It is almost a cliché... do you remember where you were when? Well, I remember clearly where I was when I learned of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and heard the terrible news about Princess Diana. Two great, if different, people who
contributed enough to the world to deserve coins to be struck for them.
Turn that around and ask what memories stand out most clearly in your mind? Which, among all those special days, were the most special? That brings me right back to coins and to someone whose contribution to that medium will live as long as civilisation: Arnold Machin. Meeting Mr Machin shines like a beacon as one of those most special memories in life’s sea of eventful experiences.
Hard to believe that it is fifteen years ago when, on a stormy, late-winter’s morning, my wife and I drove north to Staffordshire on our way to interview Arnold Machin, wondering how the great man would be. Upon our arrival in the small village, set in the very heart of the countryside, we dropped into the local store for directions. ‘What’s he like?’ I asked. ‘Very pleasant’, came the simple answer to my naïve question. ‘How would you describe him?’ I persisted. ‘In a word, a perfectionist!’ I thought at the time it was probably the answer he thought I expected. Later I realised I was wrong – he was right!
Describing Arnold Machin is just not that easy. It cannot be done in only one word. Indisputably a perfectionist but with a zest for life, and all it offers, which many younger men would envy. A man who, at that stage of his life, was at peace with the world and with himself. His appreciation of line and beauty showed in everything he did, from his exquisitely sculpted figurines, to his special love – landscape gardening.
It was Mrs Machin who greeted us at the door of their redbrick Georgian manor house. An immediately friendly woman, she led us down a long corridor to the large, high-ceilinged living room where Mr Machin was awaiting our arrival. The coral walls played backdrop to so many wonderful pieces of art. A number of well chosen paintings included a magnificent Cooper and a beautiful oil depicting flowers, which we learned later was the work of Mrs Machin – the artist Patricia Newman.
A selection of Arnold Machin’s own work in terracotta and Wedgwood was displayed at various vantage points. The room was well warmed by a roaring log fire which the sculptor prodded fondly from time to time to ensure its good behaviour. After a tour of the room’s major attractions, as we sat down amidst enquiries about the difficulties of our journey, we began to sense the warmth of the man and not just the fire he so proudly stewarded.