John McKenna (sculptor)

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John McKenna
HM Queen Elizabeth and John McKenna sculptor.jpg
McKenna with Queen Elizabeth II and his Jersey Cattle sculpture
ResidenceTurnberry, South AyrshireScotland
EducationRoyal Grammar School Worcester
Alma materMiddlesex Polytechnic Art College

John McKenna (born 1964) is a Scottish sculptor[1] born in Manchester.[1] He is based in Turnberry, South Ayrshire, Scotland.[2]

Education and early years (1993–2002)[edit]

McKenna moved to Worcestershire where he attended the Royal Grammar School at Worcester. [3] He studied at Middlesex Polytechnic Art College in North London. In 1987 he gained a bursary to study at the Sir Henry Doulton School of Sculpture.[3] From 1990 to 1993 he lectured at Stafford College of further education in figurative classical sculpture and at Worcester College of Technology where he taught three dimensional design. He was elected a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors in 1993 and from this point on resigned his lecturing duties to become a full-time profession public art sculptor.[3] In 1996 McKenna sited his sculpture studio at Crown East lane, Worcester. Here he made many of his public art commissions including the 'family of instruments', commissioned by the Crown Estate for Bell Square, Worcester City and the Jersey Cattle group bronze sculpture celebrating the cattle breed 'The Year of the Jersey 2001'.[4] This particular commission saw McKenna's work on the breed of cattle being introduced to Her Majesty Queen Eizabeth II at the opening of the Royal Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural building, Trinity, Jersey.[5]

Relocation to Scotland (2002)[edit]

By the year 2002 McKenna was commissioned to produce the main artwork on the Cunard Line transatlantic liner, Queen Mary 2 and his existing studio facilities in Worcestershire were rapidly becoming to small for the greater scale of artworks that he was starting to be commissioned for. Driven by the shortage of economically viable studio space and with the Queen Mary 2 commission contract signed he relocated the studio to a small holding farm on the South West coast of Scotland.[6] From the new larger studios in Scotland, McKenna was able to create much larger artworks in fabricated metals. The Queen Mary 2 CUNARD commission being 20 ft by 23 ft bas-relief in sheet bronze and stainless steel,[6] a portrait of the ship itself. McKenna later went on to create the staircase feature in the sister ship Queen Victoria, again a relief portrait of the ship itself.[7] Both relief sculptures were carrying on the panel theme from the original Queen Mary ship built in Belfast and launched in 1934. Back on land McKenna was commissioned to create a bronze statue of swineherd Eof, in Evesham, Worcestershire.[8] McKenna's design for Eof was selected in the year 1999 by public competition but it took the town several years to raise the funds to pay for the statue.

Larger Public Art projects (2006–present)[edit]

In 2006 the larger studios at the farm to which McKenna relocated enabled him to extend into fabricating larger stainless steel sculptural structures. The new facilities saw the creation of a colossal mining figure, named 'Jigger' commissioned by the Walsall MBC for a site in Brownhills, Staffordshire. This 5 metric ton type 304 stainless steel sculpture of a miner stands approximately 13 metres (43 ft) in height, brandishing a pickaxe and lamp, a monumental tribute to the local coal mining industry of this industrial area.[9]

Jigger brownhills miner colossus statue by John McKenna

It became the biggest representational sculpture figure of a miner in the UK and a significant public artwork for that area of the Black Country. It was named 'Jigger' after Jack 'Jigger' Taylor, a local coal miner, who died in an industrial accident when the roof of the pit at Walsall Wood where he was working collapsed, in 1951.[10]

In 2007 McKenna set up the A4A art for architecture studio sculpture foundry where he started casting his own bronze sculpture and statues. McKenna also created a bronze statue The Miner of Auchengeich as a memorial in Moodiesburn, Glasgow.[11]

Hovering kestrel by John McKenna sculptor (1)

Hovering Kestrel -This stainless steel bird sculpture of a hovering Kestrel measures 6 metres across its wingspan by 4 metres high sited on a building facade 14 metres high. The Kestrel was commissioned by the client for the Citadel Logistics Building on the Black Country Spine route, near Bilston in the West Midlands. The Kestrel concept for the artwork came about through design research work undertaken by A4A associate Steve Field drawin on Natural History information on the former site.

Sporting Sculpture statues[edit]

McKenna's commissions include statues of footballers: Jock Stein at Celtic Park, Glasgow[12] and of Jimmy Johnstone in the Jimmy Johnstone Memorial Garden, Old Edinburgh Road, Viewpark, Lanarkshire.[13][14]

Dorothy Round Little portrait statue in bronze

On 20 September 2013 the town of Dudley commemorated the Wimbledon Tennis Champion Dorothy Round by erecting McKenna's lifesize bronze statue to her in Priory Park, Dudley. The statue was cast at the A4A studio foundry and depicts Round making a return play of the ball, based on an old photo, as conceived by Steve Field.[citation needed] It was unveiled by the subject's daughter.[citation needed]

McKenna's statue of Billy McNeill outside Celtic Park

During 2015 the football club Celtic F.C. commissioned McKenna to create a lifesize statue of the Lisbon Lions captain Billy McNeill. The statue depicts the moment McNeill lifted the European Cup after Celtic won the 1967 final. The statue was unveiled outside the Parkhead stadium on 19 December 2015.

Bon Scott[edit]

In 2016, McKenna's sculpture of former AC/DC frontman, Bon Scott was unveiled in his hometown of Kirriemuir. The statue has been funded via a crowdfunding which had raised over £45,000 to see the work completed.[15]


  1. ^ a b "John McKenna MRBS". Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  2. ^ "Ayrshire Arts Network ~ Artist Directory". Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "John McKenna". Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  4. ^ "La Vaque dé Jèrri". Societe Jersiaise. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  5. ^ "HM The Queen opens RJA & HS Headquarters". Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  6. ^ a b "No ordinary drama queen". 8 July 2004. Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Cunard's Queen Victoria Shines a Spotlight on Museum-Quality Art Collection" (PDF). Retrieved 27 June 2012.
  8. ^ "The statue of Eof". Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  9. ^ "Artist's Directory : John McKenna". Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  10. ^ ""Jigger" the Brownhills Miner". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 17 January 2018. [Taylor] was working in the pit at Walsall Wood when the roof suddenly collapsed
  11. ^ "Replica unveiled for stolen Auchengeich mining statue". BBC News. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  12. ^ "Statue unveiled for Celtic great Jock Stein". Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  13. ^ "Jimmy Johnstone memorial garden and statue officially opened". Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  14. ^ "'Jimmy 'Jinky' Johnstone portrait statue'". Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  15. ^ "AC/DC singer's statue to be unveiled at BonFest". BBC News. Retrieved 29 April 2016.

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