Rash’s hand engraved guns have always drawn attention at auction. His 1994 Swan Gun for Holland & Holland, sold via Morphy Auctions in 2017 was listed as a “stunning masterpiece”. An earlier rifle, the 1989 Bird of Prey gun for Symes & Wright, “engraved to an exceptional standard by Rashid el Hadi”, was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2005.
Rash gained an equally impressive reputation working in other fields. With the celebrated London jewellers Courts & Hackett, his repertoire included designs for Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’, notably a stunning 1991 Diamond Skull ring, which he engraved with a Grim Reaper scythe, tumbling dice and falling playing cards. Another music industry client was DJ and producer, Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B OBE, who bought various jewels, describing him as having “incredible talent… Rash’s work was unique, one of a kind.”
Goldsmith Bill Hackett (Courts & Hackett) said: “Rash was recommended by Malcolm Appleby. Looking through his sketches Dave (Courts) and I quickly realised the tremendous potential for adding decorative detail to our designs. We took him on immediately and he became a good friend. Later we showed some jewellery to Geoffrey Munn, then managing director of Wartski’s, and he singled out a few items as “absolutely remarkable” – they were all Rash’s work. He was extraordinarily talented. He was also his own man and never took advice!”
Rashid was born in Omdurman, Sudan, to Hassan El Hadi, a textile artist and painter, and Shirley Hadi (née Appleby) a teacher. Returning to England with his mother as a young boy, he grew up in London, notably Chiswick, where he was initially based. He had a natural ability for drawing and visits to his cousin, master goldsmith and engraver Malcolm Appleby MBE, were an early inspiration. He made his first marks on metal there, in his teens. The ease with which he drew and engraved, combined with an inborn impatience, led him to race ahead, leaving many unfinished works. He was primarily self-taught, although he returned to Malcolm’s workshop in Scotland on several occasions in the 70s and early 80s. He also briefly attended Sir John Cass College.
Malcolm’s gun-engraving contacts led to an introduction to John Wilkes, the London gunmakers, where Rash was given his first opportunity to work on a rifle. He went freelance in 1985 and within the next decade there were projects for Purdey (James Purdey & Sons), Rigby, Holland & Holland and Symes & Wright.
A very different opportunity, completed in 1989, came via goldsmith, artist and architect Louis Osman. “One of his better virtuoso pieces” is how Malcolm described the impressive globe section of a lectern design by Louis, commissioned by Sir Roy Strong for the V&A. The concept, as envisioned by Louis in a letter to Rash was, "… about creation and the creative process as related to the V&A and those who direct it. I hope that it will stand against the superb pieces of the past; having its roots in the past but being in itself completely contemporary." Richard Edgecumbe, Curator at the V&A said: “Rashid was responsible for the superb engraving of the central sphere of the lectern designed by Louis Osman, an exceptionally fine feature of the work.”
Following a spell with family in Australia, Rash returned to England in 1996 to join Westley Richards, the legendary Birmingham gunmakers. He spent his last 16 productive years there, creating some superlative work. The late Simon Clode, then managing director, had been impressed by Rash’s innovative approach, his Holland & Holland Swan Gun in particular. Simon took exceptional care of Rash, often in challenging situations and in a Westley Richards blog post, said: “I have always thought of Rashid as one of the most gifted engravers of our times.”
From 1996 to 2002, Rash trained an apprentice, Vince Crowley, who has since established his own reputation as a much sought-after master engraver: “Rash was my master during my six years at Westley Richards. He taught me with care and a selfless generosity. He was a remarkable designer and engraver whose original work is admired around the world.”
Rash’s life and career were coloured by an eccentric, somewhat rebellious streak. He was the life and soul of many an event, memorably charming and witty, although his wild side occasionally led him down dark roads. His health deteriorated slowly following an accident and stroke in 2012. He passed away on New Year’s Eve 2020. Rash is survived by his three sons Max, Jimmy and Louis.