Daniel Binns, Cowling’s famous water colour artist of the 20th century was described by his son David as “ A compulsive artist” and “ a man of great energy.
David recounted stories of his father even on holiday, being up before breakfast painting seaside scenes and coming back to find the family still at breakfast. Daniel was never a full time professional artist. However despite having a teaching job and regular night school and weekend workshop commitments he produced art of such quality that he exhibited in many top London , provincial and Scottish galleries.
Although Daniel was a successful artist and teacher he kept close links with his village background, being born on Nan Scar, Ickornshaw , in Cowling parish, Yorkshire West Riding in 1896. He was the second child of three. His father David was a woollen weaver, married to Elizabeth. They also had two daughters, Annie and Edith. Grandma Betty Binns completed the family in 1901.
However Daniels father tragically died as a young man in his thirties. The family was forced to move the mile and a half to Woodland street, in the new Cowling village, so that Daniels mother could support the family by working in one of it’s mills.
They however continued to attend Ickornshaw Methodist Chapel. As a religious family the chapel was always central to Daniels life. As an adult he became a Sunday School teacher and eventually rose to be superintendant (head) of the Chapel Sunday School.
After education at the local council school Daniel, like most of his peers, entered mill life. He had already displayed artistic talent and further improved his knowledge and skills, by taking night school classes at Glusburn Institute ,two miles away.
By the time Daniel was seventeen the country was at war with Germany. The patriotic young man enlisted at Skipton, with many of his friends in Spring 1916, joining the Duke of Devonshire’s Yorkshire Regiment. After serving for over a year and being involved in front line trench warfare.
Daniel was eventually wounded in the left arm at the Battle of Bullecourt (Arras), going over the top early in the morning on 3rd of May. He was quickly evacuated out via Red Cross train to hospital and then hospital ship to arrive in Dover on May 5th. Daniel was then sent for treatment and recuperation to Ashfield House ( wartime hospital ), Shropshire.
His forces service was over but not forgotten. His younger sister Edith kept all their wartime correspondence and the sketch books he kept depicting ruined buildings and scenes from his hospitalisation of patients and nurses.
On his recovery back in Cowling, Daniel and his mother arranged an early job share at the mill. This enabled Daniel to pursue his art studies during his free time at Glusburn Institute.
This was followed by studies at Skipton School of Art & Science in different mediums and gaining a silver medal for book binding in the City and Guilds examination. Daniel also gained a teaching certificate which lead to a lifelong post at Skiptons secondary school as art master.
His thirst for artistic involvement did not stop there. Daniel taught night school classes in calligraphy, drawing and bookbinding and often led weekend art workshops in other art centres.
His bookbinding skills were rewarded by requests to set examinations for night school, City and Guild exams and also for foreign Universities.
Daniel also designed covers for the Dalesman magazine from 1948 to 1950 and was a contributor of art work from 1943 to 1955.
Daniel was married at Sutton Baptist Church to Edna Hudson of Glusburn in 1928 after an eight year courtship. They had three children Freda, Marjorie and David. Daniel was very much a family man often trying out his art teaching ideas on his children at weekends. His married life was spent living in Glusburn and Sutton-in-Craven, in the valley to the East of Cowling, from where he travelled each morning to teach at Skipton.
In amongst all his work and family activity Daniel still found time to do his own art work. Although his work was in a variety of mediums: oils, woodcuts, etchings and scraperboards, it was as a watercolour
artist that he gained fame. Along with fellow artists from his art school days, he began to exhibit, first locally then regionally, until he was acclaimed nationally by exhibiting in esteemed London galleries.
Places Daniels work was exhibited included:
Craven Art Club
Keighley Art Club
Cartwright Hall Bradford
Royal Cambrian Academy Conwy Wales
Scottish Academy Edinburgh
Britain in Watercolour London
Royal Institute of Watercolours London
Royal Academy London.
His son David recounted his involvement, as a young boy going with his father to Kildwick station, to help carry two paintings which had been packed in boxes.” The hope was that one or both paintings would be accepted for exhibition and sale. These would be forwarded to an agent whose job was to unpack and deliver them to the gallery and afterwards deal with any returns to the artist. The sale of any paintings added to the esteem of the exhibition. This was the artists real benefit from the expense of exhibiting.
Unfortunately, like so many talented people Daniel was not to live a long life. Coming up to teacher retirement in 1964 he had an unfortunate accident which led to an infection in his foot. This resulted in having to have his right leg amputated. Undaunted, Daniel wanted to feel he could still contribute and continue his work at school. So at a time when he could have retired transport was organised by teaching colleagues, to enable him to continue for another year, when he did eventually retire. However a long retirement was not to follow. Sadly, after a short illness, Daniel died suddenly two years later aged sixty eight. The commemorative service was held at Glusburn Baptist Church and his final resting place is in the garden of rest, Skipton Crematorium.
Daniel may have left us but his work lives on. Much of his work can be seen in homes all around the country and is a fitting tribute to a wonderful man and his exceptional talent.
This article was compiled with input from David and Molly Binns.