17 October 2023
A ‘Cuddling Couple’
comforting each other
in times of trouble
in Milton Keynes
I am continuing to enjoy and relish the public sculpture I see in the streets and public places of Milton Keynes. One that is seen by everyone who comes to Milton Keynes is the sculpture by Ronald Rae outside Milton Keynes Central Station and known to local people as ‘The Cuddling Couple.’
The sculptor gave this work a more formal name, ‘O Wert Thou in The Cauld Blast.’ It stands in Station Square and was inspired by one of the last poems by the Scottish poet Robbie Burns.
This sculpture shows a couple comforting each other in times of trouble. It was inspired by one of the last poems by Robbie Burns, written for Jessy Lewars who nursed him during his final illness. A plaque with the words of the poem accompanies the work.
The Scottish sculptor and graphic artist Ronald Rae was born in Ayr in 1946. His works are entirely hand-carved in granite and over the course of 58 years he carved 58 large granite monoliths, many of which are in public and private collections throughout the UK.
Rae’s largest work to date is the 20 tonne ‘Lion of Scotland.’ His sculptures have been exhibited in Milton Keynes (1995-1999), Regent’s Park, London (1999-2002), the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, and Holyrood Park, Edinburgh (2006-2007).
Many of his granite sculptures in public places have Biblical themes, including five sculptures depicting the ‘Tragic Sacrifice of Christ’ in Alloway, ‘Abraham’ at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, the ‘Return of the Prodigal’ in Perth, the ‘Good Samaritan’ in Glenrothes, and his Celtic Cross at Erdington Railway Station, Birmingham. His ‘Fallen Christ’, outside the MacLeod Centre on the island of Iona, is to the memory of Jim Hughes, a member of the Iona Community.
His eight-tonne sculpture ‘Fish’ was installed on the waterfront at Cramond in 2009 after a successful fundraising campaign by the Cramond Community.
The ‘Cuddling Couple’ sculpture was bought by the Commissions for the New Towns after a major exhibition of Rae’s work in Milton Keynes in 1995-1999. It is carved in Scottish Creetown granite, measures 7x8x4 ft and weighs 12 tons.
His other works in Milton Keynes include ‘Hiroshima Departed’ at the Japanese Peace Park, Willen Lake, and ‘War Veteran’ in Campbell Park.
O Wert Thou in the Cauld Blast by Robbie Burns
O wert thou in the cauld blast,
On yonder lea, on yonder lea,
My plaidie to the angry airt,
I’d shelter thee, I’d shelter thee;
Or did misfortune’s bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw,
They bield should be my bosom.
To share it a’, to share it a’.