Two GGs in Our Waggon

Sentinel steam waggon acquired by Grampian Transport Museum in 2000 with an NFA grant of £15,200.

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Sentinel steam waggon on the road

When I worked at the Bass Museum of Brewing in Burton On Trent, one of the key vehicle exhibits was one of three Daimler Worthington White Shield bottle cars, advertising vehicles built in 1923 in the shape of a bottle. In my present post at the Grampian Transport Museum I managed to borrow one of the other two from Beaulieu. It was like welcoming back an old friend and I wondered if GTM could ever aspire to the jewel in the Bass Museum’s vehicle fleet at that time, a 1917 Standard Sentinel steam waggon.

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Sentinel steam waggon at night

It was a strange coincidence that about a week after receiving the bottle car we were tipped off about a very early Sentinel that ‘belonged’ to Aberdeenshire and had languished in a barn near London for 30 years.

Research confirmed that this particular Sentinel was the one for us. It was built at Polmadie, Glasgow in 1914, works No 753, and registered by the firm V 3507. It was new to Sandy Runcie, a carrier in Inverurie who published a photograph of his new Sentinel as a Christmas card that year. Changing hands twice in the county, it worked finally as part of the McIntosh of Forgue fleet as late as 1942; spanning two world wars. It transpired that we had found the world’s oldest known surviving complete Sentinel and the sole surviving Scottish built example with a strong local provenance and wonderful local stories to tell.

A price of £40,000 was agreed and we began a fundraising appeal. The perfect fit to our Collecting Policy and encouragement to proceed from Glasgow Transport Museum oiled the wheels and both the Heritage Lottery Fund and NFA responded positively to our appeal for help. After a few short weeks the Sentinel joined the bottle car and my sense of déjà vu went critical. The only real problem in applying for funds was explaining that ‘waggon’ was not a mis-spelling. It was how Sentinel described their products!

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Sentinel volunteers outing

Mike Ward MBE
Grampian Transport Museum

The Battle of Britain in Lace

Lace panel depicting scenes from the Battle of Britain made by Dobsons Browne & Co Ltd, Nottingham, 1942-6, acquired by Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre in 2011 with an NFA grant of £1,125.

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The lace panel on display at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre. To give an idea of scale, the figure of a First World War pilot is 6 feet tall

This delicate lace panel was produced during the Second World War to commemorate the Battle of Britain and to pay tribute to all those involved. Sixteen feet high and 56 inches wide, the panel depicts scenes of the bombing of London and shows the types of aircraft which took part in the battle as well as the badges of the allied air forces and the floral emblems of Britain and the Commonwealth. The imagery is full of symbolism; a cottage and a castle signify that the war in the air brought suffering to both rich and poor and the design of the edging includes ripening ears of corn, representing the season during which the battle was fought.

The panel was designed and produced by Dobsons, Browne and Co Ltd of Nottingham, a famous manufacturer of fine lace. During the war their output had been diverted to war production of mosquito and camouflage netting; the idea of producing the panel was as a means of retaining the lace-making skills of their staff. It took two men fifteen months to draft the panel and 40,000 jacquard cards were needed to produce the master roll. Each panel took a week to produce and required 4,200 threads, 975 bobbins and 41,830 kilometres of Egyptian cotton.

Only thirty-six panels were produced, after which the cards were destroyed. Panels were presented to King George VI, Winston Churchill, military leaders and RAF units. Commonwealth countries whose airmen had fought in the RAF in 1940 also received panels. Thirty panels can still be accounted for, most of them in museum collections throughout the world. Why is it that the only museum in Scotland to have one is Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre, a small independent museum run entirely by volunteers? The panel was purchased from the widow of Richard Moss who had a small aviation museum in Kirriemuir. When he died much of his collection came to the Heritage Centre where it is displayed separately. Unfortunately Richard kept no written records so the history of this panel remains a mystery.  Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre is a highly appropriate home for the panel. During the Battle of Britain, Spitfires and Hurricanes from famous squadrons were scrambled from Montrose to intercept Luftwaffe bombers from Norway, and many pilots who fought in the battle got their wings at No 8 Flying Training School, RAF Montrose. This wonderful work of art is a fitting tribute to their service and sacrifice.

Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre would be happy to lend the panel for display in accredited museums.

Dr Dan Paton
Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre

From Outer Space to Museum Case: a Whiff of the Strange and Exotic

Two fragments of iron meteorite from Canyon Diablo Meteor Crater, Arizona, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 1983 with an NFA grant of £170.97; polished slice of meteorite from Kainsaz, Russia, 13 September 1937, acquired by the Hunterian in 2009 with an NFA grant of £164.77; fragment of Strathmore meteorite, 3 December 1917, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 2011 with an NFA grant of £2,000.

There is no question that meteorites have more than a whiff of the strange and exotic about them – and one or two types of meteorite actually do smell! As mankind explores further and further into space and discovers more and more about the origins of the Solar System and the Universe, so the interest in acquiring and studying meteorites has increased and this has led to an increasing awareness by the public.

In response to this, museums are re-evaluating, strengthening and expanding their meteorite collections and the support of the National Fund for Acquisitions is absolutely vital to achieving this goal. The increasing popularity of meteorites has led to a vigorous market in buying and selling these stones and this has resulted in an increase in their value. Some specific types of meteorites can fetch very high prices indeed and this can put them out of the range of most museum budgets. It has been my good fortune, as expert adviser to the NFA, to be involved in the two most recent acquisitions at auction of specimens by the Hunterian in Glasgow and Leisure and Culture Dundee.

Strathmore meteorite

Fragment of the Strathmore meteorite

The specimen bought by Dundee is of particular note as it was a small fragment of the Strathmore meteorite which fell in the Blairgowrie/Coupar Angus area in 1917 and is one of the best documented of the four known Scottish falls. At the time of writing, the fragment is on display at the Mills Observatory in Dundee along with other meteorites, including one on loan from National Museums Scotland. In supporting these bids I was keen to both promote the expansion of these meteorite collections and to see a wider public appreciation of these strange but wonderful objects.

Peter Davidson
Curator of Mineralogy and Expert Adviser to the NFA
National Museums Scotland

From Australasia – Antarctica (via Perth Museum and Art Gallery)

Free blown and sculpted hot glass, Cook’s Collection, 2010, by James Maskrey, acquired by Perth Museum and Art Gallery in 2012 with an NFA grant of £765.

In March 2011 the Scottish Glass Society and Perth & Kinross Council presented Trove, a contemporary glass exhibition showcasing the work of 25 emerging and established glass artists who were invited to create new artworks that revealed the hidden treasure in Perth Museum and Art Gallery’s reserve collection.

Following some research and a subsequent installation at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby I wanted to further research Cook’s voyages and was overjoyed to discover a first edition of Cook’s Journals in the Perth collection. Through further investigation and my continued relationship with the Captain Cook Memorial Museum I discovered that Cook developed quite an original approach to diet and as a result his crew rarely suffered from the effects of malnutrition, namely scurvy, the debilitating disease that was the curse of seafarers. He utilised locally sourced and seasonal foodstuffs on his travels as well as vitamin rich ‘anti-scorbutic’ concoctions he brought from home. Interestingly, he was also the first known person to brew beer in New Zealand.

'Cook’s Collection', Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Photograph by Paul Adair, Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council

‘Cook’s Collection’, Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Photograph by Paul Adair, Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth and Kinross Council

Cook’s Dietary Curiosities is a celebration of this, a menagerie of factual and imagined curiosities collected by Cook before and during his voyages.  All the work was made using traditional methods of glass blowing from the furnace. Jars, lids and contents were all free-blown and sculpted by hand using hot glass techniques. The labels were designed, printed and distressed, some sourcing original drawings by Joseph Banks, the botanist onboard Cook’s first voyage and utilising similar typeface of the period. Such is my love of the creative process that every part of the procedure was completed personally.

Detail of Spruce Beer label. Photograph by David Williams

Detail of Spruce Beer label. Photograph by David Williams

Subsequent pieces have concentrated on the factual with the odd red herring, the joy being that the viewer may find it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction. On closer scrutiny, however, they would discover that it is nearly all fact. Cook’s Collection now extends to nearly 20 individual pieces.

Part of 'Cook’s Collection'. Photograph by David Williams

Part of ‘Cook’s Collection’. Photograph by David Williams

This body of work has since found a completely new direction. Through further research I learned that Cook was the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle, discovering the South Sandwich Islands and mapping South Georgia. This gave rise to speculation about the existence of a ‘Great Southern continent’ (Antarctica).  Subsequent work over the past three years has evolved into a narrative of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. All these works (from Cook to Antarctica) aim to celebrate, capture and preserve. They have been shown widely in the UK, Europe, China and the USA and pieces from the series have since been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Crafts Council.

I feel privileged to have been selected for Trove and I’m indebted to the Scottish Glass Society and Perth Museum and Art Gallery for the opportunity. Much of the development and subsequent success of the work has been down to the original subject matter and research conducted for the exhibition and in the collection at Perth Museum and Art Gallery.

'The Worst Journey in the World' (Crafts Council Collection). Photograph by David Williams

‘The Worst Jouney in the World’ (Craft Council Collection) Photographs by David Williams

Left to Right: 'Furthest South'; 'South Polar Regions'; 'The Cairn'. Photograph by David Williams

Left to Right: ‘Furthest South’; ‘South Polar Regions’; ‘The Cairn’. Photograph by David Williams

James Maskrey
Glass Artist
Technical Demonstrator/Artist Facilitator
University of Sunderland

Cool and Collected at Aberdeen Art Gallery

Bronze on marble sculpture, Oval Form – Trezion, 1962-3, by Barbara Hepworth, painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, 2004, by Gavin Turk and hand blown glass, pink and blue neon artwork, For You, 2008, by Tracey Emin, acquired by Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums in 1965, 2004 and 2009 with NFA grants of £1,200, £20,000, and £13,500 respectively.

Challenging, exciting, dramatic, witty, fun or serious and above all superb quality – these are the hallmarks of contemporary fine art collecting at Aberdeen Art Gallery. Ever since its inception in 1885, the acquisition of contemporary art has been its lifeblood. This first came about through the generosity of one our earliest benefactors, Alexander Macdonald, who left a fund to buy works of art which were not more than 25 years old.

Subsequent curators built on this foundation and now – a regional art gallery perched on the edge of north east Scotland – we hold an outstanding collection of modern 20th century and contemporary art, with recent focus on sculpture, installation, conceptual art and new media. The National Fund for Acquisitions has long supported curatorial decisions to expand the collections in fresh and dynamic ways.

Painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, by Gavin Turk.  Artwork reproduced courtesy of the artist.

Painted bronze sculpture, Habitat, by Gavin Turk.
Artwork reproduced courtesy of the artist.

For some time now, the rather severe classical grandeur of Aberdeen Art Gallery’s Centre and Side Courts has provided the perfect foil to Post Modern works of art, for example, Gavin Turk’s bronze sleeping bag Habitat which appears both as a very realistic rumpled abode of a homeless person and an object of contemplation.  Another purchase, Tracey Emin’s pink and blue neon love heart sign For You possesses a vista from halfway up the street approaching the Art Gallery, drawing you in through the front door. The sign also reflects in the pool in front , created by Barbara Hepworth in the 1960s to hold her marvellous bronze piece Trezion.

Neon artwork, For You, by Tracey Emin and bronze sculpture, Oval Form - Trezion, by Barbara Hepworth. Artworks reproduced courtesy of Tracey Emin and Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Neon artwork, For You, by Tracey Emin and bronze sculpture, Oval Form – Trezion, by Barbara Hepworth. Artworks reproduced courtesy of Tracey Emin and Bowness, Hepworth Estate

The art of these two remarkable women works so well together proclaiming loudly to anyone walking in that this gallery is about great art – modern and contemporary.

Olga Ferguson
Curator (Fine Art)
Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums

Dirt and Deity

Two oil paintings, The Burns Monument on the Banks of the Doon by Patrick C Auld, 1839, and Tam Pursu’d by the Witches, 1870, by James Drummond acquired by the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in 1985 and 1983 with NFA grants of £1,500 and £600 respectively.

Thanks to the National Fund for Acquisitions, we have been able to secure many objects for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum – from original manuscripts to contemporary art. They cover many aspects of Burns’s colourful life and legacy – from publishing success to personal scandal.

Burns Monument on the Banks of the Doon by Patrick C Auld

Oil painting, The Burns Monument on the Banks of the Doon, 1839, by Patrick C Auld

However, there is one rather under-stated landscape worth a mention. Burns Monument on the Banks of the Doon by Patrick C Auld was painted in 1839 but captures everything that today makes the museum such a magical place. In the background is Burns Cottage – already well-established as a place of pilgrimage (the world’s first Burns Supper was held there in 1801); poking out of the trees is the ruined bell-tower of Alloway’s Auld haunted Kirk where Tam o’ Shanter famously disturbed a satanic orgy; in the foreground, the Brig o’ Doon, over which Tam raced for dear life to escape Alloway’s witches (depicted in another NFA-funded acquisition by James Drummond); centre-stage Burns Monument, opened in 1823 with an exhibition of Burns manuscripts and related artworks – making it one of the world’s earliest literary museums.

Oil painting, 'Tam Pursu'd by the Witches' by James Drummond

Oil painting, ‘Tam Pursu’d by the Witches’ by James Drummond

In this simple painting, the enduring appeal of the museum is encapsulated. What is now the most extensive and important collection of Burns manuscripts does not rest in an academic institution or metropolitan archive but in the heart of the countryside that shaped it. A visit to the museum should never be a cold and intellectual experience. It should be immersive – just as Keats wrote, describing his 1814 visit to Burns Cottage:

Yet can I stamp my foot upon thy floor,
Yet can I ope thy window-sash to find
The meadow thou hast tramped o’er and o’er,–
Yet can I think of thee till thought is blind,–
Yet can I gulp a bumper to thy name,–
O smile among the shades, for this is fame!

Nat Edwards
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

A Small Island’s Part in a Big Story

Bronze cannon from the wreck of the Spanish Armada ship El Gran Grifón, acquired by Shetland Museum and Archives in 1972 with an NFA grant of £1,500. 

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Bronze cannon from the wreck of the El Gran Grifón on display in Shetland Museum

The first artefact secured by Shetland Museum with help from the National Fund for Acquisitions shows how a small island played an unexpected part in one of the most important events in British history – Spain’s attempt to invade England in 1588. The object is a bronze cannon, saved for Shetland with an NFA grant in 1972.

The Spanish invasion fleet was the most powerful armed force ever seen, with 130 ships carrying 30,000 men. Plans went badly wrong, however, when the Armada came to battle in August. The ships were slower and harder to steer, and gales wrecked the battle plan.  Admiral Howard’s English fleet won a famous victory and the defeated Spanish were driven up the North Sea. One hundred ships rounded Scotland trying get southwards.

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Bronze cannon on gun carriage built by the Royal Armouries

El Gran Grifón, with a crew of 280, was one of 23 supply hulks that carried stores for the invasion. Off the Isle of Wight she took a broadside from Sir Francis Drake’s Revenge and after seventy hits and dozens killed, the crew made emergency repairs. A crewman onboard the Grifón wrote: “When we thought all hope was gone, we sighted an island ahead of us. This was Fair Isle, where we arrived at sunset, much consoled, though we saw we should still have to suffer. But anything was better than drinking salt water.” Islanders provided shelter but food was scarce and there was little to share. Fifty men perished over the next two months before they were able to get to Fife then home to Spain.

The wreck of the Grifón was discovered by a St Andrews University team in 1970 and this cannon was recovered. Two years ago we had a gun carriage constructed for the cannon by the Royal Armouries in Leeds, Britain’s foremost specialists in historic gunnery, and iron fittings were hand-crafted by local blacksmith Bruce Wilcock.  Appropriately, the metal Bruce used was salvaged from an anchor dredged from the seabed!

Dr Ian Tait
Shetland Museum and Archives