Royal Agricultural College, the first agricultural college to be formed in England, Originally 410 acres in size, by the 20th century it had grown to 700 acres. At home, on the farm, Rory was surrounded by history and he and his sister Katrina would have been familiar with buildings which had once housed the carpenter's shop, smithy, slaughterhouse, stables for the working horses, pigsties, massive three-storey feeding house and steam engine house, all built in mellow Cotswold stone.
At the age thirteen he was packed off south to Somerset, where he was a boarder at the independent boys' school, Taunton College, When he was in the sixth form he became the 'Art Editor' and displayed his pen and ink work on the pages of the school's termly magazine, the 'Aluredian', with domestic scenes like the school's old and new kitchens.
From the start, his preferred rock was limestone, because he knew that the masons of the past who worked sandstone of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, were taken by silicosis at an average age of 35. As he said : "Sandstone masons died like flies; but you couldn’t kill a limestone mason. Masons in the Cotswolds would live far longer : limestone dust is pretty well harmless". The thing that he did share with those masons was anonymity and it didn't bother him. He said : "Both on the Great West Door of York Minster and on the St Albans seven martyrs, there have been various television features where my name doesn’t appear. And I’m delighted about that. I really am". What he appreciated was not praise or accolade, so much as the commission itself. He believed that carvings are designed to honour a building, or place, by enhancing its existing qualities, and adding to its cultural significance.
He worked on the basis that sculptures aren’t ‘found’ in stone, but are painstakingly worked and teased out using highly technical skills with coordinates, measurements and skilled drawings prefiguring any picking up of chisels. Rory said : "This romantic idea that comes from Michelangelo, that you’re revealing the figure out of a block of stone, in fact, right back to the Ancient Greeks, sculptors made models and copied from them. Eric Gill, a great hero of mine in terms of lettering and a brilliant designer, even he, on big pieces, would be working from a model. So everything would be scaled up mechanically".
In 2019 he went on a week long painting trip organised by a fellow painter from his Camberwell College days. As a result, his Ayrshire lime kiln was his first painting for many years and he said : "That's my insurance for old age, getting back to painting and writing my memoirs of my tour of the North of England, which I did when I left art school and that was the moment that I switched from living the life of a fine artist to being conservator and builder of ancient buildings".
When Rory learned that he had cancer at the age of sixty-eight, he decided to spend some of the time he had left trying to raise money for the cancer unit at Cheltenham General Hospital, which treated him. As a result, during the lockdown winter of 2020-21, as part of a £480,000 restoration project at the church, Rory and a colleague spent four weeks crafting a 22-inch by 17.5-inch masked-medic grotesque out of Lépine limestone from France, simply titled 'A National Health Service Worker'.
He first created the full-scale polystyrene model of the head, which he planned to sell by auction and was painted to look identical to the stone carving and it was money raised from this which he planned to donate to the hospital. He had been inspired by a photograph of architect Columba Cook’s niece, a doctor working in an intensive care unit and he said : "I enjoyed doing the medieval drapery for her head gear, her PPS and her mask with nice facets. We decided goggles were quite impossible. We needed to see human eyes looking down in gargoyle tradition". He said that it : "Put me in the limelight with my sculpture which I'd never had before, apart from St. Albans, my work is deeply out of fashion, but suddenly there were crowds of young people with their phones looking up at this figure in situ".
He said his 'There Must be a Bygynnyng' : "Was a deeply carved quote from a letter from Sir Francis Drake to Sir Francis Walsingham in 1587 about the importance of completing the job". Rory remembered he had heard this powerful message read solemnly at school services at Taunton College, at least once a term. It was adapted as a prayer in the early 20th Century but the original text referred to quashing the Spanish Armada.
Artist PJ Crook said : "As a fellow artist, I was always hugely moved by Rory’s great dedication to his work. They were imbued with his spirit of sublime beauty and grace many churches, cathedrals and secular buildings, a legacy left to lift and inspire us over the generations".
On the gravestone that Rory designed for himself, he used a quote from Pericles, which in his case isn't true, since he left behind both :
‘What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others’