Grace Scurlock – Sandy Haven’s Local Artist (1927 – 2005)

Mrs Grace Mary Scurlock (nee Beer) who was born and raised at Sandy Haven as one of the Beer Family of Rock House – the house with the stone quay alongside.  Grace was always proud of her ancestry being a long line of Master Mariners going back 150 years and originating in Cornwall.  The story of the Beer family at Sandy Haven began with grandfather Captain Jacob Beer who by modern standards and using the encroaching American terminology was an ‘Hombre’.   He owned six trading schooners and his wife owned another six.   One day Captain Beer sailed into Sandy Haven to trade, and decided that he would like to live there as it was a lovely and sheltered spot and most convenient for his ships.   But his wife disagreed and would not join him.  So he came to Sandy Haven alone and married a local girl and built Rock House where they raised a family of four children.  

      The Beer family lived at Rock House, Sandy Haven. Grace’s grand farther Captain Jacob Beer had also built the wharf at Rock House so he could bring his trading schooner ‘The Crystal’ alongside where he had a large boat shed (now demolished).  Grace had three brothers – Henry Millard, Ralph and George. She and her brothers worked hard as children with their father, on their vegetable garden on the cliff top immediately above their home at Rock House.  Captain Beer had set up a sheer legs with a block on the cliff edge, and the family hand hauled baskets of seaweed (gathered from the beach at Sandy Haven) to the hilltop to fertilise the crop.   The hilltop garden was accessed by a steep footpath with slabs of red shale. Some of these survive as garden seats at The Anchorage and their tops are worn smooth by all the foot traffic up and down the hill.  Today a workshop has been built in the former vegetable garden and a steep driving track carved out of the hillside, so that vehicles can be driven up there.  Grace and her brothers were raised at Sandy Haven and twice daily saw the tidal waters empty and fill. Her brother George told me that he was proud to be the man to bring the first bag to cement to Sandy Haven, which he did over the handlebars of his motorbike.

              Grace’s mother Mrs Thelma Alice Beer was living alone at Rock House in Sandy Haven in 1982, and died shortly afterwards aged 86 years. I had just bought my first plot of land there from Henry Millard Beer who was living as a tax exile on Jersey in the Channel Islands. I flew there to meet him and his wife and to the close the deal. Old Mrs Beer told me one day the sad story of the end of her husband Captain Beer.  In the 1920s Skomer Island was being farmed by Ronald Mathias Lockley who became famous for his books on the birds of Skomer and Pembrokeshire.  One day in 1920 an abandoned schooner – the Alice Williams – drifted ashore on Skomer Island. Lockley sailed into Sandy Haven and asked Captain Beer to help him salvage the wreck as she carried a valuable cargo of coal badly needed to heat the island farmhouse.   This they did and today the figurehead of the Alice William is still on the island and her ships wheel is hanging in the cottage on the island which is now used by bird watchers.   Mrs Beer told me that towards the end of the salvage operation, Captain Beer had a fall into the hold of the Alice Williams and hurt his head.  Robert Lockley sailed him back home to Rock House.   But Captain Beer was never the same again as he only sat by the side of the fire until he died quietly. Mrs Beer was bitter in her comments about Robert Lockley as he did nothing to help her with her family.

     Grace and her bothers were raised at Sandy Haven and there she learned her great appreciation of the coastal area. She loved to collect mussels at Sandy Haven and to walk and paint on the coast admiring the splendid scenery with the many wild flowers, butterflies and birds. Grace Beer married Rex Miles Scurlock, an Estate Agent in Milford Haven. They had three children – Yvette, Roger and Heather. When Rex died in 1973, Grace took over the Estate Agency and ran it for the rest of her life. Her daughter Yvette joined her and today Yvette still runs the Estate Agency.    

     As a young lady, Grace and her mother met Graham Sutherland, the painter, and his wife (who shocked Grace and her mother as being the first woman they had ever seen wearing trousers). The Sutherlands rented a cottage at Sandy Haven, where he made many paintings of the area.  The paintings were stored in the Beer boat shed on the wharf.  Grace told me that she and her mother used to go into the shed and peep at them. They were impressionist paintings and her mother did not like them, as they did not look right.

     Grace began painting in 1947, while she was working at the Milford Haven Post Office. That year she entered two paintings in a London exhibition representing the Milford Haven Arts Club. Her interest was painting both in oil and water colors. She also did some wood carving. The main subject was the coast around Sandy Haven and sometimes ships.  She spent a lot of her time painting inside the shelter of the glass and wooden gazebo that today sits at the end of the wharf at Rock House overlooking the tidal pill.

  By 1967 her work was well known and she had paintings in local galleries, the National Eisteddfod, and London galleries. Many of her paintings of local scenes were taken overseas by people leaving Wales or by tourists. Grace also donated paintings and wood carvings to local charities.

     Images of few of her paintings that I own are attached.

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