Obituary - Bill Ord

14th October 2011 at 01:00
Artist, committed teacher and founder member of the ABBO group dies, aged 82

Bill Ord, who has died aged 82, was one of an influential group of four Aberdeen artists whose cultural impact stretched far beyond their own Granite City.

Together, the quartet known as ABBO - the initials of their surnames, Auld, Buyers, Baxter and Ord - helped to raise the profile of art in Aberdeen and showcased its homegrown talent all over Britain and in Belgium.

All born within a couple of years of each other, they met at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen and were at the forefront of Scottish painting in the second half of the 20th century.

Ord, who painted or sketched virtually every day of his life, was first introduced to the world of serious working artists at the age of 12 after his talent was spotted by a member of the local education committee.

He was the son of a school janitor and scene-shifter at the Tivoli theatre. His mother worked in service at a large house in Old Aberdeen. As a young boy, he contracted polio and long spells in hospital led him to become an avid reader.

His artistic talents having been recognised, he attended Aberdeen Grammar; both he and fellow future artist Donald Buyers were taught by artist Charles Hemingway.

He went to Gray's School of Art in 1947, where tutors included Alberto Morrocco, and went on to become an art teacher, taking up his first teaching post at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.

He made many lifelong friends in Lewis but eventually returned to the north-east for good in the late 1950s. He taught in one or two Aberdeenshire schools before moving back to the city's Powis Academy and then Aberdeen Grammar.

He was lured away briefly from teaching to work as a graphic designer but returned to teaching at Mearns Academy, Laurencekirk, and its feeder primaries, before retiring at the age of 57.

A committed teacher, he once said that "real teaching was simply the shared experience of knowledge between individuals - shared with a mutual respect of each other and a common love of the subject at hand".

It was as a student at Gray's that he met fellow artists Eric Auld, Donald Buyers and Bill Baxter. In 1957 they formed ABBO and showed their work at various exhibitions in Aberdeen before discovering the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow's Sauchiehall Street where they were received with tremendous enthusiasm. They also exhibited around Britain with Ord, the wordsmith of the group, writing all the introductions to their catalogues.

Ord's work reflected his perennial love of rocks, cliffs and sea, painted from a studio at his home in Muchalls on the coast between Aberdeen and Stonehaven.

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