For almost 30 years it was a permanent fixture in a Kirkcaldy theatre but, following his public downfall, Rolf Harris’ parting gift to the town is to be airbrushed from history.
Following the 84 year-old’s conviction for sex abuse last week, bosses at the Adam Smith Theatre have confirmed that a ‘Jake the Peg’ mural painted backstage by Harris in 1985 is to be destroyed.
Laurie Piper, head of External Relations for Fife Cultural Trust said: “We are in process of decorating, refreshing and updating a number of areas within the theatre, and in light of recent developments and the sensitivity of having performers of all ages on stage at the theatre, we believe it appropriate to remove the caricature as part of this planned maintenance.”
Fife’s attempts to sever links with Harris echo that of countless UK organisations who have been swift to strip the former star of all honours after he was found guilty last week on all 12 counts of indecently assaulting four girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986.
Harris, who has begun a five year and nine months jail sentence, could still face further charges as police investigate fresh allegations against him.
However, as Harris is quickly dumped by BAFTA and his hometown of Bassendean in Australia, some critics have criticised the country’s overzealous urge to censor history.
Included among them is Bert Ross, who was in charge of publicity for the Adam Smith Theatre and oversaw Harris’ week-long tenure in October 1985 to celebrate the theatre’s 11th birthday.
At that time, Harris - who had risen to fame with songs such as ‘Two Little Boys’ and the TV series ‘Rolf’s Cartoon Time’- was at the height of his popularity.
“He was a very interesting guy, very nice,” said Bert.
“Every night he was on the show he would create a painting and donate it to a local group who would sell it on to raise funds. He was popular with everyone, including staff and I spoke to him lots of times.
“He seemed such a genuinely nice guy and up until a couple of years ago I still thought he came across as a really nice guy.”
The mural, which Harris painted in a corridor connecting a stage wing to the theatre’s dressing rooms, features a cartoon three-legged Harris wearing a kilt accompanied by phrases such as “There’s nowt that’s shoddy about Kirk-coddy.”
In a written message to staff as a farewell, he said: “Well, I can’t recall when I’ve been made to feel as welcome. We’ll come back ANYtime. Thanks again, Rolf Haggis.”
Before the scandal, artworks by Harris could command prices upwards of £20,000, but experts claim works are now “worthless” because their value lay purely in Rolf Harris’ popularity as an entertainer.
That star status has now been shattered but the question remains whether Kirkcaldy’s past links with Harris should be eradicated completely.
“I’ve had second thoughts on whether the mural should be censored,” commented Mr Ross
“It’s a part of the theatre’s history and perhaps should be left there.”