THE great-nephew of one of Scotland’s most lauded artists is campaigning to have the painter’s damaged gravestone rebuilt.

Ian Watson, a long-time member of North Berwick Community Council, is hoping for the reinstatement of his relative Arthur Melville’s “lost” grave in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey.

Arthur Melville is considered one of the most innovative Scottish painters of his generation.

He was born in 1855 in Loanhead-of-Guthrie in Angus and, when he was still a child, his family moved to East Linton, where he was apprenticed to a local grocer as a teenager and from where he walked to Haddington for evening classes in art.

He spent much of his life travelling around the world, including to France, Spain, Egypt, Morocco and the Middle East, and his travels inspired his watercolour paintings. When not travelling, Melville was based mainly in Edinburgh. He died of typhoid, aged 49, in 1904.

Arthur Melville

Arthur Melville

Melville’s niece was Ian’s mother, Jeanette Muriel Murray Melville, and Ian is lucky enough to own some smaller pieces by the respected artist.

Ian told the Courier: “Arthur was brought up in East Linton; when he was 15 he carved his name in lovely script on the wall of Hailes Castle. He vandalised the castle! That carving is still in the plasterwork of the great hall.”

Melville’s father was a coachman and is believed to have worked at Smeaton House (since demolished); the family are assumed to have lived in one of the cottages nearby.

When Melville died, he was buried in Brookwood Cemetery; but his grave was “lost” at some point in the last century.

Ian Watson is Arthur Melvilles great-nephew

Ian Watson is Arthur Melville's great-nephew

Ian said: “It’s a massive cemetery, something like 500 acres.

“A section of it was sold to the local council to be developed as heathland and there were some graves on this ground which were cleared.

“It’s now a protected area and the Brookwood Cemetery Society look after it – one of the guys there came across the edging for [Melville’s] grave, which had been covered over by heather; and there was a big headstone on it which was eventually discovered in another part of the cemetery, broken.

“So now there’s a push to restore the grave, which will be kept at the edge of the heathland, in magnificent isolation!”

Ian and his Melville relatives, who had in the past searched for the lost grave, were informed of its rediscovery by a member of the public, who sent a photo of a small laminated notice at the site to Alan Rae, owner of Fidra Fine Art gallery in Gullane, who in turn told Ian.

Members of the Brookwood Cemetery Society found and tidies up Melvilles grave

Members of the Brookwood Cemetery Society found and tidies up Melville's grave

Ian said: “Brookwood Cemetery Society were going to take on the restoration and we thought we should try to contribute. There are a lot of people who are admirers of Arthur Melville and it is quite a significant thing that we should be doing.”

Charlotte Topsfield, curator at National Galleries Scotland, said: “It’s an exciting rediscovery and it’s a really impressive piece of detective work by the cemetery association.

“Melville is a really important Scottish late 19th-century painter but he’s increasingly recognised as one of the most original radical British artists of his generation. I’ve never shown a Melville to anyone and them not be bowled over.”

Melville lived in Edinburgh until 1887, when he moved to London. After marrying in 1899, he and his wife moved to Surrey.

Charlotte added: “This is actually the period of his life which is perhaps the least known; that’s another reason why rediscovering the grave in Brookwood Cemetery is an important step, as it might be a stimulus to research more about the last five years of his life.”