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Walter Kershaw, Eric Kean and Walter Hirsch

Portrait of Walter Hirsch by Eric Kean, c 1970

Portrait of Walter Hirsch by Eric Kean, c 1970

Eric Kean Self-Portrait, c 1980

Eric Kean Self-Portrait, c 1980

In the late 1960s, Walter Hirsch, Eric Kean and Walter Kershaw used to go out nearly every Wednesday in Eric's van on painting trips around Lancashire and Yorkshire. Walter Kershaw travelled in the back with the easels and panels. They would pick up Walter Hirsch from his former textile mill, near Bury bridge over the Irwell, where he lived in the offices together with innumerable cats.

Born in Czechoslovakia around 1890, Walter Hirsch had moved to Bury in 1940. Walter Kershaw remembers knocking on the huge metal door of the mill, shouting 'Gestapo!' Inside the mill, there were paintings propped on all the disused machinery. Hirsch would cook bacon and eggs on a pot bellied stove and slept on a pile of mattresses, with an extra one added at regular intervals his friends teased that he was just like the Princess and the Pea. He was often seen out and about in Bury with his full length fur coat, carrying bags of cat food. The three friends met at a Painting for Pleasure course and then took to taking trips out to paint landscapes, Blackstone Edge being a particular favourite, followed by a pub lunch.

Early one summer's day, they took a van load of paintings and created an ad hoc exhibition around Piccadilly Gardens. However, within 10 minutes local bobbies told them they could not exhibit there, despite the friends' protestations that if it was good enough for Hyde Park in London, then why not in Manchester. The police were not impressed, so they moved the exhibition to outside Manchester Cathedral where the verger and canon welcomed them and thought the exhibition was 'wonderful'.