Former Borders farmer Robin Runciman overcame meningitis and decided to live his dream
Few people these days will wake up every day looking forward to doing the job they love.
But a serious illness 15 years ago saw Robin Runciman re-evaluate his life and he is now following his childhood dream.
The former Boon farmer was brought up on the family farm near Blainslie, where celebrated local sculptor and furniture designer Tim Stead had his workshop.
As a teenager, Robin often visited the artist and was inspired by what he saw.
But the farmer’s son knew he was expected to continue the family business so, while working with wood as a hobby, he ploughed out a career in the field.
However, 15 years ago, Robin woke up in hospital recovering from meningitis.
Laid low afterwards, and suffering from depression, he made a life-changing decision – to sell the farm and turn his hand instead to the job he’d always wanted.
Retaining a field at Boon, near Lauder, he built a home for his wife Linda and their three sons, Scott (28) and twins Mark and Hamish (26). He also built a workshop, like Tim’s.
And with his family’s support and encouragment, while doing other jobs to bring in cash, Robin started his own business, Wildwood Scotland – creating beautiful pieces of sculpture and furniture using elm wood.
Until May 5, that work will be taking centre stage at an exhibition in Hawick Museum.
But that too happened somewhat by accident – as modest Robin never considered his work was worthy of an exhibition.
He explained: “Linda did a late teaching degree and is now a primary teacher.
“She shared the driving with Diane Murphy, who was on the same course.
“Diane and her mum Mary Beck, a former Hawick councillor, were here having a coffee one day.
“They said I should show my work but I never thought much more about it until I got a call from Richard White, the assistant curator at Hawick Museum.
“Mary and Diane had approached him; he liked what he saw on my website, contacted me and asked if I would put on an exhibition.
“I never really thought of my sculptures and furniture as being worthy of an exhibition but when I was offered an eight-week run, I thought why not?!
“All I had to do was take my work to the museum and show up on opening night.
“Most of the pieces are on sale but I won’t be parting with a guitar I made for one of my sons and a maple leaf which is now the logo for Wildwood Scotland.
“I’ve been blown away by the response to the exhibition. A lot of people have contacted me via the website and Facebook page as a result.”
Robin’s work had already been in demand prior to the museum spotlight though.
Orders from America and Canada helped confirm that the 59-year-old Borders man’s craft was popular.
Robin said: “Just before Christmas, an American man commissioned five tables and a Canadian chap ordered two muckle big tables. I must be doing something right if I’m selling Canadians wood – they have more wood than anywhere else on the planet!
“None of it would have been possible without the support of my family though. I can’t thank them enough for encouraging me to do it and keep doing it. That’s meant an awful lot to me.
“I’m never going to be a millionaire but I love what I do – not many people can say that – and I have no regrets about selling the farm.”
One regret Robin does have, however, is that the man who inspired him is no longer around to see the fruits of his labour.
“I would never have thought to work with wood had I not seen some of Tim Stead’s work,” he said.
“I’d never seen anything like it – it was extraordinary.
“Being in his workshop was like a lightbulb moment for me and I knew that’s what I really wanted to do.
“It’s just a damn shame he’s not here so that I could thank him for inspiring me.
“He sadly died in 2000, aged just 48.”
Robin works mainly with elm wood, a large supply of which he managed to source from Edinburgh city centre.
The wood takes centre stage in the exhibition, with everything from a beautiful bed to a giant jigsaw on show.
Robin added: “Each piece of wood has been through a curing process of up to six years and every piece of furniture or sculpture is made to last a lifetime.
“Each piece is unique, usually incorporating the live edge of the wood in order to bring the outdoors into a client’s home.”
The Wildwood Scotland collection is at the Waterfall Gallery in Hawick Museum until May 5. Entry is free.
To explore more of Robin’s work, visit the website www.wildwoodscotland.co.uk.