Sidmouth Lifeboat's Old Al is still painting at 98

PUBLISHED: 11:43 17 August 2009 | UPDATED: 09:58 18 June 2010

WHEN the Middle Bar Singers held an auction during FolkWeek to raise money for Sidmouth Lifeboat, one of the items bought for £50 was a watercolour painting of Jacobs Ladder.

WHEN the Middle Bar Singers held an auction during FolkWeek to raise money for Sidmouth Lifeboat, one of the items bought for £50 was a watercolour painting of Jacobs Ladder.

It was painted by Alan Charlton, who, at 98 is the lifeboat's oldest volunteer to greet visitors at it's seafront station.

"I'm known as Old Al," said Alan, "no relation to Bobby", who took up painting in the 1970s.

"Some people want to know about the mechanical parts and some ask how many times the lifeboat has gone out. It is a different story every time."

Alan paints, sitting by the window in an upstairs bedroom at his home off Vicarage Road.

He said: "I wanted to do something when I retired and went to evening class. I did oil painting, but when I retired I never had time to do painting and didn't do anything until my wife Liz died 11 years ago.

"I couldn't do oils because you need a proper studio."

A railway buff, he uses watercolours or acrylics to paint detailed, accurate pictures of steam trains "with all the pipes in the right places" or landscapes from either postcards or photographs he has taken.

Yorkshireman Alan, a former chartered electrical engineer, moved to Devon in 1981, first to Honiton "then Sidmouth, mainly because of the bowling club as we both played."

He travelled by train from Penzance to Thurso, Scotland, and some landscapes are of views from this and other trips.

To save on costs, Alan makes his own frames and ensures his paintings fit on his mobility scooter when he goes down to meetings of Sidmouth Arts Society of which he is a member.

On Friday the bidder for Alan's picture thrust an envelope containing another £50 into Alan's hand at the lifeboat station.

"He told me that when he got home and looked at the picture he decided he hadn't given enough for it. When I told him I'd painted it he was most pleased," said Alan, produces 10 paintings a year.


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