Ron Gittins: the man who built a Roman altar in his kitchen
Ronald Geoffrey Gittins (1939 – 2019), a true visionary artist
Ron Gittins was the youngest of three children born to Alice and James Gittins in downtown Birkenhead and is survived by his sisters Pat and Joan. Ron had shown creative promise as a child, and subsequently attended the Laird School of Art in Birkenhead for a short time. He was musically gifted and said to have been a “brilliant Buddy Holly impersonator” who also enjoyed drama and would often perform scenes from Shakespeare. He was involved in local acting groups and had a variety of jobs but did not take direction well in his personal or professional life. He was self-employed as an artist for a time through a business that he named “Minstrel Enterprises” (himself being ‘’The Minstrel”) and even achieved some local media attention for his artistry when he recreated a Roman villa in his bedroom in his parents’ rented home.
Memories of Ron by Pat and Henry Williams
20th Sept 2019 at Landican Cemetery
Ron once told Henry with some emotion: ‘I will not be ignored!’
In fact the years before and after proved just that.
When Henry first met Pat sixty plus years ago, when her parents lived in down town Birkenhead, Ron used the outside toilet to study Shakespeare and to improve his speech. He went on to develop a powerful, clear voice of which even Laurence Olivier and Richard Burton would have approved. Given that cold damp ‘toilet studio’, it now seems right that this favourite recital was Richard III, ‘Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious Summer by this son of York’.
His early work career included skilled cutting in the printing trade. He then spent several years in retail, all in Liverpool, before donning the inspector’s coat as Factory Control Officer of white goods at Bromborough, where his overzealous attention to detail was not always appreciated!
Ron became an accomplished artist, painting the walls and ceilings wherever he lived with scenes and portraits of ancient Rome. All the Emperors and Philosophers had their place in his rooms. Bob Greaves of Granada Reports even came to his parents’ home in New Ferry to film his bedroom. Bob was truly amazed.
It wasn’t just his skill with a paint brush which stood out however. He became very competent with a shovel and a trowel and his sculpting excelled. Again, he turned to ancient Rome, Egypt and Greece for his inspiration. His creation of a huge Lion’s Head at his last home as his chimney breast would have been a deterrent to any would be intruder.
Ron was a complex character and could be touchy about his Art. As a family we would often travel to the countryside, especially North Wales. Mr Gittins senior, Jim, once expressed his joy at nature’s beauty very movingly by saying: ‘Bloomin’ marvellous, a picture no artist could paint’. Ron was obviously irritated. He leaned forward to Henry, who was driving and said in a loud whisper: ‘Have you noticed Hen that those who haven’t a clue about Art and Painting think they know it all!’
Above all Ron was a colourful person in his dress and in his speech and in his sheer zest for life which made him unforgettable to many people. He wasn’t afraid to challenge the minister for example during a church service in his loud voice if he thought the Minister was ‘unbiblical’, as he put it. In fact Ron himself had some Theological Training.
In the short time since his unexpected death, we have met strangers who have expressed their affection and love for Ron because of his wonderful and sincere ability to show warmth and neighbourly interest in others.
Pat, always caring about Ron remembers his lovely boyhood voice singing our opening hymn, ‘OH FOR THE WINGS OF A DOVE’ in a church choir.
So, Ron you were not ignored. In fact it would be impossible to ignore you.
Pat Williams is Ron’s sister
Ron Gittins, 1939 – 2019