The dry-stone wall builder: “Each meter of wall contains a ton of stone. You really feel it after a tough week.
This week’s living national treasure is Anthony Gorman, a man who has spent his life building beautiful walls by hand across Northumbria. He spoke to Tessa Waugh; portraits of Richard Cannon.
âI always wanted to work in the countryside,â says Anthony Gorman, who grew up in Manchester and later moved to Northumberland to work as a salmon fisherman in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
For 12 years, however, he has been building drystone walls – or dikes as they are called in this part of the world.
He started out by taking an 18-month masonry course run by Northumberland National Park, then went into the profession full-time. It sounds like an idyllic lifestyle, but like many outdoor jobs, the reality is hard physical labor in all weather conditions.
“It’s very tiring on the body,” says Gorman. âEvery meter of drystone wall you build contains a ton of stone. You really feel it after a tough week.
On a good day, he can build around 3m of wall, more if he works in a group, which is often the case.
Most of the work involves rebuilding what’s already there or filling a void and the walls vary in style across the county.
âIt could be random rubble, sandstone or whinstone, depending on what was found nearby,â says Gorman.
And what about the million dollar question: what keeps it going on a cold, wet day?
âI like being my own boss, I find the job rewarding and I’m actually pretty good at it,â he laughs.
Credit: Living National Treasure: The Glassblower – Â© Country Life / Richard Cannon
Ian Shearman’s team of glassblowers still make glass using a 2,000-year-old technique. Mary Miers discovered
Credit: Â© Richard Cannon / Country Life Picture Library
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