OBITUARY Robert Tilling MBE, R.I.

The recent death of artist Robert Tilling MBE, RI is a massive loss to West Country life and more widely. Born in Bristol in 1944, educated there and in Exeter, he was an inspired teacher in Jersey where he settled. A great friend of poet Charles Causley, he was a frequent visitor to Cornwall. After Charles’ death in 2003, Bob was an irreplaceable member of the Charles Causley Trust, tirelessly working to preserve the poet’s house in Launceston for posterity and as part of Cornwall’s heritage. It was characteristic of Bob. His energy for the arts and their importance was boundless. He was a fine painter, elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours in 1985 and exhibiting widely including at the RA and RWS. His characteristic style was an abstraction from landscape forms. The Jersey coastline in all its lights and colours was a constant inspiration. In comparison with his prolific response to the land and the sea, he did much less figurative work, but when he did, it was invariably impressive. His tremendous response to Causley poems such as ‘Myth’ and ‘At St Hilary’ in Twenty-One Poems (1986) and to Causley’s translations from the German in Schondilie (1982) are fine examples. But Bob’s artistic abilities were not only with paint. His photography, though informal and as yet not exhibited, was a delight to his friends. He played good blues guitar, wrote many jazz reviews, lectured, performed, and taught blues technique in the United States. He brought blues singers over to perform in Jersey and wrote a book about blind bluesman Rev Gary Davis, first published in 1992 and reissued, updated, in 2010. Rev Gary Davis died in 1972 but it was his recorded voice which greeted the 500 mourners at Bob’s funeral in January at the St Helier Methodist Centre, Jersey. It was a funeral certainly but a heartfelt celebration of this larger-than-life man. Tributes came from Sir Philip Bailhache, from the painter Peter Swan, his first art teacher in Bristol, and jazz companion Bob Little. Poems, including Causley’s ‘Sorel Point’, written for Bob and his family, were read by family and friends. More music, this time Beethoven, played by Edward Bailhache and Gerard Le Feuvre, the most rousing account by the congregation of ‘Jerusalem’, then prayers and blessing. Shining through all was a sense of love and gratitude for a generous-spirited man, a constant encourager of others, as teacher, friend and arts administrator, a vibrant artist, a lover of life . His 2006 MBE was national recognition of this. All who knew him carry that recognition closely and personally. Bob, a devoted husband and father, is survived by his wife Thelma and daughters Isobel and Delia.

Ronald Tamplin