Robert Montgomery, ‘Because the City Itself is Sacred’ Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, London, UK.
Robert Montgomery x Coal Drops Yard, Kings Cross, London, UK.
Public Art installation ‘Because the City Itself is Sacred’
“I have a personal biographical connection to Coal Drops Yard. I am an immigrant to London- for many generations my family were proudly working-class Scottish coal miners. They mined the coal which came here on the trains and once fuelled the city. So, there is a kind of personal romance to Coal Drops Yard for me, and what I love about Argent’s restoration of the place is that they have kept the historical buildings largely intact and preserved the Victorian industrial architecture almost completely.
“The personal story of the poem is that I wrote it on Christmas night. My uncle Drew McCracken died on Christmas Day, he was the last coal miner in my family. He worked in the mines well into the 1990s. My mother’s eldest brother Robert McCracken died as a young man in a coal mining accident on the 27th August 1969 at the Bethel Mine in Chapelhall, in the village where I was born. Coal mining was hard, dark, bleak and incredibly dangerous work. When I think of the very hard-working lives my grandfathers and uncles had I am humbled that they were such kind and gentle and loving men.
“Anyway, I wrote the text thinking about them, so they are possibly, for me, the ‘old lovers’ in the poem. I hope for others it has a more universal meaning.”
The light poem, Montgomery says, is about the magic of London and its ‘many layers of history’, which he believes to be both an ancient sacred burial ground and a trading post simultaneously. The sculpture was written on Christmas night, in memory of his uncle – the last coal miner in his family – who died on Christmas Day last year. It was installed on Burns Night in a nod to generations of Scottish immigrants who lived in and around King’s Cross.