West Lothian veteran with sight loss builds Titanic model for world tour

Wilkieston veteran Bernard Matthews with his scratch model of the Titanic.
Wilkieston veteran Bernard Matthews with his scratch model of the Titanic.
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A Wilkieston veteran with sight loss has created a scratch model of the Titanic that will now journey the world as part of an international touring exhibition.

Bernard Matthews, 73, overcame the challenges of living with glaucoma to build the model in painstaking detail with the aid of strong magnifiers and lighting at Scottish War Blinded’s Linburn Centre in West Lothian.

A year in the making, the model of the famous vessel has now joined Titanic Honour and Glory Limited. Bernard admits to being overwhelmed by plans for the model’s first stop to be the United States, at one of the world’s largest Titanic attractions.

“When I started this project I didn’t realise this would take off on such a large scale,” said Bernard, who is originally from, Lochgelly, Fife.

“I feel really privileged this is going to happen. It’s nice to know it’ll be a learning thing for the young ones too.”

Bernard, a former army cook with the Army Catering Corps who served from 1963 to 1966, joined Scottish War Blinded five years ago.

He was inspired to take on the project after Sean Szmalc, director of Titanic Honour and Glory Limited, visited the Linburn Centre to give a talk on the legendary ship to the charity’s veterans.

Created to scale at 1:279 metres, the model is made from various materials, including, polystyrene, cotton, wire, clay, metallic sheets and around 1000 pins. In memory of those who lost their lives in the sinking, on board the model also features tiny cut-outs of passengers who were photographed on the Titanic herself before she set sail on her tragic voyage.

Throughout months of hard work in the Linburn Centre art room, assisted by art instructor David Grigor, Bernard was undeterred by his limited sight and consistently applied his knack for 

Bernard said: “It was a bit tricky. I had to use a big magnifier light to work on it. I was surprising myself.

“I can see, but not very well. I had to take my time, that’s probably why it took so long. I worked on it most days when I was at Linburn.

“I could see it progressing and kept wondering when it was going to be finished.

“I learned a lot about the history of the Titanic as well while I was working on it.”

Mr Szmalc did not hesitate to adopt Bernard’s model as one of his hundreds of Titanic artefacts.

“The Titanic enthusiast brings the story of history’s most famous ship to life, working with schools, galleries and museums across the world.

He said: “I have contacts at two of the world’s largest Titanic exhibitions – the Titanic Exhibition in Branson, Missouri, and the exhibition in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

“We are hoping to have the model exhibited in the United States for the rest of the year.

“Items like Bernard’s model in our exhibition make sure history is never forgotten.”

The crafty veteran is already back to work on his next project a bit closer to home: a scratch model of the Queensferry Crossing.