Out of Africa

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The last place you might expect to come across monumental sculptures from Zimbabwe is rural Fife, but visit Lathrisk and that’s exactly what you’ll find

Words Stephanie Murphy

Growing up in an 18th-century house sur­roun­ded by a magnificent formal garden that’s part of the secluded Lathrisk estate, Tober Reilly always knew he was lucky to live in such a beautiful spot. But, as an adult, travelling the world to perform in musical theatre, he came to feel there was something missing from the gardens of his childhood home. He wanted to fill Lathrisk’s grounds with works of art. Only the prohibitive cost of doing so put him off. Then, while teaching in South Africa, he came across Peter Gwisa, a Zimbabwean sculptor, and realised that the gardens could at last become the outdoor gallery he’d dreamt of.
“Despite living abroad for six months of the year, my heart is firmly here at Lathrisk,” he says. “I always wanted to put sculpture in the grounds, but I also knew these would have to be pieces of real scale if they were not to be lost in the sea of plants and colour. I discovered that pieces by artists working in the UK in stone or bronze would cost as much as £30,000.”
Peter Gwisa’s work, which has an international reputation and was shown at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, starts at £1,400. At last, Tober had found an artist whose work would stand out amid the magnificent gardens – three acres of formal planting surrounded by stone walls, plus meadows and ancient beech trees beyond – and which would not require the family to sell the house first.
The Reilly family have lived in the gothic property for almost 40 years. Astonishingly, they have never had a gardener. Instead, it has been four decades of the Reader’s Digest botanical encyclopedia and trial and error. They have transformed the original grounds, laid out 200 years ago, to something fit for the 21st century.

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 181-184, issue 103.

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