Bronze sculpture of a family clinging to a raft in a stormy sea. The central figure is a half-naked man, holding a sheet aloft in his raised right hand, calling for help. Arranged around him are the figures of his wife and three children. His wife is shown leaning over and kissing their infant son. To the left, is the daughter, her raised arm held in her father's left hand. At the rear is the prone figure of a youth, the elder son, holding his breast. Parts of the raft are visible in the waves which make up the base.
"Adrift" was Manchester's first modern figurative outdoor sculpture. It was the work of the Irish-born sculptor, John Cassidy, who developed a successful studio in Manchester, following his success at the Manchester Jubilee Exhibition of 1887. His local commissions included statues of John and Enriqueta Rylands, Sir Benjamin Dorrian and Ben Brierley. Charles Halle and Charles Sutton were among the numerous busts of local individuals.
"Adrift" indicates that Cassidy was responsive to the ideas of the 'new sculpture' movement, and its reaction to the stiffness and formality of conventional Victorian sculpture. Cassidy took as his theme the changes and sorrows experienced by human beings, illustrating this by a shipwrecked family clinging to a raft on the ocean at the very moment when there is the possibility of rescue. The work was modelled at Cassidy's studio in Plymouth Grove, Manchester and completed in 1907. "Adrift" was displayed at the New Gallery, London. It was purchased by James Gresham, whose local engineering business helped to provide him with the means to build up an extensive art collection in both his London and Manchester homes. Gresham had trained an artist before deciding to go into business. Cassidy also sculpted a portrait medallion of Gresham. He decided to present it as a gift to the City Council with the intention that it would be displayed in the new municipal art gallery that was to be built on the site of the demolished Royal Infirmary in Piccadilly. The donation had the proviso that 'my gift of this statuary to become absolute when a permanent home is found for it in your new gallery.' The gift was accepted but the plan to build a new gallery was not realised. Following the First World War the fate of the 'Great Hole of Piccadilly' was to be landscaped and made into a public garden. "Adrift", however, was not forgotten as ws moved to Piccadilly to become the centrepiece of the new garden. The sculpture that Gresham had hoped to see inside a modern municipal art gallery in Piccadilly was now displayed outside in the middle of a sunken garden in Piccadilly. The sculpture, surmounting a low rectangular stone base, remained in the centre of the gardens until around 1953 when the construction of the Coronation fountain led to its removal to the southern side of the gardens. In the revival of interest in public sculpture within the council in the 1980s it seemed probable that "Adrift" might be both restored and transferred to the new gardens at the rear of the town hall. But this was not realised and the sculpture remained on a cheap pedestal in the gardens.
The plan announced in 1999 to build an office block in Piccadilly Gardens will definitely require removal though its new location, which is expected to be in the re-designed gardens, has not been decided upon.
NB There is a photo in the Art Gallery of Cassidy posing with the sculpture
The following inscription was placed by Cassidy on the plinth:
HUMANITY ADRIFT ON THE SEA OF LIFE, DEPICTING SORROWS AND DANGERS, HOPES AND FEARS AND EMBODYING THE DEPENDENCE OF HUMAN BEINGS UPON ONE ANOTHER, THE RESPONSE OF HUMAN SYMPATHY TO HUMAN NEEDS, AND THE INEVITABLE DEPENDENCE UPON DIVINE AID.
PMSA recording information