The McKendrick soldier portraits: An exciting acquisition for Scotland’s youngest regimental museum

Three paintings by Tom McKendrick, acquired by the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2018 with an NFA grant of £3,000

It’s always a pleasure adding new objects to the collection but the recent acquisition of three portraits by Scottish artist Tom McKendrick, thanks to generous grants from the National Fund for Acquisitions and the Art Fund, was a particularly exciting one for the Museum of The Royal Regiment of Scotland. As Scotland’s youngest regimental museum, only established in 2013, we have a small but constantly expanding collection that reflects the experiences and activities of the Regiment since its formation in 2006.

Warrant Officer 2nd Class Terry Lowe

Warrant Officer 2nd Class Terry Lowe, 2013, by Tom McKendrick © Tom McKendrick

One of the difficulties in collecting objects to a modern and very active regiment is the lack of opportunities to acquire items of real quality. Silver, paintings, medals and many of the other impressive trappings of regimental life are constantly in use and consequently rarely parted with. We were therefore absolutely thrilled when an opportunity arose to acquire three portraits by the wonderfully talented Scottish artist Tom McKendrick.

Colour Sergeant Craig Sharp MC

Colour Sergeant Craig Sharp MC, 2014, by Tom McKendrick © Tom McKendrick

The paintings feature Warrant Officer 2nd Class Terry Lowe, Colour Sergeant Craig Sharp MC and Corporal James Smith respectively and are all from McKendrick’s Soldiers series. In 2012 the artist felt he would like to mark the approaching centenary of the First World War and in order to do that decided to paint one hundred portraits of men and women who have served their country.

Corporal James Smith

Corporal James Smith, 2012, by Tom McKendrick © Tom McKendrick

The three portraits are all striking aesthetically and each soldier featured has an interesting associated story. As a result, the portraits not only have a strong emotional resonance but also touch upon a variety of themes such as pride, identity, injury (both physical and mental), courage, loss and comradeship. The portraits along with other work from Tom’s Soldiers series will be going on display at Clydebank Museum in November of this year and it’s hoped they can be loaned to other Scottish museums and galleries in 2019 and beyond.

Desmond Thomas
Curator
Museum of the Royal Regiment of Scotland

www.theroyalregimentofscotland.org

To hear the soldiers talk about their experiences and give their opinions on their portraits, please click on the links below.

James Smith Video Interview

Terry Lowe Video Interview

Craig Sharp MC Video Interview

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The Dissected Hayfield

Toy ‘Dissected Hayfield’ acquired by City of Edinburgh Council in 1975 with an NFA grant of £12.

Looking through a list of objects acquired by the Museum of Childhood with NFA support, I was intrigued to see one object described as a ‘Dissected Hayfield’ and wondered what it could be. I checked its location and found it was stored with Construction Toys, which piqued my interest even more. Early jigsaw puzzles were sometimes called dissected puzzles but we normally associate construction toys with Lego, Meccano, etc.

Wooden box containing the Dissected Hayfield

Wooden box containing the Dissected Hayfield

I found this simply made and decorated wooden box in the store and had a look inside. It contained a large number of painted tin figures and printed paper scenery, all on little stands so that you could set them up and arrange them as you wish. The printed illustrations on the paper, such as the haystack, were reminiscent of paper theatres and their scenery and, judging from the women’s dresses and soldier’s uniform, the toy was made around 1820-30, when toy theatres were also popular. This means the toy predated, or was contemporary with, the earliest dissected jigsaw puzzles which makes it a rare item marking an interesting development in children’s toys.

Figures raking hay by a haystack

Figures raking hay by a haystack

This toy would almost certainly have been made in Germany which began exporting toys in the late 18th century and was the leading manufacturer of mass produced toys, often cheaply made from tin and wood, until the First World War. By 1907 Germany was using so much tin in its toy manufacturing that it had to import from South Wales and elsewhere to satisfy demand.

Figures raking hay with scenery behind

Figures raking hay with scenery behind

Children’s toys often replicate what is in the world at a given time, reflecting technology, fashion, war, occupations, etc. In this toy you can see what a woman, a soldier and a farm worker would have worn at this period, and the tools the farm workers would have used. Even the shape of the haystacks can give us an idea of when the toy was made.

Scenery depicting a soldier in uniform

Scenery depicting a soldier in uniform

Was the toy instructional? Or purely intended for pleasure and passing leisure time? Either way it would not have been a toy for poorer children, who had to make do with homemade toys, but would have been intended for the nursery of a wealthy family with disposable income to spend on such luxuries. Many of the poorer children in rural areas would have worked alongside their families in real hayfields.

 

Lyn Wall
Curator
Museum of Childhood

http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk