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Who’s the mystery man delighting commuters at Irlam station?

The man is sat on a black iron bench at Irlam railway station, his hat pulled down over his eyes and his knees covered by some kind of blanket that spills onto the floor.

He watches as hundreds of commuters pass by every day, stopping at the 1923 bar, or looking at the new art murals on the station walls.

He won’t say hello, but don’t be offended.

He is in fact a new part of the street scene – an incredible sculpture called ‘At the End of the Day’.

At the end of the Day - Friends of Irlam station2

Close-up on At the End of the Day – by Friends of Irlam Station

Contrary to popular rumour the man has no name, officially.

Rather, the artist based him on the memory of the thousands of steelworkers travelling home after they finished grafting at the former Irlam Steel Works; the industry which allowed this part of Salford to thrive.

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Steel was the backbone of industry in Irlam for vast swathes of the 20th century.

Thousands of local families were employed by the Partington Steel and Iron company when it opened in 1910. It remained a staple of everyday life until the end of steel production in Irlam by the close of the 1970s.

In the winter of 1977, artist Simon Law was a pupil at Irlam High School studying for a GCE (now A-Level, or A2) in Art.

He needed a project for his final exam and settled on the idea of a sculpture of a seated figure.

At the end of the day Irlam Station 3

By Friends of Irlam Station

For four months he worked to put the man together, first cutting, sculpting and modelling the head and hands in clay, then covering it in solid plaster.

The body was constructed from plaster of Paris, and supported with a length of angle-iron – the kind you might use for a fence post – for the spine and neck so his head could be held up proudly.

Simon used an old pair of boots of his own to donate to the old man, which were then again covered with plaster of Paris.

He told SalfordOnline.com: “To achieve the bronze effect I gave it a light dusting of metallic paint: you spray it on with several aerosol cans and it looks really effective.

“My art teacher Ron Walker really encouraged me and I can’t thank him enough for what he taught me, and I was really proud when it was put on permanent display in the school.”

Over the years the shine came off At the End of the Day somewhat.

It was almost 30 years sat in the foyer at the local school, just 500 yards away from Station Road.

Irlam Station recently celebrated 1 year since its renovation was complete

Irlam Station recently celebrated 1 year since its renovation was complete

But Neil McArthur at Hamilton Davies Trust, the charitable people who’ve been funding all this regeneration and fab art in this part of the world, wanted it as a showpiece for the newly done-up Irlam station.

It wasn’t weatherproof so in stepped artist-maker extraordinaire Rachelle Cleary, under the aegis of I C Art, to bring the old man up to standard.

Her son Frank spent 148 hours carrying out the restoration while brother Andrew carried out the metalwork.

Rachelle undid a 2002 revamp: smoothing over ripples, chipping out the details and finding the original layers, giving the sculpture a delicate finishing touch.

Simon, who now works as a project manager at Manchester construction firm John Sisk & Sons, said he was stunned with the restoration job.

At the end of the day Irlam Station 2

By Friends of Irlam Station

“Frank is a really talented individual and has brought the statue back to life with his new amendments and repairs, in fact he has done a better job than me,” he said.

“I only found out a few weeks ago that my sculpture was to be given a new home at the train station and to be dead honest I’m really chuffed about it, it looks grand.”

The resplendant sculpture was unveiled on Tuesday 12 April, but there was a sting in the tail.

Sadly vandals would hit ‘At the End of the Day’ within hours of it being installed at the station.

Organisers awoke the next morning to find that some idiot had tried to smash its leg with a hammer.

Undeterred, the man was moved to a place on the platform where it is under scrutiny of the CCTV cameras and is now in a spot everyone can enjoy.

‘At the End of the Day’ is now becoming something of a tourist attraction with people posing for selfies on the bench, a fitting tribute to the craft and the artistry it took to put him together.

He’s well worth a look if you’re visiting Irlam or just stopping by the station.

Send your #sculptureselfies to SalfordOnline.com – email newsdesk@salfordonline.com, tweet us @salfordonline or find us on Facebook here and here

Main image by Maurice Cullen

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Tom is SalfordOnline.com's News Editor and community co-ordinator.