sculpture. Paul Rice was also the co-founder and former vice-president of the Liverpool Football Club’s supporters’ union “The Spirit of Shankly.” He died in 2012 aged 54. I took a couple of photos of the statue (below).
Of the statue, the current chief executive of Liverpool Commercial District BID said: “It is fantastic to see that Paul, who did so much to improve and promote Liverpool, is to be remembered at a high profile city centre location in such a striking fashion.
“The fact that it’s the emblem of the city and his beloved football club – his two great passions – is a fitting tribute.”
The sculptor Rick Myers is well-known for dozens of “Liver Bird” statues. He is director of Liver Birds Inc, and has produced many mini versions of the “Spirit of Liverpool” – which shares its name with the statue on top of the city’s Walker Art Gallery.¹ One of these mini versions has been presented to the Queen. The “Spirit of Liverpool” has been moved from the Pier Head to Central Station, where it will remain over the winter. Central Station is the busiest underground station outside London with some 16 million passengers a year.
Rick Myers also designed the “Wall of Fame” in Liverpool’s Matthew Street. The “Wall of Fame” is a wall of record-shaped plagues remembering 54 Liverpool Number 1 chart hits since 1952 as well as a musical-themed bench beneath the wall. It was unveiled in 2001 by the singer Lita Roza and is directly across the street from the Cavern Club – famous as the “Birthplace of The Beatles.”
Speaking about “The Spirit of Liverpool,” Myers (above) said: “The bird celebrates the new Liverpool and recognises the massive number of ‘firsts’ that have been achieved here over the years, arguably more than any other city in the world.”
Arthur Johnson, who is a director at Liver Birds Inc., added: ” The Spirit of Liverpool has proved a huge hit, particularly with ex-pat Scousers. We expect the 6ft bird to be a popular photo spot for tourists, football fans and shoppers.
“A children’s book about the bird, written and illustrated by Rick Myers has been published, along with a DVD of the story. A special Liver Bird song has even been recorded.”
A trail of two-foot high versions of the statue is being planned for the city next year in support of the children’s hospice Clare House – following in the spirit of the other street-based trails of sculptures seen in the city in recent years: the Superlambananas, Go Penguins! and the AquaDucked trail.
¹ NOTES ON THE WALKER ART GALLERY’S “SPIRIT OF LIVERPOOL”
The original “Spirit of Liverpool” statue on the roof of the Walker Art Gallery dates from 1877 – the year the Gallery opened. It was carved by John Warrington Wood. The statue was removed due to deterioration in 1993. It was in such a bad state there were fears chunks of it would fall off and crash through the glass dome of the Gallery into the foyer below. The original statue is now in storage. A replica is now in place. The replica was carved from a 41-ton piece of Chinese marble.
The statue depicts a royal woman wearing a crown and laurel wreath on her head. She is sitting on a bale of cotton, which portrays the city’s trade and industry. A “Liver Bird” sits by her left arm. In her left hand she is holding a steamship propellor and in her right a trident – both symbols of dominance over the seas. The use of these symbols on a statue above an art gallery was meant to suggest that the arts finds support from trade and industry – a common notion in the 19th century when many wealthy businessmen of the period endowed artistic projects.
The original statue would have been in brilliant white marble – a reference back to the classical sculptures of ancient Rome and Greece, but not very practical for industrial Liverpool. Over time, the pollution of the city coated the statue with a thick black crust. This not only changed the colour of the statue but caused major damage to the detailed carving and the structure of the artwork itself, which precipitated its removal in the 1990s.
The “Spirit of Liverpool” is accompanied by two marble statues of Michelangelo and Raphael. They were also carved in the Rome studios of John Warrington Wood in the 1870s. These two statues still stand either side of the Gallery’s entrance and look out over Islington and the Steble Fountain to St George’s Hall and Plateau on Lime Street. The three sculptures were so big when completed they had to be dragged on rollers through the streets of Rome to the train station – a short journey that took four days. They were then shipped from Livorno in Italy to Liverpool.
The “Spirit of Liverpool” was put on public display at the Gallery before being hoisted into place on the roof – the hoisting taking three days. It had to be lifted into place from the foyer of the Gallery before the entrance to the new Gallery was completed otherwise it wouldn’t have fitted through the doors. The Gallery was officially opened on 6 September 1877 by Edward Henry Stanley, the 15th Earl of Derby and today houses one of the finest collections of paintings in Britain outside London.