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Subject: Fred Darrington, 91; Artist Sculpted His Masterpieces in Sand

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Date Posted: August 30, 2002 6:12:44 EDT

Fred Darrington, 91, a British artist who gained acclaim through 70 years of sculpting masterpieces of sand, died Aug. 16 at his home in Esher, Surrey.

Until he was slowed by a stroke six years ago, Darrington had spent every summer for seven decades on the beach at Weymouth, a resort town on England's southern coast, building awe-inspiring creations out of sand and water.

He sculpted the prince and princess of Wales, a tableau of the Last Supper, winning thoroughbreds and Egyptian pyramids. One of his most famous creations was a group of monkeys playing poker, titled "Fleecing the Lamb."

He embellished his works with paint, creating images so realistic that they inspired beachfront debates.

Once two onlookers got into an argument over whether an apple in a display of fruit he had crafted was genuine. Darrington finally picked up the apple and threw it to the skeptic. When it crumbled in his hands, the doubter disgustedly threw the coin he had wagered into Darrington's bucket.

Born in Andover, the son of a railway worker, Darrington began sculpting sand at the age of 12. He found the sand at Weymouth to be an ideal medium.

It was so clean and fine that it bonded tightly when wet, leaving a structure so sturdy that critics often accused Darrington of using glue.

He left school at 14 and worked most of his life as an engineer, always reserving summers for sculpting in Weymouth. His grandson, his first and only apprentice, took over his spot on the sand several years ago. This week he shaped the Sphinx, one of his grandfather's favorite sculpture subjects, in tribute.

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