Artist Bob Olley donates collection of 23 oil paintings to South Shields Museum

Bob Olley at the King Cole exhibition. Credit and Copyright �: Colin Davison' www.rosellastudios.com
Bob Olley at the King Cole exhibition. Credit and Copyright �: Colin Davison' www.rosellastudios.com

Artist Bob Olley has announced that he will be permanently donating the 23 large oil paintings of his currently on display in the King Coal: the life and legacy of South Tyneside’s coal mining communities exhibition to South Shields Museum & Art Gallery’s collection for future generations.

It’s the last chance people have to see the exhibition this week at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery as it ends on Saturday, September 29.

High Speed Drifters by Bob Olley

High Speed Drifters by Bob Olley

The paintings, inspired by Bob Olley’s career as a miner at Whitburn Colliery which closed 50 years ago with Bob being one of the men on the last shift, depict life underground and the wider day-to-day coal community in a variety of humorous, powerful and sometimes irreverent tableaux.

On donating the large collection of work Bob said: “‘Why is the little horse in a dark hole under the ground?’ my young granddaughter asked, as she studied a painting of a pit pony and its driver pulling a tub of coal I had just completed.

“The question made me realise how quickly the era of the once mighty coal industry is passing into history.

“It is for this reason that my family and I have decided to donate the 23 paintings that form part of the popular King Coal exhibition to the South Shields Museum & Art Gallery in order to keep the collection together.

“Hopefully this body of mining art will help future generations to understand and appreciate the impact that coal and the winning of it had on the psyche of the people here in the North East, and make questions like the one my granddaughter asked a little easier to explain.”

The exhibition has proven very popular with visitors with a huge amount of engagement both online and in person.

Geoff Woodward, manager of South Shields Museum & Art Gallery said: “We would like to extend a huge thank you to Bob Olley and his family for this very generous donation. Bob’s contribution throughout this exhibition has been immense and this is really the icing on the cake. Gifting these paintings to become part of the museum’s collection means that the significant and powerful pictorial record that they present together can be kept intact. It safeguards this wonderful historical resource for future generations to engage with and enjoy. We are extremely grateful to Bob.”

King Coal: the life and legacy of South Tyneside’s coal mining communities celebrates the mining heritage of the Borough exploring the industry’s impact on the lives of the people in coal communities, from pit accidents and family life to the physical legacy of the coal industry in the South Tyneside area today

Heart wrenching details of fatal tragedies over the years and the development of the South Shields Committee to tackle safety are also explored, as well as the rich language and humour of the communities that evolved around the industry.

Visitors can listen to audio recordings of personal recollections and watch video footage in a recreation of the ‘Liddle House on the Prairie’ – a glorified garden shed that was used by striking miners in 1984/85 on the picket line outside Westoe Colliery.

•South Shields Museum & Art Gallery has free entry although a donation is welcome. It is open Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm and Saturday 11am – 4pm.