Crime author solves mystery of Ripon mural
Last updated Mar 5, 2024
Author Malcolm Hollingdrake and the newspaper clipping of him creating the mosaic in 1974

Author Malcolm Hollingdrake has solved a Ripon school mystery.

Holy Trinity Infant School in Ripon has been trying to track down the creators of a mosaic wall mural dating back 50 years.

Staff at the school issued a plea for help when they found a newspaper clipping shared on social media that showed the mural, which was made by Ripon College students. The mosaic was hidden beneath a cloth for years and when teachers finally removed it this year, they discovered the mural was still there.

The mural was completed on April 5 1974, when Mr Hollingdrake and two female Ripon College students’ artwork was featured in the Ripon Gazette.

Half a century on, the author was shocked to learn he was part of an unsolved mystery.

He said:

“I actually once called the school and asked if it was still there but they weren’t sure what I meant.

“I always wondered if it would still be there and then recently I was looking on the Stray Ferret and saw a photo of myself. It is lovely to be reminded of it. It has a real community connection, it is living history and it brought back good memories.”

The mosaic wall in Holy Trinity Infant school which Malcom Hollingdrake helped create

Mr Hollingdrake lives in Wigan and specialises in crime writing. He even created a series of crime thrillers titled the Harrogate Crime Series featuring DCI Cyril Bennett after acquiring a fondness for the area.

Originally from Bradford, he studied art and history at Ripon College between 1971-1974. It was after visiting the area with his grandfather that he chose to stay and study in North Yorkshire, and the area has been a key influence in his writing.

Following his student days he became a teacher in Bingley before moving to Wigan and becoming deputy head of a school, where he created another wall mural reminiscent of the one in Ripon.

He revealed the Ripon mural is based the theme of ‘feeding the birds’ — at the time it was created the school children had been studying birds and life sciences by feeding chickens. He added that at the time the piece was a real challenge because the mural is so big.

The artwork was created using clay and powdered glass, which was fired and glazed. The mosaic was made inside Ripon College and Holy Trinity students were sent over in small groups to help with the creative process.  It was made in separate sections and then carried across to the school.

Mr Hollingdrake said it was extremely heavy and you’d have to break it to remove it.

He said:

“I’m glad it hasn’t been broken down and gone into landfill. I’m hopeful now that it will last another 50 years. It will be lovely to go up to the school and see it. I am happy to give longevity to a piece of work. I thank serendipity, we take it for granted but this chance has opened up an opportunity from being hidden away to suddenly seeing the light. I hope it will inspire children to create art because it can have a lifelong effect.”

Ms Bell-Walker, deputy head at Holy Trinity Infant school, said:

“We are incredibly excited that the Stray Ferret have helped us to find one of the artists of our mural. Malcolm has been very generous with his time in contacting us and has kindly offered to visit school in April, 50 years to the month after the mural was created. He is going to talk to us about the creation and hopefully give us some clues to help us find the other artists.”

Malcom Hollingdrake’s latest book, Edge of the Land, the third in the Merseyside crime series, is set to be published by Hobeck Books on April 16 and he is currently writing the 14th book in the Harrogate Crime Series.

Anyone with any further clues on the identities of the other artists can contact Ms Bell-Walker here.

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