James Munro




1960s : Teaching & Playing

Jim was working as an art teacher in the late ’50’s/early ‘60’s and lived at 9a Edinburgh Road, Musselburgh with his artist wife Nancy and young family. Living in the flat above the home of his brother Alex and wife Margaret. He had set up a studio as a self employed sculptor and musician and this helped to set the creative mood of the place which spilled out into the large garden which they shared. The walled garden had a gate which opened directly onto the beach, ‘the back sands’. This location overlooking the river Forth and Fisherrow harbour was inspirational and enabled the development of art, music & even fishing to grow together. Setting fishing lines out on the ‘scap’ and scouring rock pools for edible crabs took on a ritualistic pattern.

Especially as the collection of fish from the static lines often involved wading out late at night after a ‘jazz gig’ to beat the tide and the seagulls to the catch!

Music was a growing passion. As a young teacher, early before the school day started, he would practise on piano in preparation for evening music sessions in dance bands which he and Alex initiated.

This pattern of visual art by day and jazz by night became a pattern for the rest of his life.

This creative energy always existed within the family. His brother Alex combined home and workshop which opened into a walled garden with gate directly onto the beach.(The back sands).

Most of Jim’s work from the early 60’s was ceramic and modest collection of paintings survive from this period. Music and family life seemed to predominate.

Creative turning points:

A summer vacation, driving to Denia near Alicante in 1963 opened up the cultural vistas of colour and Spanish art all reinforced by the spirit of change in the 1960’s.

Nancy gave birth to their second son Gordon and shortly after they moved to Dalkeith when Jim secured the principal teacher of art post at the new secondary High School, Greenhall at Gorebridge, Midlothian.

Even then the family was enterprising and all members of the family (Jim, Nancy Kenneth & Gordon) would create paintings and sculpture and have annual art exhibitions in the house. Innovative at the time and continued for the next twenty years.

With an appetite for creative opportunities the family then moved to a large Victorian house, ‘Thornlea’, in Loanhead (1967).

This really became the centre, powerhouse and inspiration for a vast output of work. Old stables and outhouses were converted. And at one time there was a metal workshop (which doubled as a car worshop), with welding facilities, a bronze foundry, a photographic darkroom and a large first floor painting/printing studio which was significantly called the ‘music room’.

Making time’ was Jim’s maxim for using all times of the day for creative activities.

For a period in the 1960’s, he would drive the family group out during vacation and at the weekend, on a quest to find a landscape location and paint. Much of this material has a fluid intensity; documenting aspects of Scotland. A healthy competition developed with significant work also being created by his wife Nancy.

The resulting work had a strong affinity with the plein air studies created by Anne Redpath and William Gillies.

• Dark Bather on Blue monoprint 1964

• Seated Nude Ink

• Orange and Black Study 1965

• Musicians 1968

See also: JB Munro and Music

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