My Research  

St. Giles

O. K. I've dealt with two of the family traditions, now for number two of the first lot of Traditions.

To expand - the tradition is that John Lawson was an artist, sculptor and illustrator and that he played some part in renewal of the stained glass windows in St Giles Cathedral. Further to that, Joyce's grandfather and my cousin Sue were each taken to St Giles and shown a window which he designed/built and which he supposedly signed JL. Alas the exact location of the window has been forgotten.

My niece had traced my great, great, grandfather, John Lawson, an artist from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, via Edinburgh to London where his daughter, Louise Martha married my great grandfather Adam. She knew of the St Giles rumour but that was all.
My cousin Kaye had written to St Giles Cathedral asking about John Lawson and the stained glass window. The answer she got left a lot to be desired.

' Armed with the date of John Lawson's marriage, I went to Register House, and discovered that he indeed married to Martha Lawson (sic) on 13 July 1858 at 5 Lutton Place, Edinburgh, according to the forms of the Independents - the present church in Lutton Place is St Peter's and is episcopalian.  John was 21 and Martha was 19, and they were both from Kirkcaldy, Fife.  John's father was a weaver, and Martha's was a labourer (sic).  The officiating minister was William Cox, and the witnesses were Thomas Smith and Helen E Cove.

Next, I went to the College of Art Library, where I was given two books - one was the Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture by Peter J.M.McEwan, and the second was The Royal Scottish Academy Exhibitor 1826-1990

In both books, I found two John Lawsons, one who exhibited between 1857 and 1863 and lived in Dunfermline and Edinburgh, and was a painter in oil of portraits and domestic animals.  The second John Lawson exhibited between 1889 and 1906 and it is this artist who contributed to Golden Thoughts from Golden Fountains.  The dictionary gives the date of  his death - died at Curmunnock, 9 September 1909.

So back I went to Register House, and looked at this John Lawson's death certificate, and found that he died on 9 August 1909 - not September as given in the dictionary - his waife was called Mary Aitken, and his father as Charles Randolph Lawson.  He was 48.  The other John Lawson, aged 21 in 1858 and marriued to Martha Carragher, would have been 62 if he died in 1909.  We looked at all the John Lawsons who died in 1909, and none was an artist apart from the one involved in illustrating Golden Thoughts.

As far as I can determine there is only ONE John Lawson!!!

Now if I'm wrong I apologise to the person who wrote the above but I'm sorry it's garbage. The facts are mostly correct but the conclusions erroneous and the research incomplete, although at least one of the mistakes has been made by several people. I must admit that having full internet access may have given me an advantage here.

Not knowing where to start with this one I decided to retrace John Lawson with the info I had.

Looking at John Lawsons born in Dunfermline there were several about the right time so the first positive info we had was his marriage to Martha in 1858.

Date : 13 Jul 1858
District : Newington and Grange, Edinburgh
Reference : 685/02 - 40 - 91
Place : 5, Lutton Place, Edinburgh
Banns : Independants
Husband : John Lawson
Status :
Occupation : Artist
Address : Kirkcaldy
Age : 21
Husband's Father : Rbt. Lawson
Father's Occupation : Weaver
Husband's Mother :
Wife : Martha Carragher
Status :
Occupation :
Address : Kirkcaldy
Age : 19
Wife's Father : James Carragher
Father's Occupation : Labourer
Wife's Mother :  
Performed by : William L Cox, Minister
Witnessed by : Tho Smith
    Helen B Grove
Registered : 17 Jul 1858
Place : Edinburgh
Registrar : George Scott, Interim Registrar
Notes :
Reference : 685/02, Marriages, 1858, Pg.40, Ref.91
Extracted by Niall R Scott on 24 Dec 2010

A couple of puzzles here, why did they get married in Edinburgh and why did they both give an incorrect residence of Kirkcaldy when they came from Dunfermline ?
The answer possibly lies in the birth of their first daughter Elizabeth Ann in Dec 1858, less that three months later !!!!

Although Elizabeth and second daughter Louise, b 1860, were born in Dunfermline, in the 1861 census, the family is resident at 76, Rosemount Buildings, Edinburgh and John's profession is Glass Stainer's Designer.
In 1871 the family is still in Edinburgh, living at 32, Upper Gray Street and John's occupation is given as Artist on Hand, Designer for Stained Glass.
In 1881 the family has moved to London.

OK. so John was in Edinburgh from 1861 to the mid 70's (they were in London in 1880 as Louise and Edwin marry that year), what about St. Giles?

St Giles was renovated during the 19th century when 'New stained glass was put into the windows.'

So far, so good.

Where to go from here? This was in Oct/Nov 2009 when I was still very new to research so the logical approach was to go to Aberdeen Art Gallery. My enquiry was obviously not the usual type of enquiry and took the commissionaire aback when I asked him for help. However he rallied, conferred with a colleague and then explained that the person to see would be the librarian but unfortunately she was off ill and it wasn't known when she would return, he would see what he could do. He got on the phone and soon a lady appeared to find out if she could help. After explaining my problem she took me up to the library and showed me the relevant Royal Scottish Academy (of Art) catalogue which lists all the artist whose paintings the R.S.A. have exhibited and there was my John Lawson, another John Lawson and a J.Lawson. Now this is where inexperience showed, I didn't take sufficient notes of the info I was seeing and worse still I didn't note either the correct name of the book or the name of the person who helped me, bad boy!!

The information I did note was as follows

Lawson, John
   Appin Cres, Dunfermline, Fife
1857 - 165*   Spring and Summer
1858 - 209    Portrait of a horse and dogs
        - 479 Miss Amelia Paton
   Queen Anne Pl, Dunfermline
1859 - 528    Pity the pennyless
   76 Rosemount, Edinburgh
1861 - 225    The Rev Wm Bruce
   31 Dean St, Edinburgh
1863 - 724    Female head - sketch

Lawson, John 1869-1909
all this artist's addresses are from the West coast of Scotland and he was prolific

Lawson, J
Exhibited from Edinburgh between1897 - 1902

This clearly shows that there were three different Lawson, Js.

However there is no mention of stained glass anywhere so next on the list was St Giles Cathedral. A quick look at their web site disclosed that they had a Visitor Services Manager so off went an email.

I was very surprised to get a reply from Veronica Kallus the next day. She enclosed three documents about St. Giles and the stained glass windows. She also gave some details of the work that was carried out in the 19th century. Unfortunately none of it of any real help, or so I thought. She had even had nipped into St.Giles to have a look at the early windows, without locating anything.

But Veronika had actually gone further and contacted the company who recently completed the renovation of the windows of St Giles, Stained Glass Design Partnership. She duly received and passed on to me the reply from the author of one of the documents already received, Susan Bradbury who is a partner in Stained Glass Design Partnership. Susan stated that her company had removed a lot of the stained glass windows, stripped, cleaned and then examined them. None of them showed any signatures. Damn!!

Somewhat disheartened I passed this information back to Joyce. She wrote back remarking on something I'd missed. In the document written by Susan Bradbury, Noel Paton was mentioned as being associated with James Bannerman whose company created the early phase windows in the 19th century. John Lawson and his wife Martha named their son Noel Paton Lawson, a coincidence, I don't think so. But wait a minute Paton? In 1858 John showed a picture of a Miss Amelia Paton.

Further research reveals that Noel and Amelia were brother and sister and came from Dunfermline! Noel Paton, later Sir Noel Paton, was a very well respected artist of his time and given that it is acknowledged that James Ballantine wasn't a very good artist, we can surmise that Noel was brought in the uplift the standard. Now the jump in the dark - could Noel have brought in John to translate his artwork to glass, or am I just guilty of wishful thinking ?

Next I went back to the 'researcher's' letter. She mentions the book 'Golden Thoughts from Golden Fountains' as being attributed to the second John Lawson (the Glasgow one). I hadn't heard about this but on enquiry Joyce said that she possesed a copy of it. She wrote 'It is signed by Adam Rankine  29th Jul 1917 and states The drawings at pages 15, 123,171, 215, 239 are by your Grandmother's Father, John Lawson, one of the finest draughtsmen of his day.'.
Even allowing for family pride John was Adam's father-in-law so one must give some credence to this statement.

A quick look on the internet and I found an except from English Illustration : The Sixties 1855-1870 by Gleeson White

'Golden Thoughts from Golden Fountains (Warne, 1867) is another profusely illustrated anthology, on the lines of those that preceded it. The first edition was printed in sepia throughout, but the later editions printed in black do more justice to the blocks. In it we find seventy-three excellent designs by A. Boyd Houghton, G.J. Pinwell, J. Lawson, W.P.Burton, G.Dalzeil, T.Dalziel and others; if the book, as a whole, cannot be placed'

So here we see that a J. Lawson did illustrations for this work in 1867. This cannot be J. lawson #2 as he wasn't born until 29 May 1861 and I don't think he did them at age 5 or 6!!. I haven't been able to trace #3 but the dates look too late.

Nothing more happened until I made my first trip to Edinburgh and boy was that some week!! Anyway one of the visits I made was to the R.S.A. in Princess Street. Although they couldn't help me they put me through to someone who took note of my request and promised to help. Later I got an email from Sandy Wood, Assistant Curator, The Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture and he enclosed photos of the relevant pages from the RSA catalogue and the Dictionary of Scottish Artists and Architects.

The latter clearly attributes Golden Thoughts and many other illustrations to #2, 18 of the books mentioned were published before #2 was 10 years old!!!

I haven't got to bottom of this one yet, I need more ammunition before I try and get changes made to the Dictionary of Scottish Artists and Architects which is the current reference book on artists.