Strange and wonderful things happen in Upper Nithsdale.  Does the magic come from the gold, hidden deep in the hills, the invisible essence flowing down the burns and into the River Nith, spreading it’s power along the way?  Or does it rise from the spiritual strength of those persecuted souls from generations long ago who lie buried in the hills?  For those who choose to open their eyes to it, there is much wonder in this land.  Coincidence or synchronicity?; who knows, but things really do seem to happen here.

A strange question, I know, but what connects Sanquhar, a small historic town in SW Scotland, to a now-demolished car factory over 300 miles away?  Now, thanks to the newly opened Museum of Model Art (MoMA) in Sanquhar there is the weirdest and most wonderful link between these two places, and one which weaves in strands my own life.

Down a side street in Sanquhar, in the old butchers, you’ll find the work of artist Dave Rushton who has created a series of perfectly executed 1/24th scale models of some of the places he has lived and worked throughout his life.  One of these places happened to be the staff canteen of the Vauxhall Motors plant in Luton, Bedfordshire where Dave worked briefly in the late seventies.  The plant was demolished in 2002; development of the land has only just begun.


To view all the models you must look through a rectangular slot – slightly narrower than a letterbox – so they can only be viewed one person at a time.  Describing the models as ‘fairy-tale-like’ seems trite because they are much more than this.  At first they made me think of The Borrowers, but even the Borrowers’ six-inch height would make them seem like giants in these replica rooms.  The many-layered intricate beauty of all the models was incredible, but it was the largest of the collection, set apart from the others, which inspires this post.

When I first saw this model I knew nothing more than the fact it was a replica of a staff canteen in a car plant – I didn’t know about its real-life location or the make of cars which were built there.  The museum/gallery assistant, Jess, then told me a wonderful story about a chap called Steve, the electrician who did all the work on the museum building.  As Steve was helping Dave set the models up, he took a look inside the box which housed the model of the car plant canteen and exclaimed; “That looks like my old work canteen at Vauxhall Motors in Luton!”  To which Dave confirmed that it was indeed a model of said place.

What a strange coincidence!  Two men end up living in Sanquhar, both of whom worked at a car factory over 300 miles away 40 years ago – one of whom is eccentric enough to have created a model of the staff canteen of this factory, whilst the other one ends up doing the electrics for the museum where this replica model is housed.

I was looking into the model as I was being told this story, admiring the attention to detail and marveling at the hundreds of tiny chairs.  I looked up and quickly processed what I was hearing.  Luton…Vauxhall…these were the links: my late, great Granddad, Sidney ‘Stan the Man’ Stanley spent his working years at that very place.  I remember the engraved carriage clock on his mantle piece; his retirement gift from Vauxhall.

vauxhall canteen
This is the only photo of the real-life canteen I can find on the internet.

I looked back into the model and for a brief flash that tiny room came alive; noise and laughter echoing under the huge curve of the ceiling.  Smells of cigarette smoke and engine oil and fried food.  In amongst the jostle of workers queuing for their dinner, there was my Granddad, young and strong, and without the slightest notion that, through some strange force of magic, his granddaughter would be viewing this scene 70 years later.

So, is this all just a cool little coincidence, or is it more than this?  Some spiritual types would say that the fact that this model practically lands on my doorstep is a message from my Granddad – blood ties running deep and all that – but I’m not so convinced with that theory.  In actual fact due to my Mum being adopted as a baby, I have no blood ties with my late Granddad so that can’t be the answer.  But perhaps because I loved him very much, and because I have missed him greatly since having my own children, maybe he has indeed somehow sent me a ‘sign’.

Who knows.  But what I do know is that life really can be magical when you allow it to be so.  This one is for you Stan the Man xxx