WHAT is real and what is myth when it comes to George Musgrave?

That is a question many have asked when assessing the legacy of one of Sussex’s greatest eccentrics.

“If you talk to any of his family members, each of them will have a different story about him,” said son Peter.

The longtime Eastbourne resident had certainly accomplished a lot in his life by the time he died eight years ago at the age of 97.

Growing up in poverty in London after his father Alfred’s death in the First World War, he later became a church minister, a missionary in South America and a plastic toy designer.

But it was what George accomplished in his retirement that remains his lasting legacy.

After years travelling around the Mediterranean in the footsteps of his idol Saint Paul, he created the Musgrave Collection.

The Argus: George opened the Musgrave Collection, first in Heathfield, then Patcham, then finally EastbourneGeorge opened the Musgrave Collection, first in Heathfield, then Patcham, then finally Eastbourne

A carefully curated but eclectic mix of artefacts and paintings, it was a culmination of every element and stage of his life.

Toy soldiers from his days working at Herald Miniatures featured alongside a drawing of an engine by his father, a rare physical memory of a man who was killed in Belgium when George was just two.

First created in Heathfield in 1983, the collection eventually moved to Patcham Mill and Eastbourne’s Royal Parade before finally settling in Seaside Road until it closed in 2014 due to a lack of funds.

But a lot of George’s early life is almost mythical.

Born in London in 1915, by the Thirties George appeared to show his eventual skills as an all-rounder.

His love for treasure hunting was said to be sparked by his discovery of a Roman coin in the ground.

Another story claims George trained with the British Olympic swimming team after a chance encounter with an impressed athlete in a London park. Son Peter says this is most likely a myth.

The Argus: George spent much of his later life painting the life of Saint PaulGeorge spent much of his later life painting the life of Saint Paul

But for all the hearsay, there are two things we know happened to George in his early life.

First was his conversion to Christianity and the beginning of his close study of St Paul, the apostle who turned from persecuting Christian converts to spreading the word throughout the Mediterranean.

“I think he was a heroic figure for him,” said Peter.

“He wasn’t from a church background but he found the story of St Paul very interesting.”

The second major event was his acceptance into art college, sparking his love of painting. Many of his first watercolours and sculptures ended up in the Musgrave Collection.

But George’s road to respected artist was a winding one.

He was soon ordained as a Congregational Church minister in Greenwich.

Never able to do just one thing, George also supposedly trained with football club Charlton Athletic in 1947.

A more outlandish story even claims George invented the double yellow line that same year, a claim he reportedly loved to tell others.

The Argus: Did George invent the double yellow line?Did George invent the double yellow line?

The eccentric supposedly entered the idea into a road safety competition and won a £2 prize for his troubles.

The story was widely reported by the press 50 years later when an 81-year-old George was fined £20 for parking illegally on a single-yellow line in Eastbourne.

“The law is the law and I broke it,” he told The Times.

The Fifties presented a whole new opportunity for George.

Perhaps hoping to walk in the footsteps of St Paul, the minister went to the South American colony of British Guiana as a missionary.

Not much is known about his time in capital Georgetown.

But George soon returned to Britain to work as a plastic toy designer for Herald Miniatures.

After a successful appearance on BBC TV show Get Ahead, a precursor to Dragon’s Den, George set up his own plastic toy business GE Models in the town of Heathfield.

He would keep on this track until his retirement in the Eighties.

The Argus: George concentrated on painting once he retiredGeorge concentrated on painting once he retired

Naturally he had a few detours. In 1974 he twice ran as a Liberal Party candidate in Bournemouth but failed to oust the Conservative incumbent.

Once George retired, however, his real adventure began.

Finding himself with more time on his hands, George decided to literally follow in the footsteps of St Paul.

He spent time researching in Turkey, Greece, Malta and other historic locations where his idol had preached.

He came across a few artefacts for his future collection, often digging them up himself.

After years of meticulous research, in 1988 he began to paint what would eventually become a 40-strong collection of works depicting St Paul’s life. This was the jewel in his collection’s crown.

But perhaps the work which best sums up George’s life is “Speck Of Dust”, something George often referred to himself as.

Painted when he was 91, the spiral shows everything from his father’s death to his museum in Patcham Mill.

Yet even with his story depicted in such a linear way, there is still so much we do not know about George Musgrave.