Ron Harris, 'Mural is a Major Draw' (The Carluke Gazette, 12/02/2009)

A rediscovered art masterpiece could help deliver a much needed tourism boost for Clydesdale.

The artwork in Kirkfieldbank actually has several advantages over the much publicised Titian old master, recently ‘saved’ for the national Gallery of Scotland!

Firstly, it is isn’t going to cost the taxpayer a penny; secondly it’s a Scottish work of art and not Italian and thirdly, it isn’t going to London for eight months of the year ,,,

For it is very firmly fixed to its location – a mural painted onto the wall of the reborn Riverside Lounge, formerly The Tavern public house and restaurant in the Clyde Valley village.

The story starts about 40 years ago when the then owners of The Tavern, the Campbells, decided to build a restaurant extension and have it decorated with a vast, wall painting of the Falls of Clyde and its surrounding landscape.

Through a friend of a friend of a friend, they got to hear of a Glasgow-based artist who’d done some pretty impressive murals in his home city and he was duly commissioned.

That artist was none other than Alasdair Gray, probably better known to local folk as an author rather than a painter, his novel ‘Lanark’ now being rated one of the top 100 books written in Scotland in the 20th century.

Long before his days as either an acclaimed author or artists, Alasdair went about his mural on the basis that, if then-publican Jim Campbell liked the finished work, then hard cash would exchange hands.

In the meantime, Alasdair settled for free coffee, tea and the odd nip of whiskey out of the pub gantry, actually sleeping on the premises in a sleeping bag overnight for the five to six weeks the project took.

The impressive mural was duly completed and, for a long time became a local landmark in the Tavern’s lounge.

Alasdair went on to find fame in his writing rather than his painting.

Sadly, the Tavern went through a steady decline and the mural disappeared from public gaze under coasts of wallpaper and paint.

Then the lounge closed and this was followed by the whole premises finally shutting last year. This is where the Boyle family of Shotts came on the scene.

Well-known in the Lanarkshire licensed trade, Andy Boyle, whose latest venture was the ML3 Bar (formerly the Montrose) in Hamilton, recently moved to Kirkfieldbank, as did his dad Harry.

They spotted the potential of the old Tavern being re-launched as The Riverside Lounge, using the now almost totally forgotten mural as its major draw.

They mounted a major rescue of not only the mural but the whole premises and it fully re-opens to the public this week.

Alasdair’s ‘forgotten’ masterpiece of 40 years ago is now restored to its full glory with the help of professional restorer Brian McLaughlin.

Said Harry Boyle this week: “We’re hoping that the mural will be something that will attract people from all over the country.

“It is a major Scottish artwork and one of only two murals he ever painted outside Glasgow.

“Alasdair’s already been back up to see it and said it was his personal favorite of all the murals he’s done.

“He’s up against it with a book deadline at the moment but he will be coming to Kirkfieldbank soon for an official unveiling of the restored mural.”

Harry went on to say that, even in the middle of a recession, his son was confident of the Riverside Lounge being a success. It will be marketed as a Scottish experience with traditional cuisine and old-fashioned Clyde Valley hospitality – plus a chance to get up close to a hidden Scottish art treasure.