The great Victorian and Edwardian sculptors like Birnie Rhind where grand figures, according to Anne Scott Carrick always found Rhind a ‘distant and aloof figure’. But Rhind also ran his own yard, employing his own masons. Here Carrick learned his craft, working for four shillings a week in the yard and on building sites such as the MacEwan Hall and the Antiquarian Museum at the east end of Queen Street, Edinburgh. He developed his skills as a mason, and developed his understanding of the sculptor’s art, particularly as applied within an architectural context. Aloof or not Carrick must surely have learned much from Rhind and there is a strong similarity in the powerful and forthright style of their stone carving and the monumentality of their work.
At the same time Carrick began to establish the academic and intellectual foundation for his work as he enrolled with the Edinburgh College of Art. It was there that he met his future wife Janet Ferguson MacGregor who was also a student studying painting. As was common at that time Janet gave up her career when the couple married and began their family but she remained a powerful support and as their daughter Anne told me she was ‘always an exacting critic’ of Carrick’s work.
Carrick was a great admirer of the works of Donatello, but never managed to visit Italy. At the end of his studies and apprenticeship in 1905 however he won the Queen’s Prize at the college and a two year scholarship studying under the Belgian sculptor Professor Eduard Lanteri at the South Kensington College in London. For a time Carrick thought of staying in London and perhaps had he done so he might have been better remembered today. Instead he returned home to Scotland and completed his training by working for two years as assistant to another of the great Scottish sculptors of the day Pittendrigh MacGillivray. This was probably 1908 and 1909, years in which MacGillivray was working on the Gladstone Memorial in Edinburgh and Carrick may have contributed to the work.
Again according to Anne Scott MacGillivray was always stinting in his praise and did not encourage Carrick in his ambition to set up on his own. After two years however Carrick finally established himself as a monumental sculptor and artist in Edinburgh. He carried out work at the Scotsman Building (main sculptor F.E.E. Schenk), and the Usher Hall (main sculptor Henry Snell Gamley), both prestigious projects in Edinburgh (Glasgow architect James B. Dunn was involved in the Scotsman Building and perhaps this was where the two men first met). He was also involved in renovation works at George Heriots School in Edinburgh, the construction of Saint Conan's Kirk, Lochawe, and in the re-construction of Eilean Donan Castle. Carrick must also have taken some pride in becoming involved in restoration works undertaken on St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall.
By 1914 he was an established artist exhibiting regularly at the R.S.A. exhibitions including statuettes of 'A Boy Putting a Stone', and 'Saint Cecilia'; and in that same year he was appointed to the teaching staff at Edinburgh College of Art. In 1914 or 1915 he was married to Janet MacGregor at Sandbank near Dunoon in the MacGregor's holiday cottage and by 1916 their first child, Elizabeth was born. In 1914 however the Great War had already begun and by 1916 Carrick was in Belgium serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery as a gunner.
Portrait of Alexander Carrick by his lifelong friend the Aberdeen artist D.M. Sutherland. The statuette in the right background is probably ' The Standard Bearer' 1932. Sutherland was Carrick's best man at his wedding.