Huge mural hidden in The Sacred Heart church in Edinburgh

Mural by Derek Clarke The mural is now covered in wallpaper at The Sacred Heart Lauriston in Edinburgh

At the age of 100, Derek Clarke is officially the oldest member of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture.

And staging an exhibition in his honour, was no difficulty given the decades of work to choose from.

But there is one work, created by Mr Clarke in the 1950s, which cannot be included.

A huge mural, designed and constructed by Mr Clarke in 1957 when he was a lecturer at Edinburgh College of Art, and now hidden beneath wallpaper in a church in Edinburgh City Centre.

The parish priest of The Sacred Heart Lauriston, Father James Christie, commissioned Mr Clarke to create the mural in the altar arch of the church.

Derek Clarke

Born on 31st December 1912 at Longthorpe, Peterborough, Derek Clarke studied at the Slade School of Art.

He lived in Western Ireland both before and after World War II where, inspired by the landscape and people of Connemara, he produced a significant amount of work.

Derek Clarke taught at Edinburgh College of Art between 1947 and 1978, supplementing his income by painting portraits.

He can count Elizabeth Blackadder and John Bellany among his students.

In 1989 he was made an Associate of the RSA and in 2005 attained full Academician status.

His Diploma Collection work is a striking portrait of his wife, the artist Pat Semple, and will be on display alongside works from both private collection and the artist's studio.

Working in the figurative tradition, frequent subjects include landscape and portraiture.

He wanted to mark the 100th anniversary of the church - as well as bringing colour and life to the upper part of the building.

Inspired by Italian murals he had seen on a recent art trip, Mr Clarke began work.

"It was surrounded by huge stations of the cross," he said, "so it had to be big and bold. Jesus is coming out of a tomb. He's rising up and his halo is in gold leaf.

"I had to climb into the organ loft to do that. I used my own family as models for the crowd who surround him. That is my wife and that is my son, the baby."

Other figures belong to parishioners, Saint Ignatius, and Cardinal Gray, all dressed in 50s fashion.

But even then, the mural divided opinion.

Alastair Cherry started to attend the church in the early 1960s.

"It struck me then as very cluttered, with the stations of the cross and the mural. I didn't feel very comfortable there," he said.

Derek Clarke hopes the mural may be brought into view in the future

"I remember seeing it for the first time and recognising so many people we knew," said Barbara Conboy, also a member of the church since the 1960s.

"But at that point in the 60s, there were a lot of changes. Altars were being turned around, priests were to face out, surroundings were simpler and possibly there was a decision that there was too much ornamentation in the church."

So the mural was covered over, with lining paper and paste, and then plaster.

The current parish priest, Father Peter Scally, said he is not sure if the hidden mural will ever be revealed.

"I've never been asked," he said.

"It's not a hot debate in the parish but the way it's been covered means it's not been ruled out."

Derek Clarke hopes it will one day be restored.

"It's only paper and paste," he said.

"It could be removed. I hope 10 years after I die, it will be removed and the mural restored."

Derek Clarke at 100 is at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh until 31 January.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Edinburgh, Fife and East

Weather

Edinburgh

Min. Night 14 °C

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.