THREE months ago, a new man entered the life of Lisa Hawker. She has remained closeted with him through the winter of 2010/11. Now she is finally ready to let Robert Buchanan go.

Lisa is a sculptress, and Robert is, or was (1841-1901), a once prominent Victorian poet and dramatist. Although born in Stafford, he lived his adult days in Southend.

He had two loves, his wife, and the seaside town where he had chosen to live. He wrote reams of love poetry to both of them.

Robert’s reputation fell into obscurity after his death, but all that is changing.

The Buchanan revival began when Southend Council set out to restore St John’s churchyard as a public space and asset to the community.

Robert Buchanan is perhaps the most distinguished long-term inhabitant of the graveyard. The council set out to restore his derelict memorial and turn it into a focal point of the project.

Tim Pyner, Cliffs Gardens manager, says: “He is an important part of the town’s history, and he doesn’t deserve the neglect into which he has fallen,”

“Southend isn’t associated with many distinguished writers, but this is someone we can take a pride in.”

To raise awareness of the grave site, the decision was taken to create a new bust of Buchanan.

“There was a marble bust on the site, but it disappeared a long time ago,” says Mr Pyner. “The new bust will make a good focal point for school parties and anyone else studying the local history of Southend.”

Lisa, from Rayleigh, had just a handful of photographs to work on when she set out to create an accurate likeness of Buchanan.

She says: “It’s quite different from working with a living subject when you can measure the head. I had to put in a lot of guesswork, and there was a lot of trial and error. I re-did the eyes about 30 times before I felt I was there. Even though he was dead and couldn’t argue, I really wanted to get him right.”

She was helped by a growing sense of empathy for the man.

“I found a real kinship with him,” she says. “He was an early champion for women’s rights and also animal rights, both of which endeared him to me.

“He was a very devoted person, devoted to his wife, and devoted to Southend. He also had a tendency to get distracted, which perhaps helps to explain why he wasn’t more famous and successful. I can relate to that. It all helped me to bring him to life.”

Lisa worked day and night in her workshop. She says: “The family would throw a cup of tea at me now and again.”

She was spending more time with Buchanan than with them.

“As he took shape, I started to talk to him,” she says. “Definitely insane.”

Modelled in clay, the bust was cast in bronze at the Bronze Age foundry in London. It is set to be unveiled in St John’s churchyard on Tuesday.

For now, Lisa is hanging on to him until the last possible moment.

“I’ll miss him when he’s gone,” she says. “We’ve grown quite close.”