The local community gathered at Irlam Station on Monday morning for the unveiling of a new artwork, known as the Man on the Bench.
The 200kg life-size statue of an old man resting on a Victorian bench is a bronze cast of a work originally created 40 years ago, by a then pupil of the local high school, Simon Law.
Mr Law, who is now a design manager in construction, remembers presenting his project to his arts teacher at the Alfred Turner Secondary School back in 1978. He said his 15-year old self would be “flabbergasted” to know his work would still be celebrated today.
“maybe if the school makes five years out of it that’ll be really good. But here we are, forty years on”
He added: “You would never dream that it would last this long.
“When I made it, I thought, maybe if the school makes five years out of it that’ll be really good. But here we are, forty years on.”
The bronze cast was made by Stephen Charnock and his team, who operate a foundry for artists in Ormskirk.
Making the bronze took the equivalent of two months’ work.
It is worth £14,000 and the money was raised by the Hamilton Davies Trust, a charity which supports the communities of Irlam, Cadishead and Rixton-with-Glazebrook, with donations from members of the community and local companies and organisations, including schools, churches and businesses.
The 1978 original was made of various materials including clay and plaster.
It stayed displayed at the school for many years and was much loved by generations of students.
A few years ago, the school ran out of space so it asked the Hamilton Davies Trust to take over the bench.
The trust restored the artwork, which had been damaged over the years, and displayed it outside the station in Irlam. It became a celebrity over the months and people were keen to take selfies with him.
However, it was vandalised several times and the original materials were not fit to cope with outdoor elements, so it was decided a more permanent version of the statue should be made.
Mandy Coleman, Consultant General Manager at the Hamilton Davies Trust, said: “A local man, Eric Lowndes, came to us and said, why don’t you have a crowdfunding project?
“It was a lot of money to raise and he thought it would be good if the local community got behind the project, and felt like they own the man, and they would take care of the man as well as enjoy him.”
Mr Charnock, who has been practising as an artist himself for 25 years and has done many projects with communities, said: “I know how much it means to them. There’s a burden that you’ve got to produce something that’s worthy of that community, because they’re going to live with this for a long time, and obviously you want something that reflects your own skill and craft.
“It’s always a great honour to make these things, it’s not just a job. It’s a very pleasant feeling to make something, and people appreciate it, for a long time.”
Mr Law said his idea of the seated figure on the bench came because he had the bench at the bottom of his family garden in Cadishead. He added: “I thought it would be easier to make a seated figure than a standing figure, so I didn’t need to worry about the structure of it as much.”
He added that his message to today’s budding artists would be to “follow your dreams, most definitely. Never give up.”