Ben Smyth was born in Ardglass, Co.Down in 1919. Surrounded by the sea and fishing village life he embraced the maritime lifestyle. At an early age he took to painting and drawing, demonstrating a skill well in advance of his years by winning a local art competition at the age of 7.
Joining the Merchant Navy he then travelled to Cornwall to become a Rigger working on the famous battleship The Warspite. It was here in 1951 that he was awarded a medal from the King for bravery after helping save the life of a diver trapped in a gas filled chamber. The Cornish coastline inspired him and he enjoyed capturing it in watercolours and drawings during his free-time.
From here he moved to France and worked for 8 years in and around Arromanches on the Normandy coast aiding in the clean-up operation after the war. Here he soaked up the French culture quickly teaching himself the language and indulging in his passion for painting.
Returning to Ardglass in the early ’60’s he immediately joined H.M. Coastguards where he remained a member for 25 years. Taking a post with Harbour Maintenance he quicly became admired and stood out as a much loved character until his retirement at 65. He passed away in 2005.
Despite not producing a great number of paintings in his lifetime, (and not always signing or dating what he did do!), Ben’s work is still admired and respected. Pieces held in private collections are treasured and his name is often mentioned in local conversation. His sharp sense of humour, unfaltering kindness and skill as a draughtsman will ensure he is not forgotten.