HE WAS THE MAN I called 'Grandpa Marriott'. Mom's dad.
Hon. Alvin Tolman Marriott O.J C.D. (December 29th, 1902 – September 20th, 1992) was a Jamaican sculptor. He worked in Europe, America, and Jamaica. Many of his monuments, carvings, and statues are still on display in national parks, museums, and administrative buildings in Jamaica and the UK.
"Even from the age of nine, neighbors were calling me a 'sculptor'", he recalls. "I had an insatiable appetite for carving". In one newspaper article, he is quoted as saying, "Once I ran away from home and spent three weeks carving a lion out of a tree trunk, living off the land - just eating worms and bananas". 😬
Grandpa Marriott was born in St. Andrew Jamaica. His dad, Robert Marriott was a hatter, creating beautiful straw hats for the tourists visiting Jamaica. His mom Emily, was a playwright and musician. Clearly love for the arts goes way back in this family. 🎨 🎭 😁
Grandpa Marriott's artistic talents were indeed evident very early on, he must have been a very young boy when his drawings were showing great potential, as he transitioned to sculpting with local limestone at such an early age.
After my great grandfather died in 1923, the family moved to Kingston. As the oldest of four siblings, Alvin had to part with his creations to help support the family. Much of this work at this point, was no doubt sold for next to nothing just to make ends meet. The term 'starving artist' certainly comes to mind. Beautiful works, busts of famous people such as King George V and Gov. Richards were practically given away.
He married 'Grandma Marriott' Beatrice Black, his highschool sweetheart in 1928. They went on to have eight children. Marjorie, my mom was their second child.
From the early '30s, he worked as a furniture maker and carver and received many accolades and won a number of prizes for his creations. Working for well-known furniture houses in the U.K his mastery of carving was employed to put the finishing touches on custom furniture and other ornaments. He carved a mahogany tray as a wedding gift for Queen Elizabeth.
"Alvin Marriott could carve as fluently as an experienced calligrapher could write," says Burnett Webster, an English furniture manufacturer.
He also worked on architectural art projects for buildings in Europe and elsewhere.
He traveled to the US in 1944, where his artistic skills were celebrated locally, and there did a bust of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He received a scholarship from the British Council in 1947 to enroll at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London, where he received his first-ever formal artistic training. They were so impressed with him and his art, that he was retained as a lecturer for the following academic year.
Some notable projects thereafter include... carvings for the restoration of the House of Parliament in the UK. Back in Jamaica in he spent 3 years carving a series of Coat of Arms, that decorate the ceiling of the University chapel as well as the 'masterfully crafted' mahogany pelicans for the lectern.
In order to supplement his income as a sculptor, he taught at the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts from 1955-1961. He left this position when he accepted a commission to create the Olympic statue... "The Athlete".
In 1962 Jamaica declared independence and it was a time of unprecedented hope and pride in the island nation. Jamaica's new leaders were keen to commission and install numerous monuments, as symbols to the people in celebration of both the greatness of the British empire as well as Jamaica's colonial status.
The opportunity presented itself... Grandpa Marriott was ready for his most significant monumental sculpture commission to date... This masterpiece was completed in 1962 and unveiled by Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret.
It weighs over 7000 lbs. and was inspired by Arthur Wint, winner of Jamaica's first Gold Medal in 1948. The masterful craftsmanship and engineering marvel of the sculpture now adorns the National Stadium in Kingston and is a permanent feature of the Jamaican landscape.
Photo Credit Norman Marriott
Here are some other Jamaican National Heros that grandpa Marriott was commissioned to sculpt.
Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante,
Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey,
Premier Norman Manley
Governor-General Sir Clifford Campbell and leading supporter of Jamaican sports Sir Hurbert MacDonald.
Over the years, grandpa Marriott received numerous awards. He was awarded both Bronze and Gold Musgrave Medals by the Institute of Jamaica, He also received The Order of Distinction, Commander Class CD, as well as The Order of Jamaica, OJ. Hence the title The Hon. Alvin T. Marriott OJ, CD.
He was also selected as Artist of the year in 1962 and 1969 by the Contemporary Jamaican Artists Association. In 1967 the Jamaica Badge of Honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honors list for long and meritorious service to the nation in the field of arts. 🏆🏆🏆
Now old, grandpa Marriott is frail and suffering from Parkinson's disease, at times his hands shake uncontrollably. As a sculptor, I can just imagine how challenging and heartbreaking this must've been for him.
Just when he thought his days as a sculptor were over, his most significant commission was requested. To create a Life-Sized Bronze Sculpture of the recently deceased Jamaican Superstar Bob Marley.
This was going to be a major challenge and a monumental undertaking for the 82-year-old sculptor. BUT... this is a sculptor's dream come true! The monument to Marley would bring with it a new level of national artistic scrutiny and international attention. To the Jamaicans, Bob Marley was and still is beloved.
'Shouts of approval echoed at Celebrity Park in the National Stadium Sunday night as the Prime Minister the Rt. Honorable. Edward Seaga, unveiled the new statue of reggae superstar the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley before a huge crowd".
The work was indeed an outstanding achievement and a testament to this artist's dedication and commitment to excellence.
I am privileged to call the Honourable, Alvin T. Marriott my grandfather, 😊 I am humbled to carry on the rich family legacy that he began so many years ago.
Grandpa Marriott died on September 20, 1992.
May his life and work inspire young and old, especially those of us who engage in or appreciate the fine art discipline to strive for excellence.
Image of my beautiful mother standing with the bust of Marcus Garvey, Monument by her dad Alvin T Marriott.