“Did you see the man feeding the pigeons on the roof?” asked a passer by as I sat sketching in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

I looked up from my drawing and sure enough, there they were in the distance – a frenzied flutter of feathers as pigeons lined up for their feast. I couldn’t see their benefactor with any clarity, so I’m afraid he/she/they are recorded as something of a bowling ball with sprouts for hair. But I was rapt to include a sign of life in this three-storey-plus-towers Victorian ediface. How could I have missed it?

A little later I was approached again.

“All the grey pigeons are called Nigel”.

Unexpected. I have never met a pigeon called Nigel. I squinted at them with new interest. As you can see in my video, picking out ‘the Nigels’ in the distance could prove tricky.

Roslynne introduced herself and told me more about the feathered celebrities. Pigeon updates, photos and introductions continued via email and they have made me laugh so much that I asked permission to share them with you.

Emails commenced:

“It was lovely to meet you briefly this afternoon while you were sketching our building on Brunswick St; apologies for the unsolicited interruption!


Your sketch was absolutely wonderful, and including the pigeons (I shall choose to believe you drew Thick Kevin, Speckled Jim and George III and IV, rather than a whole bunch of grey Nigels) makes it even more special for us.”

Not having yet painted the pigeons, I offered to colour match them if Roslynne could provide some more identifying features.

“Oh Roslynne you have made me laugh!

I still have some drawing to do, but then I’ll get stuck in with colour, so here’s your chance to influence my choice of pigeons ….

Do you happen to have pictures of Thick Kevin, Speckled Jim and George III and IV? Because if it’s a matter of colour …. just saying ….”

Roslynne responded:

“On behalf of Thick Kevin and the gang, we are thrilled and honoured to provide inspiration for pigeon colour choices!

 Attached are a few photos… I won’t be tragic enough to offer to take more (although Pete the Peacock is very pretty, but sadly unphotographed to date). I hope they help.

Photo 1 L-R: Nigel, Thick Kevin, Coco [Chanel], Nigel. George III at back (George IV looks exactly the same).

Photo 2 L-R: Priscilla, Elvis

Photo 3 L-R: Nigel, Elvis, Andy Stankovich (NZ’s finest Elvis impersonator). Nigel (decapitated) in background

Photo 4 (in any order): Ron and Thérèse, should additional colour be required.

Photo 5: group shot including Ron and Thérèse, George III (or IV, who knows) on ledge, Andy Stankovich, Speckled Jim (behind Nigel), Nigels, random dove and atmospheric pigeon poo.

Of course then I had to add a few more pigeons to my drawing to make sure none of the clan were left out. Ron and Thérèse who [cough] I quietly suspect may not be pigeons, are sitting on windowsills. I thought Ros might like that.

I painted the building, plus pigeons, with watercolour in my studio before going back to Brunswick Street to finish the adjoining building. Look closely and you’ll see the pigeons, but good luck in identifying which of these two millimetre high birds is which! I’m sure Ros will know though.

Thank you to Roslynne Bell for generously sharing her photos and stories. When I asked permission she gladly gave it, plus a bonus …

“”P.s. did I send you this one? It’s my favourite shot of Thick Kevin…”

Quite imperious, isn’t he?

This is the finished print of that beautiful building (plus pigeons), which is for sale in my shop. Clicking on the image will take you there.

I also did a version with the adjoining building, true to my mission not to leave any building out of my project. It isn’t too different to making sure that the grey Nigels are included 🙂

236-252 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy – home to the Black Cat. Signed open edition fine art print, Helen Wilding, 2021.

If you are in Melbourne from 4pm Sunday 4 July to Saturday 17 July you can drop into the Black Cat at 252 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, and both versions will be sitting on the walls. I wonder if the pigeons will drop by?

Do you have any stories about the buildings I have drawn in Brunswick Street or elsewhere? I love hearing them and it makes my project so much richer.

It is just one more reason to draw on location rather than from photos – I would never have met the wonderful Roslynne otherwise, and I would be none the wiser about pigeons called Nigel. Or Thick Kevin.



  1. alissa

    Fantastic ! what a great story . I had to laugh too . My nephew( aged 10 at the time ) informed my that all the ducks in the local waterbird habitat were called Stephen and pointed out Stephen 22 or Stephen 17 etc ! see you for bubbles

    • Helen Wilding

      Oh now I’ll be looking at all those Stephens in the park!! Thanks Alissa 🙂

  2. merri

    2 of my daughters worked at t Black Cat in ’80/90. s…I used 2 love visiting from Canberra….gr8 memories.exciting times…….

    • Helen Wilding

      It’s such a classic Fitzroy hangout, isn’t it? It is so sad that it has been closed for so long during lockdowns.


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