Who’s that Man At The Bar?
If you have visited Sam’s in the past 9 years, you will have seen a bloke at the bar. A very large, still kind of a bloke. He wears a hat, has a prominent nose and a weary expression. It’s probably all the drinkers bumping into him. One finger rests on his chin as he seems to ponder the selection of whisky and brandy on the back bar.
The truth is L.S. Lowry wasn’t much of a drinker, despite having the nose of one.
Lowry is one of Manchester’s most iconic figures. His matchstick men and women are instantly recognisable and are as much a part of the fabric of this city as the music which references them or the factories which they walk to.
But it’s not just local pride that brings Lowry to our bar. Our former proprietor A.H. Knowles, who relocated Sam’s from Market Street to its current home, was an art school friend.
Many of the waitresses from that era can still remember him now and how he used to have one glass of sherry or a half of Wilson's Bitter while he doodled on napkins. He often gave these drawings away as tips.
Not that any of those ladies knew how much they would be worth. Back then Lowry was to them a retired rent collector who had worked in an office up the road. He would pop into Sam’s for lunch, one glass of sherry and a chat with his old friend.
It wasn’t until he was in his later life that Lowry the artist became someone of real note. Just in time for photographer Sefton Samuels to capture his iconic shots of him. You can see these around the bar today. And you’ll notice that he is only smiling in one.
After seeing a sketch of Lowry asleep after Christmas Lunch at Sam’s Chop House local artist Harold Riley, our current owner, Roger, did some digging and unearthed the quiet man’s affinity with our Chop House.
Inspired by the statue of Ernest Hemingway at El Floridita in Cuba, Roger approached Preston-based sculptor Peter Hodgkinson, who has since completed a commission of Her Majesty The Queen. And the process of crafting the quiet man began.
Pete began with almost forensic intent. Inspired by what we might imagine as CSI:Chorley, the head took shape from the skull outwards, to ensure accuracy in its proportions. Taking cues from old photos, self-portraits and other bronze statues, he spent almost five months ageing and crafting the likeness to present a smiling, slim middle-aged figure.
Then photographer Sefton Samuels caught wind of the project. And when they saw his photos, Rog and Pete realised that something was wrong. It was the smile.
Within days our Lowry was entirely different. He was 25 years older, 25 kilos heavier and 25 times more the man depicted in the photos.
The clay mould was then cast in bronze, and Lowry was delivered to Sam’s.
But how to get him inside?
One entire window was removed, one crane employed, and several incredibly burly blokes grunted and heaved.
And now, here he sits. Pondering the back bar with his stern expression, getting barged into by irritated customers, having selfies taken and being flirted with by drunk ladies. Forever a part of Sam’s, in the heart of Manchester.
I still wonder why he preferred not to be remembered smiling
- Sefton Samuels,