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5 Aug 2022

Love Scotland podcast

A rock garden is built on a gentle slope, with several terraced paved areas. Small plants are dotted all across the slope, many in flower. A bench sits beside a dark green hedge at the top of the slope.
The rock garden in Branklyn Garden
Hosted by former BBC Reporting Scotland anchor Jackie Bird, each episode tells some of the thrilling stories behind the Trust’s people and places, showcasing how everything we do is for the love of Scotland.

Season three

100 years of Branklyn Garden

This week, our host Jackie Bird heads out to Branklyn Garden to join in with its 100th birthday celebrations. The garden was created by Dorothy and John Renton, who converted what was then a hillside orchard into a colourful, tropical haven, just a short walk from Perth’s city centre.

John’s design genius and Dorothy’s green-fingered talents turned this patch into what was described by the Regius, or Royal, Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as the ‘finest two acres of private garden in the country’.

54 years ago, the National Trust for Scotland took over the care of the garden, ensuring that not only would the Rentons’ principles be maintained for future generations, but that adaptations would be made to keep the flowers as fresh as ever before.

So, how does head gardener and property manager Jim Jermyn keep the garden fresh? What are the challenges of caring for a heritage garden? And what will the future hold for Branklyn?

Find out more about Branklyn’s Centenary Appeal

A green title card. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card. The text reads: The Love Scotland podcast. 100 years of Branklyn Garden. Jackie looks to the past and future with head gardener Jim Jermyn.

Season 3 Episode 11

Inside Canna House

In this episode of Love Scotland, our host Jackie Bird takes a look – and a listen – through one of Scotland’s most precious cultural archives: the Canna House collection.

Gathered by Canna’s former residents John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw in the mid 20th century, the archive bulges with an array of Gaelic and Celtic songs, stories, and poetry. When united with Margaret’s not insignificant photography portfolio and the time capsule of household items, furnishings, furniture, and diaries, they tell the story of not just Canna, but of the Hebrides, Gaelic-speaking communities, and Scotland itself.

Canna House is itself about to get a facelift which guarantees better and more open access to the archives for the future. While that work gets underway, Jackie finds out what lies inside the archives. What can be learned from them? How much is really stored there? And what memories have been rediscovered by Fiona Mackenzie, Canna House manager and archivist, as she prepares for the renovation project?

A pink title card. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card. The text reads: The Love Scotland podcast. Inside Canna House. Jackie dives into the Gaelic archives to find out more about Canna's cultural collection.

Season 3 Episode 10

Music and migration in Georgian Edinburgh: the life of composer and musician Felix Yaniewicz

In this episode, our host Jackie Bird heads to the Georgian House in Edinburgh, where the finishing touches are being made to a new exhibition about the life and legacy of a man who helped to shape the city’s musical landscape.

Felix Yaniewicz’s name may not be familiar to many, but the Polish-Lithuanian composer and musician was a key player in the Georgian concert halls. Having fled revolution and political upheaval in his homeland of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, he arrived in Britain as a young musician determined to prove himself.

Now, his great-great-great-great granddaughter is telling the story of his life, thanks to a chance encounter with one of his square pianos. Who really was Felix Yaniewicz? What was life like for him in Britain? And what is the legacy of his music today?

Find out more about the exhibition

Find out more about the December concert series

A green title card. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card. The text reads: The Love Scotland podcast. Music and migration in Georgian Edinburgh: The life of composer and musician Felix Yaniewicz, as told by his descendant.

Season 3 Episode 9

Mountain birds

Nicknamed mountain blackbirds, ring ouzels have become a rare sight in Scotland. The migrating species has seen a huge population decline in recent decades, mostly due to habitat loss. However, Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve is an outpost for population recovery, thanks to long-term conservation efforts.

Our host Jackie Bird heads to Ben Lawers to meet Andrew Warwick, the site’s ranger, in search of these elusive mountain birds. As they scan the skies for ouzels, they discuss the pioneering conservation work that has helped to reverse habitat decline and offers new hope for the future.

Meanwhile, we also join Andrew Painting at Mar Lodge Estate to search for another vulnerable species, the dotterel, amongst other mountain birds.

A purple title card. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card. The text reads: The Love Scotland podcast. Mountain birds: In search of some of Scotland's rarest bird species, with two of the National Trust for Scotland's rangers.

Season 3 Episode 8

Transcript

Four voices: male voiceover [MV]; Jackie Bird [JB]; Andrew Warwick [AW]; Andrew Painting [AP]

[MV]
Love Scotland – brought to you by the National Trust for Scotland.

[JB]
Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Love Scotland, from the majestic surroundings of the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve in Perthshire. Ben Lawers is the highest peak in a range that includes six further Munros and these rich mountainsides are home to the best collection of rare mountain plants in the whole of Britain.

But today I’m not plant-hunting but bird watching! I’m looking for one of Ben Lawers’ summer visitors: the ring ouzel. These mountain blackbirds, as they’re sometimes known, are commonplace in Scandinavia but Britain’s visiting population has diminished in recent decades – and that’s mostly due to habitat loss, as we’ll discuss later. However, the National Trust for Scotland is playing a pivotal role in revitalising future generations of ring ouzels. Joining me today on the slopes of the nature reserve is Andrew Warwick, the ranger at Ben Lawers and the perfect guide to help me do a spot of bird watching.

Hello, Andrew.

[AW]
Hi there.

[JB]
The car park here is filling up – it’s a lovely day, it’s filling up pretty rapidly. I take it the ouzels don’t hang around here?

[AW]
No, that’s right. It’s quite busy here but I hope you can appreciate the developing mountain woodland around this car park, which we put here in 2012. It’s developing all around here, but the ring ouzels are found a bit higher up than here. The car park’s at 1,500ft above sea level, which is a nice start if you’re climbing Ben Lawers – but if we’re looking for ring ouzels, we’re going to have to go higher up into some steep, cliffy ground.

[JB]
So, we’ve got your trusty Landy here that looks like it’s put in a few miles. Shall we go?

[AW]
Yes, sure. Right, it’s not all central locking … it’s actually fairly empty for once! [laughs]

[JB]
Shall I just climb in as well?

[AW]
Yeah … you might need to slam that door a few times … didn’t do that when it was brand new …

[JB]
It looks like it could drive up there itself!

So, you were up here yesterday – you were directing helicopters. What was happening?

[AW]
I had been loading all the bags for the Mountain Footpath Team. The Trust has a Mountain Footpath Team that operates around several mountain properties, and they’re doing the maintenance on the high-altitude sections of all the Trust’s paths. We’ve got 36km of footpath on Ben Lawers alone. And with the high visitor numbers we get, we get a lot of erosion which is exacerbated by the bad weather – high wind and rainfall. That’s made worse by the short growing season, which stops plants recovering on to bare ground – so the erosion can happen faster than any natural repair.

[JB]
So, what were the rocks doing? The rocks weren’t making the footpaths – were they trying to keep people off the areas you’re trying to protect?

[AW]
That’s right. Quite a lot of footpath work is actually to do with blocking short-cut routes. A lot of people are coming to the hills now, and many of them are quite inexperienced hill walkers that have discovered hill walking since the COVID pandemic and are yet to be inducted in the proper ways of the hills.

[JB]
It’s really interesting because I didn’t know whether the renewed interest in the countryside was something that would diminish. But it seems not.

[AW]
No, no. I think there are a lot of people who have discovered the beauty of their own country and are keen to get out there and explore it more.

[JB]

And as for you, overall, it can cause some problems, but it must be a good thing?

[AW]
Yeah, we’ve had an open-access policy for access to all parts of the hill at Ben Lawers since the Trust bought the property in 1950. That’s been one of the underlying principles: to allow open access for hill walkers.

Ok, I think this’ll do here. We’ll park here. I’ll just grab the binoculars should we see any ring ouzels.

[JB]
What do you mean ‘should we see’? I want my money back if we don’t see!

[AW]
I’m sure we’ll see something of interest even if we don’t see the ring ouzels.

[JB]
So, let me get my bearings – where are we now, Andrew?

[AW]
We’re at the north end of Creag an Lochain, which is one of the big areas that we fenced off back in 2000 for mountain woodland restoration work.

[JB]
It’s absolutely beautiful; it’s so tranquil. There’s the sound of a babbling brook and some birdsong … and a steam roller! A steam roller, Andrew!

[AW]
Yes, the peace and quiet has been somewhat compromised by the roadworks that are going on at this point.

[JB]
Nothing says the Scottish Highlands like a steam roller! Hopefully they won’t frighten the ouzels … Seriously, will this sort of disruption affect them at all?

[AW]
I shouldn’t imagine so, no. Maybe as we gain height here, we’ll escape the noise.

[JB]
Where are we now in terms of the habitat?

[AW]
Well, we’re still quite low down. This exclosure encompasses the area of what we would call the natural tree line, which is a sort of notional height in this part of Scotland of around 600m. We’re just slightly below that at the moment. We’re walking out of the area where big trees become wee, scrubby trees – and that’s into the montane scrub.

[JB]
And what is montane scrub?

[AW]
Montane scrub is the rarest type of woodland in Britain. It would have been widespread in post-glacial times across most of Scotland, and then it retreated up the hills. It’s made up of several species of willows – there’s about seven species, all of which occur at Ben Lawers – and juniper and various other trees such as aspen and things as well.

[JB]
Before we start to think about the ouzels, give me their back story. Geographically, what’s their year like?

[AW]
They are a migratory species, so they’re summer visitors. They spend much of the winter in North Africa and quite of lot of them in south Europe, in places like the Atlas Mountains. That population migrates north in March/April to places such as this in Scotland but also right across Scandinavia and into parts of North Russia as well.

[JB]
And is it the case though that in places like Scandinavia, they’re not having a problem with their bird numbers?

[AW]
No, that’s right. Ring ouzels are actually a Red-listed bird species, so they’re protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 due to population decline. In the last 40 years there’s been around a 43% decline in ring ouzels.

[JB]
Can you put that in figures in terms of what we used to have and what we have now?

[AW]
Well, the two national surveys – there was in 1999 and another one in 2012 – it dropped from something like 6,800 pairs to 5,300, so almost a 30% decline just in those 12 years alone.

[JB]
Why the decline? What are the reasons? I suspect this could be a long answer.

[AW]
I think the main reason for the decline is habitat loss. Now, that habitat loss may be foraging or nesting habitat, depending on what it is. But the most obvious one, that the distribution data of the species suggests, is things like upland forestry in inappropriate areas.

[JB]
Give me the nuts and bolts of that – because it’s often easy to say it’s ‘inappropriate forestry’, but how does that actually work? How does it impact?

[AW]
It’s the loss of foraging and nesting habitats, so those are slightly different things. Nesting habitat for ring ouzels – they like long, tall vegetation with a bit of cover to nest in, particularly on steep ground like cliffs that offer a bit of protection from predators. So, cliffs are the main sites that you’ll find them nesting, and that’s what we’re hoping to find today.

Foraging habitats are slightly different – they’re eating a variety of food. They’re omnivorous, so early in the season especially they’re eating beetles and worms and grubs that they find; and then later in the season, as the berries come out, they’ll move on to berries, particularly juniper berries, which they have a liking for.

Ben Lawers is most special for its arctic and alpine plants, which are plants that grow across the summits and ungrazed cliff ledges, high up. And it’s the combination of lime-rich rock at high altitude that makes this whole mountain range so special.

[JB]
And what about down here, at lower levels?

[AW]
These lower areas were formerly intensively grazed by sheep, which promotes a species-poor grassland. The Trust has been trying to reverse that by restoring mountain woodland here, which would have existed here in the past. The mountain woodland would have been a birch, rowan and hazel woodland, and that would have faded out around about 600m altitude, and then moved into the next zone which is montane scrub, which is what we can see above us – this large area of willows. These are low-growing willows. There’s around about 7 species associated with montane scrub habitat, all of which are present at Ben Lawers.

[JB]
What’s this plant here?

[AW]
These are all what we call dwarf shrub heath plants. So here we’ve got blaeberry. There’s also cowberry and crowberry growing in amongst the heather here as well. These are good berry-producing plants. Incidentally, very good foraging food for ring ouzels later in the year when these berries come out.

Just up here, you’ll see some of the procumbent juniper. There’s no berries forming on that yet, but this whole slope up here is studded with juniper. There’s more over here.

[JB]
How much of an organisational challenge is it to plant juniper? Are you out here with saplings or seeds? How do you do it?

[AW]
We’ve planted hundreds of thousands of trees across Ben Lawers over the past 30 years. Some of them we’ve grown in our own tree nursery; larger jobs, we’ve used commercial nurseries. The juniper we’ve done entirely ourselves.

[JB]
Do they survive? What’s your hit rate?

[AW]
That depends largely on the weather and things like voles. Vole predation in the early stages can be a big issue. So, anything between 50-80% survival of the trees that we’ve planted.

[JB]
So, we’ve got the juniper and the blaeberry … you know what we haven’t seen?!

[AW]
Ring ouzels.

[JB]
[laughs] How are we going to do that?

[AW]
We have to go higher for that, I’m afraid.

[JB]
Alright, well while we do that, we’re going to swap our ring ouzels for a moment and try and spot some dotterels, another bird species that’s under threat. And for that, we’ll leave Ben Lawers and head to another National Trust for Scotland property: the vast and spectacular Mar Lodge Estate.

[AP]
Hi there. I’m Andrew Painting, the Conservation Officer at Mar Lodge Estate. It’s breeding season and it’s quite a nice day I suppose, so I’m just packing up my kit and getting ready for a day on the high tops. We’ll be doing some surveys for some of the waders that live up on the high mountains – things like dunlin, golden plover and, if we’re lucky, maybe a dotterel.

I’m just looking at a big pile of stuff on the floor and making sure I’ve got everything – maps, compasses, torches and all the rest of it. But most importantly, probably, my lunch! Always nice to take plenty of food out and about.

At Mar Lodge we’ve got 15 Munros and we’ve got a huge amount of high ground – and that’s really important for all sorts of mountain-specialist species. We want to keep an eye on them and make sure they’re doing ok for a few reasons. It’s a fairly undisturbed habitat up there. There’s some really nice places for some of these really rare species, but we are concerned about things like climate change. So, it’s really important that we keep a close eye on what’s going on up in the hills, to make sure we’ve got as good an idea as possible about what impact climate change might have in the future and is already happening now.

Once you get up really high, onto these proper ridges, the vegetation changes quite noticeably. Absolutely beautiful view, although there seems to be a big old rainstorm going on in the proper Cairngorms.

Dotterel are really beautiful birds – they’re one of my favourites to work with. They’re one of Scotland’s rarest species; there’s maybe as few as 400 pairs left in Scotland now. They’ve declined markedly in the last 30 years or so for all sorts of reasons, climate change probably being the main one. We really want to know what they’re doing here and keep as close an eye on them as possible. Every year we do a big survey for dotterel involving 10 or so people up in the high Cairngorms. But today I was really interested to see whether I could find any at a slightly lower altitude.

It's an absolutely beautiful call to hear on a day like this. The golden plover piping away sounds a little bit like a rusty bike wheel or something, but it is completely evocative of this massive landscape. You can see for miles in all directions today – that’s Beinn a’ Ghlò to the south, Ben Macdui to the north and I can see right out to the Monadhliath in the west. Lochnagar is over there in the east. And I’ve got the place to myself today – it’s absolutely fantastic. Just me and the golden plovers.

I’m not sure … you might be able to hear this. There’s quite an excitable pair of golden plovers … if the wind calms down a bit.

That’s me at the high point of my little dander today. No dotterel so far; an incredible view though. I can see the whole of the vastness of the Mar Lodge Estate, all 30,000 hectares of it from here – stretching from Beinn a’ Bhùird, Ben Macdui’s covered in cloud (like it normally is), right the way round to An Sgarsoch and Carn Aosda … phenomenal views.

I have seen a few more golden plover, so I’m really happy with the amount of golden plover that are up in these high mountain tops. They seem to be doing really well. I’ll keep an eye out for some dotterel on the way down, but if nothing else it was all a nice excuse for a walk.

Well, that’s me back. Quite a long day but a fabulous day out on the hill. Really enjoyable and loved seeing all the golden plover. It’s really important for us to know what’s happening with these quite fragile bird populations, particularly as climate change really begins to bite in our mountains.

If you’d like to hear more about our work at Mar Lodge, including with species like dotterel and dunlin, I would urge you to read my book: Regeneration: The rescue of a wild land. It was longlisted for the Highland Book Prize and you can find it on the National Trust for Scotland website.

[JB]
Counting dotterels in Aberdeenshire. And while you’re thumbing through your bird book to familiarise yourself with these rare little creatures, we’ll be back with more from Ben Lawers in just a moment.

[MV]
From coastlines to castles, wildlife to wilderness, when you become a member of the National Trust for Scotland you can enjoy the very best of what Scotland has to offer.

But you can help protect it too.

The National Trust for Scotland is Scotland’s largest conservation charity. By becoming a member, you join thousands of others who are all playing their part to safeguard the places we hold dear for future generations.

Find out more about how to join and more about the Trust’s amazing stories, places and people online. Just search National Trust for Scotland.

[JB]
Welcome back to Love Scotland, where we’ve climbed about 50m up quite a steep hillside at Ben Lawers. I’m with Andrew Warwick, the ranger here, who’s got his binoculars out … and I think that means you think you’ve spotted a ring ouzel?

[AW]
Yeah! Usually, you hear them before you see them but …

[JB]
What do they sound like?

[AW]
They have three sharp blasts to their call, and the tone of their call is not dissimilar to the blackbird, which of course they look like.

[JB]
What do they look like? All I know is they are black and they’ve got a sort of white necklace.

[AW]
That’s right. Their Latin name torquatus comes from the word ‘torque’ which is a necklace. Basically, they just look like a blackbird but slightly smaller with a longer tail. The striking white chest that the male has is the defining thing, certainly from a distance. Just up on that ledge there is where we saw them. There’s a raven moved in here that you might be able to hear calling now. I hope …

[JB]
Do you think that might frighten them away?

[AW]
I hope it doesn’t scare them … possibly, yeah.

[JB]
How many breeding pairs do you have here?

[AW]
We have about 10 across the property – probably 3, possibly 4 of them, are in this exclosure. We do see them in smaller exclosures where we’ve got montane scrub in other parts of the property. But they’re quite happy on the cliffs as well on Ben Lawers, which are unfenced. There’s still good foraging habitat for them there.

[JB]
I’m struck by the difference in the scenery. We’ve climbed up a slope; there’s water in between us; there’s the loch in between us and the other side. There is another slope, and the difference is extraordinary because that’s completely barren. And this is lush with plants and montane scrub, and moss and flowers – is this purely the result of what the National Trust for Scotland has been doing?

[AW]
Yes. I mean, it’s a spectacular site anyway but the vegetation you see here was pretty much confined to the cliffs that are above us and on cliff ledges. However, that did provide a big reservoir of seed source, and really the most stunning change in here is the tall flowering plants – tall herbs that have come off these cliffs and replaced large areas of the grass underneath us. That becomes most obvious in July when they’re all in flower.

On top of that, we’ve planted a lot of these willows that you see and some of the birch lower down. And some of it is natural regeneration. There’s one willow in here – the mountain willow – and this was its best site in Britain before the fence went up as well. So, it’s partly our work; we’ve certainly created the conditions by having the fence that it’s been able to expand onto a much grander scale and with that the biodiversity has increased, in the species richness. We’re seeing a lot more invertebrates. We can still hear willow warblers in the background, at 700m above sea level. The records show that we’ve expanded the invertebrates and bird species across the whole area.

[JB]
How difficult is it though to maintain the regeneration work that you’ve completed, in such a rugged landscape?

[AW]
These are very long-term programmes of habitat restoration. The growth season is so short. And on top of that, we’re not just trying to replant the whole woodland habitat; we’re trying to kick-start ecological processes to create seed sources where nature can take control and it will spread naturally itself. The willows have got separate male and female plants, and they produce seed which floats away on little bits of fluff. The seed, unlike a lot of trees and shrubs, has to germinate immediately; it only survives for a day or two. And to do that, it has to land on damp, bare soil. So, the chances of this happening if you’ve only got one or two plants are infinitely small. In order to have even a small amount of natural regeneration, you need a very large seed source and a constant annual seed rain for that to happen.

[JB]
But there’s no guarantee of success, as you say, because when we were climbing up here, I know you noticed a couple of juniper bushes that weren’t faring too well. This is constant monitoring.

[AW]
Yes, I’m constantly keeping an eye on the success of trees that we’ve planted before. There’s no textbook on how to restore montane scrub. There’s a lot that people still don’t know.

[JB]
Is this the first time it’s been tried?

[AW]
Certainly, when this project was started up, it was the biggest and the earliest of any type of montane scrub restoration in Scotland.

[JB]
So, the jury in a sense is still out. How are you faring?

[AW]
I think we’ve done very well. We’ve inspired a great number of woodland professionals nationally, and that’s led onto other projects in other parts of Scotland. The success of them is becoming apparent as well.

[JB]
But let me play devil’s advocate here: is there the possibility that in helping one species or one environment, you can actually detract from another?

[AW]
Yeah, whenever you manipulate one thing in land management, there’s going to be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. It was a great worry when the fence went up that the grass would overtake everything and wipe everything out. Exactly the opposite has happened, and the grassland has been replaced by tall herbs, which is one of the habitats that we’re trying to encourage in here. Similarly, there was a moth in here – called the plume moth – which was the only site in Scotland that it was recorded, and the worry was that we might make that extinct. We’ve recently surveyed that, and we’ve found it is in a much healthier state than it was before the fence went up. Lots of things that we were worried about have been proven to have benefitted from this work.

There is some evidence to show that some of the rare lichens that grow on rocks are not doing so well, and that’s probably due to encroaching vegetation that might have been eaten by sheep before, or possibly higher humidity levels from taller vegetation. We are aware that these lichens also exist outside the exclosures, so you have to balance that with the massive increase in biodiversity and species richness that we’ve achieved through having the fence and doing this planting and restoration work inside.

[JB]
But overall, from what you’re telling me, I suppose the aim is to kick-start this and then do enough that nature takes over.

[AW]
And again, that’s an unknown as to when that point is reached. It’ll be different for different species as well. As soon as you put a fence up, we got good amounts of regenerating rowan for instance, whereas some of the other tree species will take a lot longer to come in.

[JB]
It’s a massive project but also an enduring one. How is it funded?

[AW]
Originally, this project was funded through grants from European money; there was money from Scottish Natural Heritage (back in the day); and the Millennium Forest for Scotland, which was an initiative to double the scale of native woodland in Scotland. We’ve had some private donations as well that contributed to the work at Ben Lawers, and interestingly people listening to this podcast may have donated through People’s Postcode Lottery, which has financed some of the footpath work and ecological work recently on Ben Lawers.

[JB]
Ah, how interesting! So, if you’ve bought a ticket, you can come and see your handiwork!

[AW]
Yes, I would encourage anybody to come and have a look at the montane scrub work at Ben Lawers!

[JB]
Now, the work hasn’t stopped here. What are your plans for the future?

[AW]
It’s a very long-term project. There will forever be future changes in the habitats, which will need monitored. That really guides our future management. There’s scope for an awful lot more tree planting and to increase the scale of the seed sources, where needed. And of course, there’s the fencing, which is a constant maintenance and renewal process that’s needed there.

[JB]
But absolutely vital. Rather rudely, I’ve got one eye on you as we chat and one eye on the cliffside above us! I thought I saw something but I’m afraid the ouzel is being rather elusive.

[AW]
Yeah, we would normally have heard them by now but they’re definitely there.

[JB]
What are we listening out for?

[AW]
Oooh, hang on! I saw some movement just on that eroded bit – that’s actually where there was a small avalanche.

There! Right on the horizon … just …

[JB]
Yeah?

[AW]
It landed on the top of that rock there. See it? It’s on the horizon. There’s a rock that sticks up …

[JB]
Yep, yep, yep.

[AW]
That’s a ring ouzel! [laughs]

[JB]
Because it’s against the skyline though, I can’t see the necklace. It’s very big! I think it’s bigger than a blackbird, slightly chunkier?

[AW]
No, it’s slightly smaller.

[JB]
Slightly smaller?

[AW]
Yep.

[JB]
What do you know?! You’re only the ranger here for 20-odd years!

And although it’s been great that the ring ouzel has finally made an appearance, the main thing is – is it not, Andrew – the success of this regeneration, the montane scrub. That’s what’s most important, and the return of the ring ouzels are just the bellwether.

[AW]
That’s right. We’re creating the ideal conditions for them here based on where they’re doing very well – places like south-west Norway, which is predominantly covered in mountain woodland and montane scrub, and where they’re of least concern. They do exist in other places across the reserve that are not part of this montane scrub, but we’re creating the ideal conditions for them here.

[JB]
Brilliant. Well, thank you very much Andrew. We wish you and the ring ouzels all the very best here at Ben Lawers, and thanks too to Andrew Painting for allowing us to come along on his dotterel survey at Mar Lodge.

And if you would like to visit either of the National Nature Reserves, all the details are on the National Trust for Scotland website.

But that’s all from Love Scotland for now. Until next time, goodbye!

[MV]
Love Scotland is a Think Publishing production, produced by Clare Harris in association with the Big Light Studio. Presented by Jackie Bird, with recording and reporting by Cameron Angus MacKay. Music and post-production is by Brian McAlpine. Executive Producer for the Big Light is Fiona White.

For show notes, access to previous episodes and further information on the National Trust for Scotland, go to nts.org.uk or visit thebiglight.com/lovescotland and please like, share, rate, review and subscribe.

(a man whistles and heavy footsteps walk across a wooden floor)

From The Big Light Studio

(sound of a light switching off)

Conservation secrets: How the Trust cares for its rich collection of artefacts

How does the National Trust for Scotland care for the many objects in our collections? Lesley Scott is part of the team who constantly battle against environmental factors to preserve one-of-a-kind artefacts, furniture and artworks for future generations.

Our host Jackie Bird heads to House of the Binns to get a sneak peek at a major renovation project that’s currently taking place. The 17th-century mansion near Linlithgow has been closed to the public since the start of the pandemic, but work is now underway to prepare it for a grand reopening.

Jackie and Lesley discuss how conservation work is done and what challenges must be overcome. How does modern science help? What does a renovation project involve? And what can visitors expect to see when the House of the Binns opens its doors once more?

Find out the latest information on the House of the Binns’ reopening

A blue title card. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card. The text reads: The Love Scotland podcast. Conservation secrets: How the Trust cares for its rich collection of artefacts.

Season 3 Episode 7

Transcript

Three voices: male voiceover [MV]; Jackie Bird [JB]; Lesley Scott [LS]

[MV]
Love Scotland – brought to you by the National Trust for Scotland.

[JB]
Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Love Scotland. Today, I’m at the House of the Binns in Linlithgow. Built in the early 17th century and set in a landscaped park overlooking the Forth, it continues to be the proud home of the Dalzell family. Inside, there’s a rich collection of art, of family portraits and fine furniture. But sadly, for the last two years, during the worst of the pandemic, its doors have been closed. But now, two rooms in the house are undergoing a major renovation to restore their former glory. But what does that preparation involve?

Preserving the unique items in the House of the Binns and indeed across the Trust’s substantial collections is where the conservators come in. The battle against environmental factors like pollution and pests is endless. But what makes the job of a conservator so very challenging is actually part of the joy of visiting a house like this for you and me, where historic or priceless objects aren’t kept behind glass like museum pieces but in situ, as they would have been when they were in day-to-day use.

So, I’m very much looking forward to meeting conservator Lesley Scott. She’s responsible for the Edinburgh & East region, meaning she oversees the project here at the House of the Binns. From curtains to clocks, tables to teapots, swords to sculptures – she’s dealt with them all. So, let’s go and find her.

In fact, this is a really great chance to see a house like this when no-one else sees it and all the behind-the-scenes work is happening. There’s a host of vehicles here: there’s a roofing contractor; there’s – oh! – portable toilet hire … I think we’ll gloss over that one! Lots of electricians’ vans and oh, the peacocks, who I believe have called House of the Binns home for centuries.

Let’s see what’s happening.

Crikey! There’s a lot going on here. We’re stepping over rolled-up carpets and entering … oh my goodness gracious. I knew there was some work taking place, but I had no idea it would involve completely emptying rooms. Hello, Lesley!

[LS]
Hello! Nice to see you.

[JB]
I’m sorry for interrupting what is clearly a mammoth task! What is going on here?

[LS]
Well, you’re coming at a really interesting point. It’s quite unique that you’re coming into this space at the moment because we’ve actually decanted two principal rooms of this property for roof works that is happening above us, and all that collection has been moved out. So that’s quite an unusual thing to do in the Trust, to have to move everything out of a space – and I’m talking everything.

[JB]
It’s a bit like looking behind the curtain of the Wizard of Oz because normally when you see a home like this, you see it in all its glamour and artefacts. But this is almost an empty room. But, not quite because there are two enormous chandeliers on the floor, all wrapped in tissue paper. Was that a bit of a job to get down?

[LS]
Yes! Well, we had to get a scaffold tower in here, so obviously to get the scaffold tower in here, we had to take all the carpets as you can see here, all wrapped up …

[JB]
And marked!

[LS]
Yeah! They’ve all got their unique numbers on it so we know where everything is. We had to get a scaffold in and an electrician in, doing everything safety wise.

[JB]
And the ceiling is really damp. I can see in the corner.

[LS]
Yes, well that’s the reason for the refurbishment work as you can see the damp has been getting in – the water has been ingressing in, and that obviously causes trouble not only for the building fabric but obviously for the collections within the building.

[JB]
And what is this room?

[LS]
This is the dining room. This is where the family would have had – because this is a family home – this is where the family would have had all their meals and their celebrations. There would have been a huge big table, I mean a huge big table – lots of leaves – in the centre of this room, and lots of chairs and then there were glasses and ceramics and silver candlesticks, and everything was sat on the table in this room. And we had to clear everything out of this space.

[JB]
Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Before you start to conserve the items, you have to very, very carefully take them apart and store them. Where have you stored them?

[LS]
Well, actually they’re still on site. So, what we’ve done is … I’ll take you through to the Laigh Hall, where the public normally come in, and we’ll store the stuff through there.

[JB]
We’re leaving the empty dining room.

[LS]
This is coming into where the public … if you just turn to the right … would have come in to the main. This is called the Laigh Hall. The public would have come in the door you can see on your left there. And as you can see, we’ve just made it into a temporary storage area. Everything is all wrapped up.

[JB]
It’s crammed!

[LS]
It is a bit crammed. We’re a little bit tight on space. But then everything’s here and everything’s staying in the building and it’s in the same environment. Because moving objects between buildings, especially in Scottish weather with all the rain and everything, they’re very prone to environmental change. And this is the best way to protect them: to keep them on site. But you can see they’re all covered over because the building work will throw up quite a lot of dust, and dust isn’t great for objects because of all the pollutants – it’s abrasive. So that’s why everything is covered over with plastic and sheeting.

[JB]
This is extraordinary because we are standing next to a box – it’s as if you’ve had an Amazon delivery! However, it’s marked ‘Sword | Above mantelpiece | Dining Room’. And there’s an 8-digit number, so as you were saying, everything has to …

[LS]
Yes, everything has a unique number. They did a big project in 2018 called Project Reveal, which you can read about on our website, and they came in and they numbered everything with a unique number which you can see there. But if you haven’t guessed yet, it’s General Tam’s sword that’s in here. And this was above the mantelpiece in the dining room.

[JB]
Tell me about General Tam.

[LS]
General Tam’s probably the most infamous … I don’t want to use the word character because obviously this was his home – but he’s got quite a back story. He’s the one that they think see the ghost of, riding around. Yes, apparently he’s been seen …

[JB]
He won’t be too happy about this, all the boxes and the disruption!

[LS]
We have some artefacts of his that are in a showcase, and he apparently brought the thumbscrew for example into …

[JB]
Charming!

[LS]
Yes, so we’ve got his stuff, and that’s packed up in one of these boxes as well.

[JB]
We can hear the electrician doing his stuff in another room. How many people do you have working here?

[LS]
On the actual project we’ve got quite a lot of people working on the roof, and through the Buildings Team stonemasons and the decorators will be coming in. But for me with the Collections Services I’m just working with two art handlers and two members of staff that are already working for the cluster.

[JB]
That’s a very small team for such a gargantuan project.

[LS]
It is a bit, but then we all know what we’re doing and we’re all very organised and we all make sure that we work as a team collectively. As long as there is enough people to be able to move something safely, that’s the main thing.

[JB]
Tell me, what does a conservator do? What’s your job description?

[LS]
A conservator is a person that looks after heritage and historical objects, so all those things that somebody might find precious as an individual or a community, or conserving objects like we do at the National Trust for Scotland for the nation. A conservator is very much a person that very much works on halting the time that it takes, halting the degradation and deterioration of objects. So personally, in the Trust, we’re working on preventative conservation – so we’re monitoring the environment and the temperature; we’re looking for those pests that might eat our collections like woodworm or moth that might eat the textiles. And we’re very much here to make sure that we preserve it for future generations.

[JB]
And most of the stuff in here is all covered up in cardboard or in cellophane, but there’s a rather gorgeous table peeking out there … you’re walking around with a very large torch!

[LS]
I always have a torch on me, always have a torch, because you have to be able to examine an object properly and you can’t do that in just normal light. And obviously we’re trying to protect our objects, so we usually have blinds down and stuff like that. You know the conservator’s in the room – she’s the person with the gloves on and the torch walking round the space. But this is a table that was out for conservation before lockdown and has quite recently come back. And this was done by an external furniture conservator who worked on it. It’s an 18th-century tortoiseshell and brass inlaid Boulle table.

[JB]
Boulle table – what’s that?

[LS]
Boulle is the style of table, so it’s that gilded brass decoration that you can see down here – there’s a nice place at the front. And then there’s marquetry work, which is tortoiseshell and the brass (although sometimes it might be pewter). Interestingly, Boulle-work was named after a French cabinet maker who used to work for Louis XIV in France – Andre Charles Boulle. And it was very much emulated and it went into the 18th and 19th centuries.

[JB]
So this table in front of us must be about 300/400 years old?

[LS]
Yes, about that, yes.

[JB]
Would you deal with conserving this, or would this have to be done by a specialist?

[LS]
No, no – this goes to a specialist. This went to a furniture conservator off site. At the Trust the conservators very much focus on the preventative conservation and making sure the environment is right. But if we need a little bit more intervention, then we do have to send things out to specialist conservators, and we sent them to an accredited furniture conservator in Scotland who worked on it. This came into the Trust in quite poor condition – all this brass inlay work that you can see was actually rolled up in the drawer and she had to very carefully flatten it out; she had to figure out where it went. And then she re-adhered it down using some animal glue, some fish glue.

[JB]
In terms of the job skills of someone like yourself, a conservator, is the background art or science? Because increasingly I suppose you’re using science.

[LS]
You have to have an understanding about science – we have to understand how these objects interact with each other. Because this is a metal interacting with an organic material – it was a living, breathing turtle at some point – you have to know the basic science. Some people will go further into that and will be conservation scientists, whereas a furniture person (if you’ve specialised in that) will understand about the woods and how it was made and the craftsmanship of it. It’s not just the science, like you say it’s also the art of it.

[JB]
I suppose the science is always moving on. I read somewhere that they are using – I can’t remember what it was for, but to preserve something – a laser that was used for the removal of tattoos.

[LS]
Yes! Because it was delicate enough to use on skin, then it’s delicate enough to use on an object.

[JB]
But of course, the more advanced the renovation becomes I imagine, it’s work that doesn’t come cheap.

[LS]
No, it’s not. And very luckily, we had the Edinburgh members’ group that paid for the conservation of this table. They actually got the money together and gave it to us so we could do that.

[JB]
I feel very lucky to be able to see the work that is going on behind the scenes. And I think more people should be able to see this. Is that something that can be done?

[LS]
I very much want the public to know what we’re doing. This behind-the-scenes thing, I think the public have more of an appetite for it because you have all these programmes on television now, and they’re showing behind the scenes at the V&A or they’re showing what the curators and the conservators are doing there. So, we do quite a lot of things for the public. If you come to one of our properties, conservation in action where we will actually put on events for people; or if you happen to be in when we’re working on something, we’re very happy to talk to the public about what we’re doing it, condition checking something or …

[JB]
And will members and visitors be able to come to the House of the Binns before it’s restored?

[LS]
We’re hoping that when we start to put some of the collections back, say the paintings go back up. It’s an ideal opportunity for somebody to have a unique experience and be able to see it part way through its reinstatement.

[JB]
Lovely. Right, well, let’s continue our unique experience. Where shall we go now?

[LS]
Well, let’s go upstairs to one of the rooms that’s still intact that we haven’t had to decant. Let’s go and have a look at the curtains that are up there.

[JB]
Alright, lead on.

[LS]
Ok.

[JB]
Well, we’ve come upstairs and we’re seeing the sort of room and the opulence that visitors will see when they’re here, because you haven’t raided this room, Lesley! That’s really what I’m trying to say! You haven’t taken this room apart!

[LS]
No, we haven’t needed to do anything because this is in the older part of the building. This is what would have been called the High Hall upstairs. As you can see, it’s full of really opulent furniture and gilded mirrors and family china in the cabinet over there.

[JB]
And a fabulous ornate ceiling. Describe that to me.

[LS]
Yes, it’s amazing in here, isn’t it? This is a beautiful plaster ceiling with all its decorative work, and this would have been done for when the property was first built. It would have been the 1630s that these were put in. They were done for Charles I – he was supposed to come and visit but he didn’t quite make it, he didn’t end up coming. But the ceilings are here, nevertheless.

[JB]
So, they spent a fortune getting the house all ready!

[LS]
Yeah, they must have done! There’s a fantastic story … this is it, every room has a story. Every step you go through this property, there’s a different story linked to something that’s happened in Scotland’s history as well as the house’s history.

[JB]
Now, there are three large windows in this room with beautifully embroidered curtains. You’re shining your torch because obviously the curtains are closed, and I take it the shutters are closed?

[LS]
The shutters are closed.

[JB]
Again, that’s just to preserve things?

[LS]
The house was put to bed before COVID. It was supposed to open again …

[JB]
And would two years of COVID do damage then? Two years of non-use?

[LS]
The lack of ventilation … not having any visitors in has stopped the place from being dusty. There’s no dust in the property apart from the dust that we’re creating doing the work, because nobody’s been in the space. The lack of ventilation has caused some issues for us because the humidity has got a bit high and we have had a few instances of mould on objects, but we’re in there to clean everything now and we’ve got dehumidifiers going so we’re mitigating that problem.

[JB]
Tell me about the curtains.

[LS]
These curtains are 18th century as well and these were bought by Magdalene – her and her daughter had the silk. You can see it’s silk embroidery on a linen cotton mix background. They had them imported in from India and they made the curtains up to hang them in the house.

[JB]
So, these are ladies of the house who did this themselves.

[LS]
Yes, this is it. We actually have on display – it’s packed up in one of the boxes – one of the thimbles that she used when she was sewing them. It’s documented that she did them. She imported this stuff so when it was her house, she was hanging her curtains.

[JB]
What sort of damage are you trying to guard against here?

[LS]
This was before my time – this conservation happened previously – but basically they had to support the silk. Silk, as you know, is very prone to light damage, and the fibres can break down and degrade. The textile conservators, if you want to get in closer, have been here and they’ve actually put some backing in it.

[JB]
If you look very closely, you can see some sort of runner stitches up and down here.

[LS]
Yes, the closer the stitches are, the more support that area needed. They just very carefully put some stitches in. You want it to be stabilised, but you don’t want it to detract from the original intent of the curtains.

[JB]
I suppose that’s always the debate between conservation and restoration. You can see these are old. You can see someone’s had a go at trying to contain the damage. You don’t want them to look pristine.

[LS]
No! I mean, they were washed so obviously the dirt would make them look brighter. There would be a visual difference from how they looked originally because they had years of accumulated dirt. Everything we do will have some cause and effect. It might damage the object, so you’re right, we have to really think about everything we do and every step we do, and obviously the cost of preserving one object when there’s quite a lot of objects in the house to be preserved.

[JB
Well, I think this is quite a good time to take a break. Because from the opulence of the curtains, I think we’re going to look at a pair of old boots. We’ll be back in a moment.

[LS]
Let’s do that!

[MV]
From coastlines to castles, wildlife to wilderness, when you become a member of the National Trust for Scotland you can enjoy the very best of what Scotland has to offer.

But you can help protect it too.

The National Trust for Scotland is Scotland’s largest conservation charity. By becoming a member, you join thousands of others who are all playing their part to safeguard the places we hold dear for future generations.

Find out more about how to join and more about the Trust’s amazing stories, places and people online. Just search National Trust for Scotland.

[JB]
Welcome back to the Love Scotland podcast. I’m with the National Trust for Scotland conservator Lesley Scott having a look inside the glorious House of the Binns in Linlithgow, as it undergoes quite a major renovation.

Alright, Lesley, pair of old boots! Sell them to us.

[LS]
Well, these aren’t just any old boots. These boots belonged to General Tam and these are Russian boots. He had these made for him when he was in Russia, and they usually sit above the fireplace in the dining room – pride of place.

[JB]
Very substantial, knee-high riding boots, aren’t they?

[LS]
Well, he would need them. I can’t say I’ve got a picture of them here, what they would look like …

[JB]
They’re sort of wrapped up in tissue paper with only a bit of the top showing …

[LS]
When they were on display in the room, they were fine. They are quite robust at the bottom but you can see at the top of them that we’ve taped up the leather to stop the leather that was sagging over. You can see there are some cracks in there. There’s a little bit of red leather rot that’s happening there. This is us packing them in such a way that we can support them and stabilise them.

[JB]
So, it’s got leather rot – what has to be done to those?

[LS]
I’m hoping we can do some fundraising and these can actually go to a specialist. This is an occasion where there’s only so much we can do from a preventive point of view. These now have to go to a specialist in a leather conservation centre if we have one in the UK.

[JB]
Your job is not only time-consuming with a great deal of care, but I presume before you begin to deal with things, the research must be immense because a house like this is spanning four centuries.

[LS]
It’s spanning four centuries, but as a conservator you have a generalistic background. Where I don’t have that specialism, because I know the types of materials, I can go to those specialists that do have it. So, I’m quite lucky that way – we have a network of people that we can use.

[JB]
Do things ever go wrong on a project?

[LS]
Not wrong if they’re well-managed, but then you’re in Scotland … so we’re doing a roof work and there’s always the weather. The general manager here does have to do risk assessments because we have peacocks, so you have to watch when you’re outside that you don’t slip on anything that they leave behind.

[JB]
I see, delicately put!

[LS]
Delicately put … We make sure we risk assess everything. We make sure that for all these objects we’d assessed it all beforehand and we thought what sort of materials we would use. We knew how to pack them. We had teams of specialists in – it was all very coordinated and thought through. The only problem we had was where we were going to put everything as we decanted it, because there were layers and layers of objects. There were objects inside bookcases; there were objects on top of objects. It’s not like a museum where you see one object inside a display case; there were layers of family history over 400 years.

[JB]
You mentioned a display case, Lesley. What intrigues me is you will be working on all these objects, you’ll be putting them back in situ – but they are not going in display cases. Because properties like this, that are cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, what makes them so fascinating is that people can walk around them and see them as they would have been.

[LS]
Well, the objects are all in context. A museum has objects on display and they’re telling the story of that individual object, but these are culturally and contextually in context in their properties, especially somewhere like the House of the Binns where the objects are the family’s history and this is a family home.

[JB]
But for someone like you, is that a blessing or a curse?!

[LS]
Obviously as a conservator I love a showcase because then it’s easy to protect it from changes in environment and I can look after it better. But I do appreciate that this is a historic house and has a whole lot of different challenges. But that just makes the job more interesting.

[JB]
Despite all of the work that’s going on here, I would imagine that one of the most gratifying things for you is when visitors come along to a place like this, they don’t actually see all the work that you’ve done.

[LS]
No, they don’t. They might not see it. Some of them might because they’ve seen programmes on television and they understand it, but to take it down to that every individual item has had so much attention, I don’t think the public realise how much time is taken even just cleaning it. It’s not like a standard clean when you clean your house; there’s so much more care and attention taken to it.

[JB]
Here’s a bit of an inflammatory question for you. What about anyone listening to this who says why do we need to spend so much repairing a pair of old boots?

[LS]
Because this is the history. This isn’t just the history of this place; this is the history of Scotland – this is a nation’s history. And then if we lose that information, if we lose that very visual ‘you can come and see it’, that object in situation, then the nation is losing something, isn’t it?

[JB]
And is that what drives you personally, as a conservator?

[LS]
I’ve just always been fascinated in getting behind the glass, as it were. I’ve always been fascinated in these objects and thinking, gosh, somebody had their feet in those boots 400 years ago! Somebody held that sword, in the past. I just find the social history of it really fascinating.

[JB]
Have you ever been overwhelmed by the history of an artefact?

[LS]
I think when you’re working on something like a bed that Marie Antoinette slept in or you’re handling a tea service that was Napoleon’s sister’s, or you’re working on an object that was the first person to use this object – a brand new scientific thing or some famous explorer or something –it is a little bit overwhelming. But you’re working on an object and doing a job, so you can’t let that take over.

[JB]
Do you think as a society we are becoming much more caring about our past, that we value it more? I’m thinking about programmes like the Repair Shop and Antiques Roadshow, and the like.

[LS]
Yes, I think that people have a real emotional attachment to their objects, to their personal objects – that’s why those programmes are so popular. Certainly, in the National Trust for Scotland, it’s that on top of the nation’s interest in the objects that are going in, because all of these objects are linked to Scotland’s past.

[JB]
Do you know what, I fear for the Lesley Scotts of the future because in a house like this, there are books, there are old letters, there are significant historical parchments. We’re using emails now. We’re a throwaway society. What is the future of having a job like yours?

[LS]
Well, they’ll be conservators that are up and coming that will deal in specialist stuff. Technology, even when we used to save things on computers when they were first invented, that technology keeps changing. And that’s a real, real problem for conservators looking at plastics. People think plastics last forever, but the modern plastics don’t. They degrade really easily. So, there’s a whole new world for new conservators coming in that will specialise in those areas.

[JB]
Well, I’m very aware – as I can hear the noise is rising – because we asked some of the more noisy work people to have an early lunch. They’re back now; it’s time for us to bow out. Looking ahead Lesley, whenever the house reopens, what can visitors expect to see?

[LS]
They’ll be able to see the two principal rooms – the Morning Room and the Dining Room – back to their full glory again, with all the objects that we’ve taken out back reinstated as they should be. And they’ll be able to see the peacocks through the windows again, as they peek in as you have a tour of the property.

[JB]
And it’s as if Lesley Scott and her noisy team were never here – and that’s just how you like it!

[LS]
Well, yes! But we’ll also be able to give them some behind-the-scenes stories, but they won’t see us working as we’ll have done everything by then.

[JB]
Lesley, thank you very much for giving us a preview.

To keep up to date with the House of the Binns reopening, make sure to visit the Trust’s website, where new information will be posted over the course of this summer. Of course, the grounds are still open, and you can get more details in the show notes of this episode.

But for now, from Love Scotland, goodbye.

[MV]
Love Scotland is a Think Publishing production, produced by Clare Harris in association with the Big Light Studio. Presented by Jackie Bird, with recording and reporting by Cameron Angus MacKay. Music and post-production is by Brian McAlpine. Executive Producer for the Big Light is Fiona White.

For show notes, access to previous episodes and further information on the National Trust for Scotland, go to nts.org.uk or visit thebiglight.com/lovescotland and please like, share, rate, review and subscribe.

(a man whistles and heavy footsteps walk across a wooden floor)

From The Big Light Studio

(sound of a light switching off)

In kids we trust

What does the future of the National Trust for Scotland look like? To mark the launch of the Trust’s new strategy – Nature, Beauty and Heritage for Everyone – we united young eco reps with Chief Executive Phil Long.

In a special episode of Love Scotland, three primary school pupils from Glasgow meet up with Phil to discuss the environment, and what can be done to protect it. Their conversation, in the city that hosted COP26 less than six months ago, touches on sustainability and what role the Trust can play in preserving Scotland’s climate and natural spaces.

How will the Trust take on the challenges of climate change? What is already being done? And what can be achieved before the Trust’s centenary in 10 years’ time?

Find out more about our new strategy

A green title card. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card. The text reads: The Love Scotland podcast. In kids we trust. The future of the Trust, with Chief Executive Phil Long and three young eco enthusiasts.

Season 3 Episode 6

Transcript

Seven voices: male voiceover (MV); Cameron Angus Mackay (CAM); Zara (Z); Leila (L); Alistair (A); Phil Long (PL); Juliet Turner (JT)

[MV]

Love Scotland – brought to you by the National Trust for Scotland.

[CAM]

Hello and welcome to Love Scotland with me, Cameron Angus Mackay. Now normally I’m behind the microphone with Jackie as she travels around Scotland. Today I’m stepping in front of the mike to meet three inspiring schoolchildren who are working hard to tackle an issue that’s so important to all of us. Right now I’m at Holmwood, just one of several green spaces that the Trust looks after in the city of Glasgow. Not far up the road is Greenbank Garden, and a short hop in the other direction is Pollok House, set in acres of beautiful parkland.

I’m here because the National Trust for Scotland has just launched its new ten-year strategy called Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone. The strategy is ambitious, responding to recent challenges and setting targets for the years ahead. At the heart of it are two key goals: looking after nature and tackling climate change.

I want to learn more about the strategy but I’m also keen to hear from young people who have been inspired to take action and help protect Scotland’s environment. I’m really pleased to say that here at Holmwood I’ve been joined by three pupils from Langside Primary School in Glasgow. Zara, Leila and Alistair, hello to the three of you!

[Z], [L] and [A] in chorus

Hello!

[CAM]

Well, thank you very much for joining me on Love Scotland this week. You’re Langside’s eco reps, setting up new initiatives and targets in the school to encourage your classmates to do more to protect the environment. So, Zara, tell me, when did you first become eco reps?

[Z]

At the start of each year, people who want to be eco reps, they do a vote – you say a speech about what you want to do and then you do a vote – and then the person who gets the most votes wins and gets to be the eco rep.

[CAM]

Gosh, it’s quite a process that you have to go through. Alistair, why did you decide to put yourself forward for the role?

[A]

I decided to put myself forward for the role because: 1) I didn’t have a job yet and I wanted to do that before I left primary school And also because I felt quite passionate about the environment and how things weren’t being done to help, so I was going to try my best to help.

[CAM] Very good. Well, we’re going to have lots of time to talk through your roles as eco reps. In a moment we’re going to walk over to Holmwood’s kitchen garden to meet the gardener. But before that I’m delighted to say that also joining me on the podcast is Phil Long, Chief Executive of the National Trust for Scotland. Phil, hello.

[PL]

Morning, morning.

[CAM]

Well, thank you very much for joining me. Holmwood is of course a really well-known Trust property in Glasgow – a family home designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It must be fantastic to get to visit so many properties like this one as part of your role?

[PL]

It is wonderful to visit places like Holmwood and all of the properties that the Trust has across Scotland, from Fair Isle in the north down to Threave in the south-west – it’s one of the great pleasures of the job, seeing all of these places that we’ve got the responsibility to look after.

[CAM]

Well, Phil, I’ll be looking forward to speaking to you about the Trust’s new strategy a bit later in the episode. Before that, Zara, Leila and Alistair, are you ready to go over to the kitchen garden?

[Z], [L] and [A] in chorus

Yes! Definitely.

[CAM]

Let’s go and meet Juliet, who is the gardener here.

(sound of footsteps crunching across gravel)

[CAM]

So Leila, I imagine that you must have been pretty busy over the past few months as eco reps at your school. What kind of activities have you been doing?

[L]

Well, near October we went to this very large field and did some tree-planting. We were planting oak and birch. And we were partnered up with the people in our class because the Pupil Council and the eco reps went, and then we planted a lot of trees, and then we did a lot of other things to help the environment.

[CAM]

Well, here we are at the kitchen garden. And I can see Juliet Turner, the gardener here with the Trust property. Hello Juliet!

[JT]

Hello! Hello everybody!

[Z], [L] and [A] in chorus

Hello!

[CAM]

Juliet, can I introduce Alistair, Zara and Leila to you – three eco reps who are here to help in the kitchen garden.

[JT]

Well, thank you very much for coming along this morning – I could always do with a bit of extra help!

[CAM]

What activities are we going to be doing with you today?

[JT]

One of the most important things that we do here in the garden at Holmwood is we try to preserve heirloom flowers and vegetables. And so, you’re going to be helping me sow a flower called sweet pea and it’s called Air Warden, and that’s what we’re going to be putting into the containers here.

[CAM]

Alistair, how does that sound?

[A]

It sounds great.

[CAM]

Do you do a bit of gardening at home or at school?

[A]

My garden is full of flowers and I’m happy to be doing it here as well.

[CAM]

He is an expert so …

[JT]

Oh my goodness! Well, I’ll just step back and let you take over from here – will that do?

[CAM] [chuckles]

Yeah, well actually, I’m not great at gardening so Alistair, Zara and Leila, you can show me what to do! That’s the best plan. So, Juliet, over to you.

[JT]

Yes, ok. So we have some seeds here and sweet pea are a flower that have quite long roots and they don’t like to be disturbed, so we have a special container here called a root-ainer that has a lovely long base to it. So, the roots can grow and then we can just very gently put it out when the time is right to put it out and pop it into the ground. So the first thing I’m going to ask you guys to do is to fill those up with special compost for seeds that doesn’t have very much food in it – it’s called a low-nutrient compost. So just fill those up … throw in lots … be generous …

[CAM]

Great – that’s it, take it in turns.

[JT]

Nice big scoops … don’t be too gentle.

[CAM]

So Zara, just while Leila and Alistair are busy doing that particular activity, tell me: at the moment there is a lot of discussion about the importance of listening to young people when it comes to tackling climate change, so why is the environment important to you? How did you first become interested in it?

[Z]

I became interested in it because wildlife is all around us and also it’s not just to help the animals; it’s also to help us because if climate change gets worse, then smaller islands will get flooded and it will become hotter, so that we won’t be able to survive, not just the animals.

[CAM]

And is it an issue that you’re concerned about or do you feel quite optimistic about the potential for change and the potential for being able to make a difference?

[Z]

I feel quite concerned because we are doing a lot but it still feels like it’s not enough.

[JT]

Just give it a little bump against the bottoms … Perfect! A little bit harder, Alistair …

[CAM]

That looks good. Good work so far. Let’s have a progress report, Juliet – where are we up to?

[JT]

We’re up to now … we’ve got the compost in the seed pots and we are about to pop in a seed, make a little hole … So if you just get your little finger, and pop it in – just make a little hole. And if you guys want to take a seed – so it’s one seed per pot. And with any luck, they’ll go into the glasshouse and they should germinate by mid-May and then we’ll be able to get them into the ground.

[CAM]

Alistair, last year COP26, the UN Climate Change summit, took place in Glasgow; and leaders and negotiators from all over the world were in the city to discuss climate change and the need for further action. Was COP26 something that you learned about at school?

[A]

Hmm, not that much. We did a few PowerPoints and topic points but we didn’t really learn that much. But I already knew quite a lot about it because I was quite enthusiastic about learning more about it myself instead of learning about it at school.

[CAM]

Well, governments and big organisations like the National Trust for Scotland are giving new emphasis to the need to hear from young people and the need to hear from a range of lots of different voices. What do you think the National Trust for Scotland should be doing to tackle climate change and to protect our environment?

[A]

Well, as they’re already doing, they’re very good at conservation and I think they should maybe try and have an emphasis on that, because the main thing with climate change is that old species – or older species – are dying out, and there aren’t really new species coming in, so if they protect the old species, it will help a lot with climate change and the ecosystem.

[L]

And I like the way the National Trust are really focusing on planting because plants make a huge impact on climate change as they absorb the gases that are greenhouse gases, and greenhouse gases create climate change, which affects the whole world. But plants – they produce oxygen; they provide homes; they do lots of things to help local wildlife. And I think a lot of other big organisations should be doing things like this.

[JT]

So, that’s us finished with the sweet pea, and I would love to take you down now and show you one of our vegetable beds that we’ve been having a few problems with. Do you want to come down and have a look at that?

[CAM]

That sounds good; ok!

[JT]

We’ll head down here. It’s this very wet and muddy-looking one down here.

[A]

So, Juliet, what are some of the challenges you face here as a gardener?

[JT]

Well, just in relation to climate change, one of the difficulties that we have here is with this kind of extreme weather that we’ve been having. So, when you get lots and lots and lots of rain in a very short period, and then long, long periods of dry weather as well, and the result of the rain is what you can see here, which is where our vegetable beds get very flooded very quickly, and sometimes it can take a while for the water to drain away.

And one way that we’re trying to improve this, apart from improved drainage, is we’re also trying to improve the soil, because you can see here it’s very wet. It’s very compacted and that’s hard for plants to grow in. So, we’re adding quite a lot of organic manure and we’re also gathering up all of the leaves from the site, and we have compost bays up there, and we’re doing all our own mulching of leaves as well. So that’s a lovely free compost that you can then put on your beds to help improve the soil.

One of the other difficulties – and I saw this yesterday – we had some weed barrier over the top of this. And when I pulled back the weed barrier, there were lots of these: things called New Zealand flatworms, which have come in from New Zealand. And they’re a real pest because they eat our native earthworms. And earthworms are very good for our soil, and we certainly don’t want something else coming in and eating them. So, we were able to scoop them all off the weed barrier and get rid of them very quickly, but they’re definitely a problem as well.

[CAM]

Juliet, what kind of vegetables do you grow here in the kitchen garden?

[JT]

We’re going to be doing what’s called successional sowing, so we’re going to have vegetables that will be good for eating in early summer, mid-summer and then right the way through until autumn, so you’re looking at things like beans, peas, carrots, broccoli, cabbage – right the way through to things like squashes and pumpkins in the autumn. So, don’t tell my boss but I might have got a little bit carried away with my seed order. There’s a lot of seeds and a lot of plants planned for here.

[CAM]

Well, I’m going to leave you with Juliet in the kitchen garden. I’ll be back here a little later on but I’m on my way now to meet Phil, who we spoke to earlier in the episode. I’m going to chat to him about the Trust’s new ten-year strategy. But before I go, in ten years’ time, what do you hope Scotland and Scotland’s natural spaces will be like?

[A]

I think it will be much more natural, not like they have to conserve things and help them; it’ll be the plants are growing themselves.

[L]

Yeah, I’m hoping that in ten years’ time, the wildlife will be flourishing, and I know it already is and wildlife is doing very well and I just hope for it to be doing pretty well in future.

[Z]

My hopes are that in ten years’ time the red squirrel will be native to Scotland again.

[CAM]

Ok, well thank you very much for those answers. I’m now going to make my way over to meet Phil Long, CEO of the National Trust for Scotland. But before that, a quick break.

[MV]

From coastlines to castles, wildlife to wilderness, when you become a member of the National Trust for Scotland you can enjoy the very best of what Scotland has to offer.

But you can help protect it too.

The National Trust for Scotland is Scotland’s largest conservation charity. By becoming a member, you join thousands of others who are all playing their part to safeguard the places we hold dear for future generations.

Find out more about how to join and more about the Trust’s amazing stories, places and people online. Just search National Trust for Scotland.

[CAM]

Welcome back to Love Scotland. I am very pleased to be joined again by Phil Long, CEO of the National Trust for Scotland. Phil, thank you for joining me on the podcast. It was good to chat briefly earlier. Now, the Trust is responsible for looking after so much of Scotland’s stunning buildings, collections and natural sites. The new strategy – Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone – reflects the challenges we’ve all faced in recent years and it sets out a plan for championing and safeguarding the country’s heritage. Let’s begin with the big picture. Tell me about some of the key points that underpin the strategy.

[PL]

Well, in the strategy I think what we’re trying to do is very much learn from the extraordinary legacy that the Trust has created in Scotland. The Trust goes back to 1931 of course, and its founding mission was to conserve places and also to make them accessible, so it was really very pioneering in that, particularly in the landscapes that it took responsibility in from the 1930s onwards.

So, we want to continue in the new strategy with that fundamental purpose of caring for the places that we’ve got the privilege to be responsible for, and working to make them as accessible as possible.

They belong to all of Scotland, and so we want to make sure that not only are we caring for these places, but we are as best as possible helping people to enjoy and be inspired by them.

And in doing that – and perhaps this is a new dimension to the Trust’s strategic work – is the intention to be as sustainable as possible.

Now, sustainability traditionally in organisations’ strategies means financial sustainability. But for the Trust, and for organisations increasingly, it has to be much more than that. And I suppose that what I mean by that is the Trust is responsible forever, in perpetuity, for the parts of heritage in Scotland that it’s responsible for. So as an organisation we need to be sustainable to make sure that these places are looked at well into the future.

The climate crisis, of course, is key to the Trust’s interest. We want to be an organisation which, through our work, both cares for our places in a way which is sustainable and which takes all of the actions that we can to offset the effects of climate change, and as a conservation organisation that can speak up about concerns – we want to be a leader in that. Set an example and encouraging people to think and to practise in a way which helps us all address the really worrying issue of climate change.

[CAM]

Well, the first step in the ten-year strategy is recovery and planning, and the strategy talks about the challenges that we’ve faced in recent years, so how have issues like COVID-19 affected the work of the Trust, and how are you adapting and responding?

[PL]

COVID-19 has, of course, had a great effect on the Trust, as it had on all of our lives. For the Trust in particular, the immediate concern was in having to close all our properties in one swoop, then that would seriously affect the Trust’s finances, and therefore our ability to care for the places that are in our responsibility.

People have been very generous to the Trust, and we’ve taken actions that have helped make sure the Trust continues long into the future. So that is something that we feel more confident about now.

But what of course has also happened in the last few years, because of the restrictions that have necessarily been put on all of our lives, it’s been really difficult to address the ongoing perpetual conservation and maintenance that our buildings, our gardens, our footpaths need. And so, we need to get back to working on that; we’ve made substantial commitments to being able to do that.

There are still challenges in doing that, and we live in a very uncertain world. So, we think it’s very important to set an ambitious strategy that helps everybody get behind the National Trust for Scotland, which is after all responsible for so much of the heritage that really defines Scotland and which we must take care of, for all of our futures.

[CAM]

Well, beyond recovery and planning, the Trust’s strategy talks about a building stage and then a legacy phase, and some of the longer-term objectives include the Trust becoming carbon negative by 2031/32. Talk to me about how that will practically be achieved.

[PL]

Well, it’s very important that the Trust does all it can to address the climate crisis. There are multiple ways that we are already acting upon this, whether it’s (for example) our work at the Mar Lodge Estate, which is restoring peatlands – and we know particularly in Scotland is incredibly rich in peatland, which has an extraordinary capability of storing carbon. If peatlands, for whatever reason, are damaged or dry out, then that carbon that can be stored across thousands of years, is released.

We’re also, at Mar Lodge, establishing some woodland planting along one of the burns in the Geldie, to give some shade to the Geldie Burn, which is an important spawning ground for salmon. That burn is heating up because of climate change.

And for the Trust, it’s very important not just to address the effects of the heating of the environment, but also to consider how we can help restore biodiversity in these places, which are also being affected by climate change. There’s much, much more that we can do – moving to electric vehicles across the Trust; using technology to communicate with each other and reducing our own travel; restoring our woodlands. We’ve lost many trees across the Trust’s estate, particularly in the North-East recently, and so we need to think very carefully about our woodlands and the future, and make sure that they are restored and sustainable for the long term.

[CAM]

One of the big discussion points at COP26 last year was representation – the importance of hearing from and including a real range of voices. How will the different groups of people visiting and working around the Trust make their voice heard and also help to play a role?

[PL]

Well, we believe that the Trust has to be for everyone.

It should be for all of Scotland and all of the international audiences that visit us, and we want to make Trust places as accessible as possible. But we also want to get people engaged in the ideas and principles that the Trust believes in. And so in our strategy we’ve also been very clear where we want to increase our work as a learning organisation, get people (particularly young people) directly involved in understanding the importance of caring for our heritage, whether it’s the natural environment or the built environment.

We’ve been today with a wonderful group of young people from Langside Primary in Glasgow, hearing about their inspiring work. It’s very, very important that we listen to such young people because that heritage is so important for them to be able to enjoy in the future.

And I’ve certainly been inspired by listening to them this morning in what they’re doing to address climate change.

We’ve taken good time to develop our strategy over the last year, while many of our properties were closed. We were hard at work thinking about the future of the Trust and what are the ambitions that we should be setting out as we aim towards our centenary in 2031.

Now, the strategy was something then that we wanted to develop and listen to as many voices as possible, so we consulted very widely across all of the Trust’s workforce – our employees as well as our many thousands of volunteers. Many of these people contributed to the ambitions that we’ve set out in the new strategy, and indeed helped define the strategic objectives overall. I really want to think that the strategy is something that belongs to everybody that’s involved with the Trust. I want everyone to take ownership of it and use it as a means by which to develop the most exciting ideas for the future – ideas that we certainly don’t have yet but which we’ll look forward to developing in the coming years.

[CAM]

Zara, Leila and Alistair from Langside just earlier in the podcast were talking about looking after Scotland’s wildlife and its green spaces. So how are these issues reflected in the 11 objectives set out in the strategy?

[PL]

We’ve set a particular objective in our new strategy which is about restoring nature. And the Trust, because of its responsibility for so many types of heritage, whether it’s the built heritage or the natural environment, sees the effect of this. We’ll be working particularly hard on the restoration of the natural environment where that’s important, whether that’s the development of new woodlands or allowing natural regeneration in woodlands.

It’s important for the Trust to address the effects of climate change across all of its estate. Climate change is affecting everything, from our natural environment to our built heritage. The effects of warmer, wetter conditions in Scotland will affect the conditions of our buildings. It will affect the archaeological sites that we’re responsible for, and most obviously it will affect our natural environment and the wildlife that is such an important part of that.

Addressing all of these areas is going to be vital work for us in the coming years ahead.

[CAM]

Phil, lastly what do you hope the Trust will have achieved in a decade’s time? These are not objectives that will necessarily be achieved overnight – this is a long-term plan. So, what’s your hope for the centenary in 2031?

[PL]

By 2031, the Trust’s 100th birthday, I would like us to be able to look back, not just on the last 10 years but across our 100 years of work, and take real pride in the care that we have taken for so much of Scotland’s extraordinary heritage. And I’d also like people across Scotland, wherever they are from, whatever background they’re from, to feel the Trust is a relevant organisation to them. Yes, a place that provides wonderful experiences when visiting the natural environment and in historic houses; but also a place that people feel inspired to be part of and to learn from about how important our heritage is.

[CAM]

Well, Phil, thank you so much. It has been fantastic to hear about the ambitious new strategy. I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s implemented around Trust properties and landscapes over the next ten years.

Will we head back over to meet the children from Langside, just to see the work that they’ve been doing with Juliet this afternoon?

[PL]

That would be great.

[CAM]

So here are our eco reps who have been hard at work. You met them earlier. And Juliet, thanks again for your expertise. And our eco reps are also experts. So Phil, what do you make of the work they’ve been doing?

[PL]

Well, it’s fantastic to hear about the work that’s been going on in preparation for our garden here. Holmwood House, here in Glasgow, was a place that always had a kitchen garden and was growing food. I really hope that the Trust can get people involved in that as much as possible in the future, particularly young people, because we’ve got great places that can help us understand the importance of the outdoors and growing food.

[CAM]

Zara, has it been a fun opportunity to be here at the Holmwood kitchen garden?

[Z]

Yes, it has been very fun.

[CAM]

That’s good. Well, thank you to the three of you, so much for being here, and also to you, Phil, and Juliet thank you too.

[JT]

Thank you very much! It’s been a real pleasure to meet them.

[CAM]

For listeners of the podcast, if any of the issues discussed chimed with you and if you’d like to know more about what the Trust is going to be doing in the years to come, there’s plenty of information on the website.

Above all, what we’d love you to do most is go outside and enjoy the green landscapes that mean so much to all of us.

That’s all from me today. Thanks for listening. Goodbye!

[MV]

Love Scotland is a Think Publishing production, produced by Clare Harris in association with the Big Light Studio. Presented and recorded by Cameron Angus MacKay. Music and post-production is by Brian McAlpine. Executive Producer for the Big Light is Fiona White.

For show notes, access to previous episodes and further information on the National Trust for Scotland, go to nts.org.uk or visit thebiglight.com/lovescotland and please like, share, rate, review and subscribe.

(a man whistles and heavy footsteps walk across a wooden floor)

From The Big Light Studio

(sound of a light switching off]

The real history of Scotland’s witches

The witch trials of the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries form one of the darkest chapters in Scotland’s history. More than 2,500 people – the vast majority of them women – were executed and more than 4,000 accused of witchcraft during this time, and yet their stories have largely gone untold.

Recently though, that has started to change. Earlier this year on International Women’s Day, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued an apology to all those who had been persecuted. And last year, the National Trust for Scotland published a report detailing the links between its properties and the witch trials.

Dr Ciaran Jones, the lead researcher and author of the report, joins Jackie Bird to discuss his findings and what they say about Scotland’s wider cultural and societal issues at the time.

Read the full report on our Research page

A pink title card. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card. The text reads: The Love Scotland podcast. The real history of Scotland's witches. Jackie Bird talks to Dr Ciaran Jones about his revelatory report into the topic.

Season 3 Episode 5

Transcript

Three voices: male voiceover [MV]; Jackie Bird [JB]; Dr Ciaran Jones [CJ]

[MV]
Love Scotland – brought to you by the National Trust for Scotland.

[JB]
Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Love Scotland. The witch trials of the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries form one of the darkest chapters of Scotland’s history. More than 4,000 people were accused of witchcraft during this time – the majority of them women – and 2,500 people were executed. And yet their stories have largely gone untold.

Recently though, that’s started to change. Earlier this year the First Minister issued an apology to all those who had been persecuted, and last year the National Trust for Scotland published a report detailing the links between its properties and the witch trials. The lead researcher and author of the report, Dr Ciaran Jones, identified nearly 40 Trust properties with connections to a documented witch trial. His findings will help Trust staff talk about the sites’ history sensitively and accurately. But they also reveal a huge amount about Scotland’s wider cultural and societal issues of the time.

Well, I’m pleased to say that Ciaran is with me now. Thank you for joining us, Ciaran,

[CJ]
You’re welcome, Jackie. Thank you for having me on.

[JB]
Now before we get to the details of your research, what intrigues me is why the subject of witch trials and executions in Scotland – and throughout Europe – that we’ve long known about, have become such a part of the public consciousness in recent years?

[CJ]
I think it’s become more entrenched, especially in the last few years. There’s been a real shift in how we remember miscarriages of justice, particularly in the public sphere. I think in part the George Floyd protests and the Black Lives Matter movement have inspired a new resurgence in activism and popular protest among ordinary people, which in turn has inspired national and grass-roots campaigns across the world.

For example, in the UK a variety of different organisations and institutions have decided to investigate their own historical involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and how they profited from it. And on a more grass-roots level, and in relation to what we’re talking about today, there have been two key campaigns that have established in Scotland seeking to understand more about the men and women accused and executed as witches across Scotland. And I would say this as well, I think tied to this rise in activism and attitudes to exploring miscarriages of justice, both contemporary and historical, there’s been more a subtle perhaps or moral endeavour, I suppose, to try and understand more about marginalised groups. If we’re talking in the realm of history, this could be people who have been left out of the historical record. In 2018, for example, there was an exhibition by the University of Edinburgh which focused on bringing to light centuries-long unacknowledged history of African, Asian and Caribbean students at the University of Edinburgh, from the 19th century to the present day.

Within my field, the history of witchcraft, there’s been a turn in really trying to see the accused witches not simply as historical subjects or pieces of evidence to fit into an academic argument, but to understand them as far as possible as people with families and lives. People who showed emotion. There’s a real effort to try and see them as individuals with agency.

[JB]
Where did your own interest come? I presume that this was part of your research before you became involved with the National Trust for Scotland.

[CJ]
I studied history at school and university, and became interested in the history of the witch trials and witchcraft first as an undergraduate and then I took it further and did a PhD. Principally, I’ve always been interested in what were people’s beliefs at the time, and why they believed the things that they did. In looking at the history of witchcraft, I’ve become interested in how the past is both familiar but also unfamiliar.

What’s always struck me when thinking about this subject is that people living in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries – that’s what we call the Early Modern period, when a lot of big changes took place – these people lived with, as I said, different beliefs and they lived in different cultures and societies that were structured in very different ways from our own, which look maybe alien to us today. But we’re dealing with humans. We’re dealing with people living in the time of the witch trials; they were like us. They had similar wants, desires, fears. They had families. They loved and hated. Their brains and cognitive processes work in the same way ours do today.

And the witch trials happened at the time of the birth of modernity as we kind of conceptualise it today. The witch trials didn’t happen in the Dark Ages or a time of superstition; they happened at the same time as states were modernising, the creation of the printing press, big changes in bureaucracy and government, in law, in science, in medicine, and in intellectual thinking. These times aren’t 100% alien to us, but at the same time as these modern inventions were developing, regions were holding witch trials, and there was a concerted effort to rid the western European world of it.

So how do you get your head around that? And I suppose that’s what really motivated me and continues to motivate me today in studying this topic.

[JB]
Hmmm. So much innovation was happening and yet what was happening in terms of witch trials was positively medieval. Now, you had a blank canvas in terms of researching the links between the properties. What was your starting point for each investigation? Take us through the process.

[CJ]
I conducted a brief survey of all the properties that I could find, and I then looked at the data that’s available on the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database, which is an online database of all the identifiable people accused as witches in Scotland and their interrogators. I also used the recent Witches.IS map, which is an online map created by the University of Edinburgh which visualises the data from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft. So, I used these two tools to identify which properties – and there are over 100 Trust properties – and I used these tools to try and identify properties that had tentative links to the trials.

[JB]
And you found 39 connections.

[CJ]
Yes, that’s right. I think we actually identified 40, so a nice round number there. These were properties that had some sort of connection to the witch trials. Quite early on during my research, it became apparent that I was coming across two types of connections – I call these direct connections and peripheral connections.

Direct connections, I argued, are connections where in the case, for example, of building properties, historical owners can be identified as being involved with the witch trials, such as investigating or prosecuting witches. Historical owners or their relatives might have sat on witch trials as commissioners, as judges, as interrogators – or they might even have been involved with defending an accused person. Some might even have been targets of the witch-men.

For example, one that comes to mind is Pollok House. Now, the house was built after witch hunting had long since passed but the estate was originally owned by the Maxwell of Pollok family, and Sir George Maxwell, the-then Laird of the Pollok Estate, was said to have been bewitched by a group of six witches – five women and one man. They apparently made a wax effigy of Sir George and roasted it over a fire and stuck it with pins, which led to his death. And even his son, Sir George Maxwell of Pollok, was later involved as a Commissioner in the Paisley Witch Hunts, which took place in the 1690s. So that’s just an example of what I would call a direct connection, where we can trace a historical family’s involvement through a National Trust property and witch trials.

The other connections I labelled as direct could include properties where an accused witch might have been imprisoned or where a trial took place. The Trust also looks after landscape properties or estates, and I also labelled some of these as direct connections, which involved landscapes or estates where an accused witch might have resided. For example, Culross is a good one. There are quite a few accused witches who lived in or near to Culross. In the late 1670s, four women – three of whom were widows – appeared before the Justiciary Court of Edinburgh under suspicion of witchcraft. These were Catherine Sands, Isabelle English, Janet Hendrie and Agnes Hendrie. All unfortunately were executed.

The second type of main connection that I found was what I called peripheral connections. I define these as connections that perhaps can’t be made directly to a specific property, but can be made to the immediate or surrounding area. Again, this might include accused witches who resided nearby, narratives of accused witches meeting near a property, or indeed investigations, interrogations and trials that happened nearby.

[JB]
Before we get into more of the specifics of what was happening in Scotland, witch hunts and trials were happening throughout Europe at that time, and they came in waves. What sparked each wave and what was the scale?

[CJ]
I think there are probably three key things that enabled such large-scale witch hunts to take place across Early Modern Europe. The first really is to do with the development of what was called Daemonology, which translates to the ‘science of demons’. This was an intellectual strand of thinking that could be traced back to the 15th century out of concerns of heretical groups meeting in secret outside of the Catholic church. And over time this concern morphed into one of Daemonology’s core ideas, which was that there was a secret underground group of devil-worshippers and witches who threatened to overturn Christianity and destroy Christian communities. Daemonology claimed that witches renounced their Christian souls and made pacts with the Devil and demons in exchange for the power to do magical harm.

Every society, all the way back to antiquity, has had their own conceptualisations of witches and evil magical practitioners. And there had even been executions before the witch trials for people being identified as witches or evil magical practitioners. But it wasn’t really until the rise of this so-called Daemonology that there had never really been a concerted effort to advocate the mass prosecution of witches along national levels. And this strand of thinking was disseminated through print –treatises were made available thanks to the advent of the printing press. And these treatises were read by the elite, not just witch hunters but whole learned sections of societies across the western world. And eventually these ideas started to penetrate the minds of common folk in the small towns and villages.

[JB]
And the scale that we’re talking about, across Europe – is it possible to put a figure on it?

[CJ]
Yes, we can. The current estimates are around about 100,000 people are known to have been accused across Early Modern Europe – that’s European countries that held witch trials. And of those, we estimate around 50,000 to 60,000 were executed. But I would add that witch hunting varied regionally and chronologically. There were some regions, such as areas of Germany, where around 25,000 to 30,000 were executed. And that includes places like Scotland and some parts of northern Europe. But there were also areas where witch hunting didn’t really happen on a massive scale. We might include places like France, Spain and England among countries that engaged perhaps in little to mild witch hunting.

And it also varied chronologically. Much of the accusations and prosecutions took place between the Early Modern period, which is the early 16th to the late 18th century. But the majority of executions for witchcraft took place in a much smaller period – probably between 1580 and 1630. This was the time when witch hunting was most zealously pursued by Early Modern territories.

[JB]
As you said, Scotland’s role was particularly unsavoury. As I said in the introduction, around 4,000 people accused, 2,500 executed. Am I correct in saying – and this is something I read – that Scotland had 5x the European average?

[CJ]
Yes, that’s right. It’s one of these northern European kingdoms that we would categorise as extreme, that really engaged in witch hunting. In Scotland, between the passing of the Witchcraft Act in 1563 which made witchcraft a capital crime in Scotland until its repeal in 1736, we estimate that (as you said) around 4,000 people were accused and 2,500 were probably executed. Scotland at the time had a population of around 1 million. Now, that doesn’t seem that much when you compare it to places like Germany that executed 25,000, but when you do some complex mathematics – which I can’t do but fortunately there are other historians who have done some already! – then we can guess that the number of executions per head of the population was something around 2.5 witches per 1,000 of the population, which as you said is 5x higher than the standard European average.

[JB]
So, it begs the question: why did Scotland join the witch hunts with such fervour?

[CJ]
Again, that’s another good question. I would probably say there are a couple of reasons. The first has to do with the types of courts that tried witches in Scotland. Scotland at the time had quite a weak, decentralised legal system, meaning that Scotland did not have the state infrastructure to continually hold central trials presided over by fully trained judges. Most of the trials in Scotland – and we estimate around 9/10 of those – were conducted locally in areas where witchcraft accusations surfaced. These trials were conducted by prominent men of the community, who had been granted commissions to convene their own courts. But none of them had really any experience of legal training, of hunting witches before. And they were much more connected to the villages and towns where the suspect witches came from. So, they were less likely to be impartial than the central judges in Edinburgh, for example. As a result, most of the accused who were tried in this way were probably found guilty and executed.

[JB]
But what about the power of the Church specifically? Did that play a part?

[CJ]
Yes. In Scotland, witchcraft was ultimately enforced by the secular courts; it was a secular crime. But when compared with England for example, which had a much lower number of accusations and executions, witchcraft in Scotland was certainly seen as more of a religious crime or a heresy. This can be seen by how influential the Church courts were involved. For example, Scotland had a whole host of Kirk Sessions, which were a very local form of Church court which were set up across many different parishes in the Lowlands, and some in the Highlands too. These Kirk courts weren’t responsible for solely investigating witchcraft accusations, nor did they have the powers to try witches and execute them, but their main job was to provide, let’s say, moral or spiritual support to the communities that they oversaw. And at times they were responsible for disciplining the behaviour of local people, and that meant perhaps looking into cases of witchcraft accusations.

[JB]
I looked at some other research and Scotland was rather menacingly described as ‘a religious police state’. What actually constituted being a witch, Ciaran? Or did the definition change to fit the victim?

[CJ]
There were certainly stereotypes about witches and women, and men, which fed into and shaped the idea of ‘the witch’. But there were probably some core components that stayed the same across a lot of these European regions. Essentially, Early Modern societies and cultures viewed the witch as someone, usually a woman, who while pretending to be a good Christian member of the community was actually in secret someone who could perform harmful magic.

And there were really two dominant ideas of what a witch was in this period. The first is what we might call the ‘village witch’. That’s the idea of a witch, who might be someone in the community, who was secretly pretending to be a good Christian but in actual fact they were a witch performing evil magic. And they got their powers from their parents, who in turn inherited their powers from their parents. So, this was quite a common idea of magical powers being passed down generationally. These so-called village witches killed their neighbours out of revenge, or malice, or envy. They perhaps usually acted on their own. That was the first dominant idea.

The second really of what constituted a witch was the idea of the ‘demonic witch’. Now this was the idea that usually dominated the minds of the intellectuals and the learned of the day, and this was the idea that witches were part of a secret, heretical anti-Christian conspiracy that worshipped and served the Devil, and that their main aim was to overthrow Christian society. According to this idea of the witch, witches didn’t get their powers generationally but made special pacts with the Devil who would grant them the power to perform evil magic if they renounced their Christian faith and promised to serve him.

These two ideas, it should be said, weren’t fixed; they sometimes overlapped, so ordinary folk in the villages had some idea of the idea of the demonic witch. And the intellectuals who wrote about Daemonology for example understood the village interpretation of the witch as someone who performed evil magic.

[JB]
In Scotland, I understand that 84% of the accused were women. It’s women we think of when we mention the word witch. Was it all based on misogyny or was there a very real and deep fear of the supernatural?

[CJ]
It is quite complicated and a ‘hot button’ topic at the moment. There really is no single explanation we can point to and say ‘yes, that’s why women were accused’. It is quite a complicated picture. There were certainly negative stereotypes about women and about witches that made it more likely that women would be accused of witchcraft. So, for instance, witches were known to cause magical harm through cursing and incantations. Witchcraft is about the danger and power of the spoken word. And women, at least stereotypically in this period, are more likely than men to resolve confrontations through quarrels and through the use of words, through shouting, screaming for example. Whereas men are likely to resolve conflicts through physical violence. So that’s one example of how stereotypes about women’s tendency to use their voice against adversity, which gets morphed into stereotypes about witches’ power to cause magical harm.

So, it’s the outspoken woman, it’s the woman who has the reputation for troublesome or quarrelling behaviour, it’s the woman who is loose with her tongue, it’s the woman who is the inverse of the Christian view of a godly woman. These are the stereotypes that get identified with women who are accused.

Also, in Daemonology, this strand of intellectual thinking I mentioned earlier, this identified women as being more tempted by the Devil because they were thought to be weaker-willed and had weaker natures, and therefore be more tempted to be seduced by the Devil. This is tied with biblical interpretations of the story of Genesis, where Eve is tempted by the serpent to take the forbidden fruit.

Accusations for witchcraft usually surfaced in domestic spheres, where women often worked or competed against each other, so for example in the role of healing, food, crops. So, is this to do all with sexism and misogyny? Well, yes and no. I think we have to confront that a lot of what constituted stereotypes about witches and women in this period were sexist. They were denigrating. A lot of it, we might say, operated subconsciously or on a structural, systemic level. People were not consciously accusing women of witchcraft because they hated women. We have to understand the motivations and reasons of people who are like us but also different from us – and question why they made these types of accusations if, as we can see, they were in part shaped by sexism and misogyny.

I think this has got to do, on a societal level or structural level, with how Early Modern culture viewed witches as deviant and criminal. When people made these accusations, while we pay attention perhaps to the underlying negative stereotypes that informed them, they did so out of a genuine fear of witchcraft and the supernatural. These were real threats that affected people. A modern-day analogy I often use when I give talks to the public or I speak to my students about this very particular subject, is the idea of the Karen figure in the US today. This is the idea of an American woman, usually white, who makes racist, bigoted or unpleasant comments in public, who uses her voice to whine and complain about ‘speaking to the manager’. Now, I’m not saying this to defend the idea of the Karen figure! But this idea of Karen is built on quite negative, some might say sexist, stereotypes about women being loud, whiny, threatening the traditional order of society – perhaps being loose with their tongues. These are some of the same stereotypes that were attached to witches in the Early Modern period, but why do we tolerate them? Why do we think it’s ok to associate them with women? Well, American society and pop culture teaches us that Karens are bad and deviant – we don’t like Karens because, as I said, they’re racist and bigoted – and that’s why we tolerate these stereotypes being attached to them. The same could be said of Early Modern people accusing women as witches. Fundamentally, they made these accusations because they were scared of the figure of the witch, who was deemed to be a criminal and deviant by society.

[JB]
Oh dear. Absolutely fascinating – and you’re actually pre-empting one of my questions to come at the end about lessons we have to learn. But in the meantime, let’s get back to where we are now because much of your research, as you said initially, was you were trying to put a human face on these people. Tell me about an individual case.

[CJ]
One of the cases actually that was quite interesting when I did the research for the report was the case of a woman from Culross called Mary Cunningham and her daughter Janet Erskine. They had been illegally imprisoned in the Tolbooth of Culross in around 1644 – the Tolbooth in Culross is now actually the Townhouse there. They had been really badly tortured by the baillies and the church court clerk. And it seems that she was tried twice – first in a local trial that was granted to the local authorities in Culross but this ended in a not-proven verdict. But because she was quite a wealthy woman, she had enough money to hire a defence advocate, who persuaded for her case to be re-tried in Edinburgh by central judges. It’s not exactly clear what happened to Mary and her daughter, but from what we can gather she survived the zealous attempts by the local authorities of Culross to get her convicted as a witch.

[JB]
Well, let’s end on that optimistic note, Ciaran. We’ll take a break; and when we come back, we’re going to talk about how research into the witch trials has evolved, and how historians like you are now trying to get inside the minds of the perpetrators, to understand the emotional reasons that drove them. We’ll be back in a moment.

[MV]
From coastlines to castles, wildlife to wilderness, when you become a member of the National Trust for Scotland you can enjoy the very best of what Scotland has to offer.

But you can help protect it too.

The National Trust for Scotland is Scotland’s largest conservation charity. By becoming a member, you join thousands of others who are all playing their part to safeguard the places we hold dear for future generations.

Find out more about how to join and more about the Trust’s amazing stories, places and people online. Just search National Trust for Scotland.

[JB]
Welcome back to the Love Scotland podcast. I’m with Dr Ciaran Jones and we’re discussing a brutal period in Scottish history – the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Ciaran, in terms of the body of research, am I correct in saying that there’s been a shift in many historians’ approach, in that there is now an increased focus in trying to understand the people who made the accusations and what drove the interrogators?

[CJ]
Yes, I think so. I think there’s definitely been a shift in how … historians have moved away from trying to understand the beliefs and what drove these, more to focusing on the individual acts involved. That could be understanding the motivations of the interrogators, or perhaps even the accused people themselves, or even some of the accusers, the people in the village who accused their neighbours. One thing I’m interested in, for example, is understanding what drove some of the interrogators. Did they do it because they were misogynistic or sexist? Or did they do it for what they would have considered at the time perhaps sincere reasons?

[JB]
Did any of them feel that they were simply carrying out a true public service?

[CJ]
Yes. There’s one example that I’m currently involved with and that’s research into the witch hunt at South Queensferry. And there’s a particular witch hunt that takes place there in the middle of the 1640s and it’s really controlled by the local minister there. He’s called Ephraim Melville, and he sees himself as quite a good and godly figure. And he really pursues the suspected witches in his community because he has a desire that he’s doing God’s work, and he’s doing it for the benefit of everyone around him.

[JB]
But there were utter opportunistic sadists, weren’t there, who tricked and tortured and killed?

[CJ]
Yes, that’s right. One example which I mention in the report is a man called John Kincaid. Kincaid was a witch pricker and that’s someone who is a freelance witch hunter. They go around communities offering their services to areas where witchcraft accusations are being investigated. And they did it really for financial reasons.

[JB]
Tell me about the actual description ‘witch pricker’ because that’s part of it, isn’t it? That’s part of John Kincaid trying to gain evidence.

[CJ]
Yes, this was the idea of taking a long metal wire and poking it into a part of a suspect witch’s body, where the Devil was supposed to leave his mark. The idea was when this metal wire was poked into the body, if it didn’t draw blood then that was the evidence that that was actually indeed the mark of the Devil. But as we know today, there are parts of the body which are insensible. But this was used as evidence of trying to uncover witches in the community.

[JB]
I was very surprised to find out that witch hunting wasn’t only a male preserve. It was a way for some women – a few – to achieve an influential role in what was obviously a patriarchal society.

[CJ]
Yes, so as I said, a lot of the people who made the accusations were other women. And because of the patriarchal nature of society, women could only really compete with each other. Some of the accusations we can trace to concerns perhaps over status or property. There were also examples of women who were involved in the interrogation process, not necessarily questioning the suspected witches but perhaps being involved in guarding them or watching them while they were in prison, which gave them perhaps a bit more of a role in the community outside of the domestic sphere.

[JB]
And trying to get inside the head of the witch hunters, how do you do that? Does much evidence still exist?

[CJ]
That’s a good question. Unfortunately, we don’t have diaries of witch hunters, which I think any historian of this period would tell you would be great if we did have surviving diaries of witch hunters. The evidence we use are mainly the trial records or records of the local church courts, these Kirk Sessions I mentioned earlier, which left behind some evidence of the process of witch hunting. We really infer through those records the motivations, as far as we possibly can, of what drove some of the witch hunters.

[JB]
And before I move on to how this awful period of history drew to a close, I can’t help but mention the involvement of the king – King James VI and subsequently I of England.

[CJ]
Yes, that’s right. Particularly before he became King James I of England, when he was still King James VI of Scotland, he was involved in the infamous North Berwick witch trials, which are probably the most well-known witch trials in Scotland. And yes, they involved King James VI personally. He’s the only known monarch to ever get involved with hunting witches. But why?

A lot of it has to do with concerns about his marriage to Princess Anne of Denmark. In the late 1580s – late 1589/early 1590 – he’s looking to get married to Princess Anne, but when she was supposed to come over to Scotland, there were terrible storms that disrupted her voyage. So, James heads out to Norway to meet her and try and bring her back, and there are more storms. The Danish start having witch trials over these storms, and they think it might be caused by evil magic, which is quite a common notion of the time – that witches conjure up magic to sink ships, for example.

Eventually, when James gets back to Scotland with Anne, he starts to begin his own witch hunt. He personally, for example, interrogates some of the suspected persons, most famously Agnes Sampson who, during an interrogation session with the king, repeated some private words that he had supposedly said to his new wife on the night of their wedding. He has quite a high opinion of himself at this time. He thinks he is the main adversary of the Devil; he’s a godly leader who needs to set an example to his Scottish subjects, and perhaps even his potential English subjects south of the border too. Indeed, he has a popular pamphlet of the trials printed in England after the North Berwick trials died down, called News from Scotland. This is actually printed in London. So, these trials are heavily politicised and it comes mixed in with ideas of treason against the king as well as witchcraft.

[JB]
Another astonishing part of this. When and how did the witch trials end?

[CJ]
They end in Scotland actually quite late, compared to other European countries …

[JB]
We haven’t covered ourselves in glory in all of this, have we?

[CJ]
No! By the 1630s or the early 1640s, most continental European countries, particularly places like Germany which are considered to be the heartland of witch trials in Early Modern Europe, they’ve stopped really mass hunting witches. But Scotland still continues to hold mass witch hunts until the restoration of Charles II in 1660. It’s at that point when there’s what we would call a culture of legal scepticism that sets in amongst the lawyers and judges across Scotland. They think that the evidence that is being used traditionally to convict witches is no longer use-able in court to prove a guilty verdict.

And so, this scepticism causes witch trials to decline over the rest of the 17th century and into the early 18th century. But I should probably say as well that belief in witchcraft, particularly among the common folk and some sections of the learned elite, that doesn’t really go away until much later. The Witchcraft Act is finally repealed in 1736, and by that point there are no more witch trials being conducted across Scotland.

[JB]
As I said in the introduction, and as you addressed, this is something that we took very lightly and now we are increasingly treating what happened with respect and with sensitivity. What I want to know is why has it taken us so long?

[CJ]
I think the general public’s attitude has matched, so to speak, with the academic development of the subject. Probably in the mid-20th century, the 1960s, witchcraft was considered to be a superstition. It was seen to be an academic subject that was ridiculed, that wasn’t worthy of intellectual pursuit. But now, historians, scholars and the public want to know about the individuals involved not as historical subjects or as pieces of evidence to fit into an argument, but to understand their lives, to engage with them on a more personal and human level. I think that’s why now’s the time that this is happening and not 400 years ago.

[JB]
Here’s a question for you: is there anything that we can learn as a society, with our pile-ons and sometimes our victimisation of people who have different views from ourselves? That we can learn from the witch hunts about this hysteria that spread through populations?

[CJ]
I think we can look back at this past to try to understand more about the human condition. As some of the examples that I said in the report, we’re dealing with people who had families, who had lives – and as far as possible I’ve tried to document those lives in the report. When we look past some of the evidence which is about witchcraft and about being interrogated, we see that these people had lives very much like us. They met their friends; they perhaps went to the pub to drink ale. And so, I think that in looking at the past, we can learn a bit more about the human condition today.

[JB]
Well, thank you so much for joining me Ciaran and for taking us through this terrible history of Scotland’s witch trials and the Trust properties that played a part in them.

[CJ]
Thank you for having me, Jackie.

[JB]
And if you’d like to read Ciaran’s report in full, click on the link in the show notes of this episode or visit the Research page on the Trust website. And there you can see the full list of 40 properties with connections to the witch trials.

From me, thank you for listening and join us again on the next episode of Love Scotland.

[MV]
Love Scotland is a Think Publishing production, produced by Clare Harris in association with the Big Light Studio. Presented by Jackie Bird, with recording and reporting by Cameron Angus MacKay. Music and post-production is by Brian McAlpine. Executive Producer for the Big Light is Fiona White.

For show notes, access to previous episodes and further information on the National Trust for Scotland, go to nts.org.uk or visit thebiglight.com/lovescotland and please like, share, rate, review and subscribe.

(a man whistles and heavy footsteps walk across a wooden floor)

From The Big Light Studio

(sound of a light switching off)

Hornel in Japan

In an exciting and invigorating year for Glasgow, Jackie heads to Pollok House to find out more about one of the city’s most prominent artists of the late 19th century. Edward Atkinson Hornel was a Glasgow Boy – a group of radical young painters who transformed the city’s art scene and planted the seed of modernism. Inspired by the work of Dutch and French realists, the Boys found both commercial and critical success with landscapes and portraits that displayed everyday life.

A new exhibition at Pollok House tells the story of Hornel’s two visits to Japan and the work he created there.

How did these visits shape his point of view? What do they tell us of western views of Asian nations at the time? And what fuelled Glasgow’s close artistic links to Japan?

Take a listen …

A purple title card reads: The Love Scotland podcast | Hornel in Japan | The life and travels of a Glasgow Boy. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card.

Hornel At Pollok House

Transcript

Three voices: male voiceover (MV); Jackie Bird (JB); Sam Gallacher (SG)

[MV] Love Scotland

Brought to you by the National Trust for Scotland

[JB] Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Love Scotland.

Today I’m at Pollok House in the heart of Glasgow, looking to discover more about one of our most influential home-grown artists. Edward Atkinson Hornel was one of the so-called Glasgow Boys, a group of radical young painters in the late 1800s who transformed the Scottish art scene and gained global recognition.

Much of Hornel’s acclaim came from a series of paintings he created during a lengthy visit to Japan. He tapped into the growing popularity here of this mysterious land’s art and design.

He portrayed the people and places through an undeniably Western eye, which these days is not to everyone’s taste … but more of that later.

However, his works struck a lucrative chord with the buying public. So, this year, as Glasgow’s artistic credentials are boosted by the reopening of the Burrell Collection after a 5-year renovation, we thought we’d take a look at its next-door neighbour: Pollok House, and how its own gallery space is playing host to an exhibition all about Hornel and his time in Japan.

I’m heading up the grand stairway of Pollok House to meet Sam Gallacher, manager of the Trust in Glasgow.

Now, Sam has his own long-standing connection to Hornel, having previously overseen the artist’s home: Broughton House in Dumfries & Galloway for the Trust.

Making our way to the gallery space, which would be on the second floor!

Hello Sam! Nice to meet you!

[SG]

Hello Jackie! Welcome to Pollok House and welcome to the Gallery at Pollok House.

[JB]

Lead on.

Now, what form … describe the gallery set-up here.

[SG]

So, the gallery is on the second floor of Pollok House, our 18th-century mansion in Pollok Country Park …

[JB]

You can hear the 18th-century squeaky floorboards here!

[SG]

Yes, we haven’t oiled our floor for you Jackie, I’m sorry about that.

The exhibition space that we have is a relatively recent addition and what we’re wanting to do is showcase some of the Trust collections, but also we’re keen to bring in different exhibitions as well. It’s a really exciting new asset for us to have at Pollok House.

[JB]

Well, we’re going to be talking specifically about some of the paintings here. But first, give us a bit of background to Hornel’s life.

The thing that I find surprising was that he wasn’t born in Scotland.

[SG]

No, Hornel is a very proud son of Australia, born in Bacchus Marsh. His family though are from Scotland, from Kirkcudbright, from a long line of shoemakers. They returned to Scotland with Hornel just as a wee babe and he grew up in Kirkcudbright. And in fact, one of the first drawings that we have by Hornel is of the Tolbooth in Kirkcudbright.

At 16, he went off to Edinburgh to study at what would become the School of Art. And following his studies there, he went to the Royal Academy in Antwerp, and he studied there for several years before coming back to Scotland and making his permanent home Kirkcudbright in Dumfries & Galloway.

[JB]

Now I mentioned the Glasgow Boys in my introduction. We often glibly use that phrase, expecting everyone to know who they were, so give us a potted history of the collective and their significance.

[SG]

Well, I suppose with any kind of movement of artists, the problem is with the Glasgow Boys that they didn’t paint pictures of Glasgow and they weren’t actually boys!

We’ve got a group of men and women, who are challenging the assumptions of the academy. What do we mean by that? We’re dealing with the 1870s through to the 1890s. I want us to maybe picture in our minds a really famous Scottish painting by Thomas Faed, The Last of the Clans. It’s in Kelvingrove. It’s got that chieftain on a horse; it’s a kind of symbol of the Highland Clearances. It’s a moral story.

They hated this work. E A Hornel said himself: ‘I want to put Faed in the shade.’

And what they were looking for were different influences from around the world that would help them challenge these assumptions.

And the 20 or so artists who are associated with the Glasgow Boys, they never spoke with one voice. There’s huge diversity in what they were interested in, but there were some common themes: the influence in particular of French realism and French naturalism.

What do we mean by this kind of movement and change? They were interested in getting into the real world, painting under the real sunlight. They wanted to portray the countryside and people working in the countryside. And that really is summed up by the first painting that we show to our visitors at the exhibition, which is a work from Hornel from the late 1880s, 1887 – Sheep grazing in an autumn landscape.

Here we have Dumfries & Galloway in that very particular light. We’ve got an agricultural scene that Hornel himself has gone out with his sketch pad or his canvas; he’s working in nature. And that sums up the approach of a lot of the Glasgow Boys, people like James Guthrie, people like John Lavery and also, quite famously, Hornel’s early collaborator George Henry, whose Galloway Landscape of 1889 is probably the epitome of that very rough movement of what Glasgow Boys was all about.

[JB]

Now this was painted, I see, in 1887. Just to put in context and to give us the heads-up as to what happened next in Hornel’s career, what was happening in Glasgow then?

[SG]

Well, Glasgow is the Second City of Empire, as we know. What does this probably mean in reality?

Well, I like to think of Glasgow as a bit like Dubai at that point. You’ve got lots of new money, lots of new construction …

[JB]

What a fantastic comparison, yes!

[SG]

… magnates coming in, culture is something people are interested in, making their mark for the first time. With all this money and connections, Glasgow is the beating heart of the global culture of the time.

One part of that influence is a connection to Japan. And it starts in the 1870s with a man called Christopher Dresser. He is born in Glasgow; he’s a designer. And he gets sent over in the 1870s to Japan. Trade has been opening up for about 20 years but it hasn’t been an easy relationship with Japan. And he goes and he travels across Japan, and he collects art objects. The Meiji government, the government of Japan, commission him intern to work on the relationships with the British empire.

He brings back with him in 1878, having a magnificent collection of objects for the city of Glasgow, the great trading industrial city. If you’re going to make a partnership, Japan knows Glasgow is a good one to make a partnership with.

And with his collection that comes to the city is displayed in the early 1880s. And it’s a blockbuster exhibition! 30,000 people come to see it and it really resonated with the public in Glasgow, and in particular with some of the key people who are involved with the art scene.

If we look at some of the works that we have in the gallery …

[JB]

Look at the cabinet here.

[SG]

We’ve got our collection of ceramics that were brought back by Sir John Stirling Maxwell of Pollok, whose house we are in just now. Sir John travelled to Japan in 1890, part of that wider interest in Japanese culture and arts. And he is bringing back objects that he would have seen at that exhibition, or similar to the exhibition that Christopher Dresser had brought back 10 years before. And so we’re seeing some really nice connections into the art market.

Sir John Stirling Maxwell is a really important collector and patron in his own right, but he’s not as important as a man called Alex Reid. Alexander Reid is an art collector; he’s an art dealer, and there’s a really nice connection that we need to look at between Alexander Reid and Japanese art and Hornel.

So Hornel goes off, as I mentioned, to Antwerp to study at the Royal Academy. He’s studying under a man called Charles Verlat. And just in 1885, as Hornel is leaving, they probably don’t meet but Vincent van Gogh seeks out Charles Verlat. And Vincent van Gogh, his impasto style, that really heavy use of oils, his building up the layers, very similar to what Hornel is doing in his own works. He’s part of that same movement.

Well, after speaking to Charles Verlat in Antwerp, Vincent van Gogh returns to Paris. And who does he share a flat with? But Alex Reid of Glasgow. And Vincent van Gogh is already inspired, like so many artists, by Japanese prints, ukiyo-e. Great artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige, and they’re really influencing the aesthetics of people like Vincent van Gogh. So Alex Reid, this Glasgow art collector, living with this very famous artist and surrounded by Japanese prints, when he comes to Glasgow, you can guess what’s the first thing that he does. He does a big show of ukiyo-e prints at his art gallery in 1889, a year before Sir John Stirling Maxwell heads himself to Japan and the same year that Alex Reid starts partnering with E A Hornel.

[JB]

Was that interest by Reid sparked by the pure aesthetic or did he see a money-making opportunity?

[SG]

I’ll be generous to Reid and say both.

[JB]

Ha ha! Right, ok.

[SG]

Reid was the influencer of his time. If he did Instagram, my goodness he’d decide what Scotland’s art market wanted to do.

And he was so influential that some artists that he would pick on, such as Adolphe Monticelli, a French artist, a little bit on the periphery of the art movement; he loved his work. He bought lots of his paintings to Glasgow. If you go to any Scottish gallery or collection, you’ll find Monticelli. It’s not a work that other countries seem to have a lot of, but it’s because Reid wanted it. And actually, George Henry, who was E A Hornel’s collaborator, he joked in a letter to Hornel: ‘What’s Monticelli Reid telling you now?’

They were calling him Monticelli Reid given his passion for this artist.

And it was that, being attuned to these big trends in global art, that really influenced the Glasgow Boys as well. Because at the centre of what the Glasgow Boys were interested in is kind of summed up really by Whistler. We know the great American-born painter spent most of his career in the UK. Whistler was very much a believer of art for art’s sake.

And he gave a very influential lecture, which another Glasgow Boy John Lavery referred to as ‘the gospel of art’. And this is what Whistler said:

He said ‘the story of the beautiful is already complete, hewn in the marvels of the Parthenon and embroidered with birds upon the fan of Hokusai at the foot of Fujiyama.’

So here we have Whistler, the philosopher if you like of the Glasgow Boys movement, who’s challenging all that moralism and storytelling of the Academy of Art of the mid-19th century, telling his followers ‘art for art’s sake’, and he’s referencing the two great pieces of humanity’s artistic production: on the one side the Parthenon; on the other the Japanese prints of Hokusai, the ukiyo-e.

So, you can imagine the influence that would have on a young man like Hornel, and what he felt he had to do if he wanted to make his mark on the world.

[JB]

But he needed some help to do that. And Reid, the influencer, was influential in that.

[SG]

He was indeed. And Reid put together a group of art collectors, including Sir William Burrell, who would fund this venture art capital trip to Japan for George Henry, who was probably the more famous artist at the time following the Galloway Landscape, and E A Hornel, his slightly younger friend, to go off and have time in Japan and follow in the footsteps of other artists but to be inspired by Japan.

[JB]

So when are we talking about here?

[SG]

We are talking about the early 1890s. And the trip builds up to 1893 when Henry and Hornel depart. And it’s quite interesting that this was not a secret trip, that art newspapers were covering some of what was happening already. They were excited for Hornel going over. One magazine, called Quiz Magazine, gives a great description of Hornel. You have to take it with a little bit of sense of humour, a little bit of gallus I think is in there too. It says: ‘Hornel: scholar, Emisonian, excellent raconteur, pictures big, ambivalent but beyond comprehension of the gay throng. No form, no moral, no story, no nothing.’

(We’re hearing again that Whistler influence aren’t we?)

‘But simply art and colour in several halls sails to Japan, today. Paints for them, also pipes. Away a 12 month. Lucky boys. Bon voyage.’

So, it was a big deal.

[JB]

What a build up!

[SG]

In the art market of Glasgow that these two artists were going out to Japan, and what they would experience, and what they would bring back.

And for Alexander Reid, he’s thinking this investment will return paintings and artworks, which of course as an art dealer he can sell in his art gallery in West George Street in Glasgow.

[JB]

Let’s move on to the next room then, because the next room, in the main, sees Hornel in Japan.

Which of the paintings here – we’d love to talk about them all – but which of the paintings here sums it up, Sam?

[SG]

Let’s have a look at Two Geishas, it’s 1894. It’s a painting that was completed during the trip.

We’re looking at a painting which is rectangular in shape. It has a very clear diagonal composition.

It’s quite similar … I don’t know if you know the painting of the Druids Bringing the Mistletoe, which was a George Henry and Hornel collaboration in the late 1880s, already see some Japanese influence there … that’s resonating with this painting.

And what we’re seeing, for context, are Japanese women dressed in traditional Japanese dress. They have their sun umbrellas, they have their fans. Is this the Japan that actually Hornel and Henry found when they arrived?

No, it wasn’t.

Japan had already Westernised to a huge extent. They were disappointed when they saw the Emperor himself dressed in western clothes. They said ‘what a shame he’s wearing store-bought western clothes’.

They wanted a Japan that had ceased to exist.

And for Hornel, this meant that they had to try and find ways to access an authentic Japan. And there’s quite amusing but quite troubling experiences that they had to do that.

Henry and Hornel tried to work for a Japanese builder or architect, ostensibly doing plans for him. They went out of the concessions of Tokyo where they were living at the time to experience real Japan.

Unfortunately, they were discovered. And in Japan there was not a huge amount of tolerance for non-Japanese people leaving the main urban centres. And a newspaper covered the two western artists were out and about, trying to paint pictures of Japanese life. And they were very antagonistic towards Henry and Hornel. And I think this really impacted Henry in quite a big way.

Hornel though, I think he pivoted. So instead of following this line, Hornel in Tokyo spent a lot of time in two places in particular: one was the Ueno park, which was a very famous park, as it is today, in Tokyo – people would go there for their afternoon stroll, wonderful cherry trees, it’s a real centre for the city, it’s a sort of green environment; another area, which again is very popular today, is Asakusa, the entertainment district.

And Hornel’s paintings from his trip in 1894/95, they’re not capturing authentic Japan any more, that’s off the table. What they’re capturing is the energy of Japanese nightlife and of the social life. And when he comes back from Japan, he describes a little bit of what it was like experiencing Asakusa. He says: ‘the grounds of Asakusa are the quaintest and liveliest place in Tokyo. Here are shows, peep shows, penny gaffs, performing monkeys, cheap photographs, street artists, jugglers, wrestlers, life-size figures in clay, vendors of toys and lollipops of every sort, and circling amidst all these cheap attractions a seething crowd of busy holiday makers’.

So, he’s really enjoying this social life of Tokyo at the time, a real mix of western and Japanese cultures coming together. But he’s ignoring those western influences and focusing instead on this more theatrical, social, for-the-tourist-market element. And we see that in the photographs he brings back as well. These are photographs that are made for a tourist market.

[JB]

Two Geishas is striking; it’s vibrant and it is, as you say, full of energy. If that was not the Japan he saw, and you’ve explained his social life, how would he have composed that painting?

[SG]

What really strikes us about the 1894/95 works is that he’s working in Japan on many of these paintings. So, he’s capturing moments of his own experience. He’s not known as a draughtsman. And he covers for that by using his own colour palette. This is not a Japanese colour palette; he’s being inspired by a very authentic way, actually. He’s experimenting with the dark and light; he’s drawing on his experience of working with Henry and he’s putting together paintings which are using aspects of photography, to some extent. I think we’ll see a lot more in his later works.

This is much more a man on the street, taking the moment and capturing small details.

So we see in Two Geishas the face of the geisha, we can make out the fan, but the rest is riot of colour. We’re picking out the parasol in the background but we’re not really focusing, are we, I don’t think, on any particular element. But the whole composition – and this is very Whistler, Whistler is all about composition, he talks about his work in kind of musical arrangements, musical melodies – and I think that’s what we’re getting. I can almost hear the music of the street in Tokyo and that moment that he’s trying to capture.

[JB]

How long in this trip was he in Japan and how many works did he complete?

[SG]

He was in Japan for about 13 months. They were away for about 18/19 months altogether.

He returns to Scotland, but he avoids the press.

Straightaway, Henry goes in front of the press. He starts talking about the experience. Henry’s quite bitter. I think he’s bitter that he didn’t get the authentic Japan that he wanted and he’s quite disparaging about Japan and Japanese people. He’s really disappointed I think by what he’s found.

He’s had a double disappointment. Unlike Hornel, a lot of his works have been damaged on return. And he writes to Hornel that on unwrapping his paintings, be especially careful. He just lost so much.

So Hornel painted at least 44 paintings. Because of course who was waiting in the background, no doubt slightly annoyed that Hornel hadn’t come straight to him, but Alex Reid. And during the trip they were running out of money – it was a real kind of lads’ holiday I think at different points.

Reid was getting a bit worried. This was a business trip for him; he had made an investment and he wanted a return on that investment.

But he got the return in the end.

He had a Hornel show in 1895 at his West George Street gallery, and it was an absolute sell-out.

All 44 paintings were sold.

The Glasgow Evening News of the time said of the exhibition that it ‘was one of the most magnificent displays of a single artist’s genius ever brought together in Scotland’.

Quiz Magazine, that magazine that …

[JB]

Understated!

[SG] Understated! And sent off, bon voyage to the Boys. They write that the exhibition was ‘extraordinary, magnificent, sublime. Hornel has arrived.’

So, this was a really important experience for Hornel, because suddenly he was famous, he was commercially viable and with Reid’s support he was really making his name.

And following from the Glasgow show, he then did a tour of the United States to promote his work to new audiences.

[JB]

Before we take a short break, isn’t it the case during the sale of Hornel’s paintings in Japan, that three were bought by …

[SG]

Sir John Stirling Maxwell! Yes, that’s correct.

[JB]

Brings us back to this very place, this very house!

[SG]

As well as Sir William Burrell. So you can imagine the opening of the art exhibition at West George Street with Alex Reid in the middle …

[JB]

Counting his money!

[SG] Counting his money. One side to William Burrell, who’s also buying a painting, and then on the other people like Sir John Stirling Maxwell who’d buy three of the paintings. No doubt reflecting on that trip he had, just a few years before and bringing those really important paintings for him into his wider art collection. So, a really important moment that I think says that Hornel had made it.

[JB]

So, let’s leave it there. Hornel is being feted by one and all. He’s had a tremendous success … but, but it would be 26 years before he returns to Japan.

We’ll find out why and about the ensuing period in a moment, but let’s take a break and we’ll be back very soon.

[MV]

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But you can help protect it too. The National Trust for Scotland is Scotland’s largest conservation charity. By becoming a member, you join thousands of others who are all playing their part to safeguard the places we hold dear for future generations.

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[JB]

Welcome back to the Love Scotland podcast.

I’m with Sam Gallacher from the National Trust for Scotland, who’s my host as we visit the Pollok House exhibition of the paintings and photography of the artist E A Hornel.

So, Sam, Hornel made a fortune and his name from this hugely successful trip to Japan. But what is interesting is that he didn’t go back for many years. So, what happened in the period in between?

[SG]

I think Hornel was expecting to be incredibly famous and rich after the first trip that he made his name. When the paintings went over to the United States and he went with them on tour, they didn’t sell to the same extent. In fact, in the late 1890s a lot of his work isn’t selling in the way he expected it to. What he’s taken from his trip to Japan isn’t so much an aesthetic change, which maybe is what he was expecting. The content isn’t being reproduced, so after that initial trip, from 1896 he’s no longer using the Japanese subject matter in his paintings. He’s moving much more back to some older works; he’s being a lot more floral in some of his compositions, but they’re not really resonating.

And I think at a certain point in the early 1900s the idea has come to him: I need to get back out into the world. I need to go painting again.

And he decides to go to what was then Ceylon, Sri Lanka to visit his cousin James Hornel who was working with the Colonial Service on the pearl fisheries.

Hornel again had a very romantic idea of what he was going to discover. This is following from Bizet’s Lakme, the opera of the Pearl Fishers Duet. He’s imagining something, and reality of course is very, very different.

[JB]

The world is changing.

[SG]

The world is changing.

The pearl fisheries are not a romantic space. He’s put off by the stench of the rotting oysters on the seashore. He can’t even spend any time there whatsoever.

So, he goes into the interior of Sri Lanka, and a lot of that French realism/French naturalism comes back.

He’s painting groups of women picking tea. He is photographing lots of daily scenes of fishermen, of people carrying water bottles. It’s much more on that real life, that c’est la vie, of French realism.

His colour palette as well is very cold.

After all that warmth, all the reds and yellows and blacks, of the first Japan trip, it’s a lot darker and cooler.

And we have an example of that in the exhibition with Ceylonese Tea Pickers from that 1907 trip.

And we’re seeing the coolness coming through.

It’s really interesting at the time, when he brings back these paintings, some critics are saying ‘this is fantastic; this is the artist reinventing himself.’

More, many more, are not happy with what they’re seeing.

And in fact, Hornel reflects later in life that there were controversies around this period.

[JB]

Can you describe the piece for us?

[SG]

What we’re looking at is a composition of three women, and they have been out in the fields collecting tea. They’re bringing it back into a place where they’re sorting through the tea leaves, probably selecting the better leaf. They’re in a semi-rural environment but it’s very difficult to tell. The foliage is almost like a jungle. We’ve got a suggestion of a hill in the background.

It’s a big painting but it leaves us, I think, with much less of an impact than his Japanese works. And I think he’s realising that at the time, that it’s not quite working as well for him.

[JB]

The colours are much more muted. I would go as far as to say that you would find it difficult to believe it was the same artist.

[SG]

Exactly. And I think that for Hornel, he felt that this was missing.

I think also the element of documentary as well in his style, it doesn’t have the romanticism which I think becomes a really important part in what he was interested in doing to get away from, in many ways, the harshness of reality, to be able to present something a lot more innocent, a lot more pure.

This is dirty, hard work.

[JB]

So this is the beginning of the 20th century.

Let’s over-play it! Let’s write for Quiz Magazine and let’s say that … would you go so far as to say there were a few wilderness years, artistically?

[SG]

There were wilderness years, also by his own choosing.

So, he is much more interested, and getting more interested, in this period in his collecting of antiquarian curiosities; his book collection becomes very important.

He’s bought in 1900 a fantastic house with his profits from the previous decade in Kirkcudbright, Broughton House, which is a National Trust for Scotland property.

And he’s living the life of an Edwardian gentleman.

He’s socialising; he’s going to lots of dinners; he’s sponsoring a lot of good causes.

So the art is still a source of income for him but he’s also investing in properties.

So I think for that period his eye’s a little bit more off the ball in terms of how much he’s wanting to produce.

And I think there’s this lingering legacy of Japan. And I think that’s what’s building up in his mind, where he’s missing his genius, his creativity. Of all those wonderful comments about him in the newspapers, maybe the genius was the time he spent in Japan.

[JB]

So, when does he go back?

[SG]

He goes back to Japan in 1921.

[JB]

Can I just ask, in the ensuing period, the Great War – what did he do there?

[SG]

It’s so interesting. His paintings from the late 1890s all the way through, with the exception of the Ceylonese period, are heavily floral.

And actually, he mentions how important flowers are to the Japanese when he went on his first trip. And he took that back with him.

That idea of a love of nature, a love of flowers, whether it’s cherry blossom or roses.

And we see in all his paintings one consistent element, beyond having natural scenes, is beautiful flowers being painted.

So he’s painting these flower paintings, the compositions of women generally in Dumfries & Galloway.

By the time of the war, there’s a couple of paintings 1915/1916 when the flowers disappear.

And I think we cannot underestimate the impact of the Great War on society, on Hornel’s sense of the world that he’d been enjoying 20 years before – this age of innocence that had been lost.

And I think for Hornel as well, we can read into his own life how supportive he was of the war memorial being put in in Kirkcudbright, how much he cared about good causes and the war effort and what could be done.

So, I think there are elements there that really show how his artwork is reflecting his own mood.

And I think that, come the 1920s, Japan again comes back into focus. It’s a way of having a pick-me-up or something that takes him back to that gilded age of his youth.

[JB]

So, he sets off to Japan.

This room is full of paintings. Which one represents that second trip best, do you think?

[SG]

I think if we take a look at A Japanese Garden.

Japanese Garden … Hornel’s really bad actually at giving titles to paintings.

Japanese Garden is one of the most commonly used titles; there’s probably 20 Japanese Gardens at least!

And it’s reflecting really strongly what he’s been missing.

When he was back in Ceylon in 1907, he writes to a friend saying: oh, I hear that my garden is so beautiful at the moment in Kirkcudbright. The peonies are flowering, the wisteria is flowering.

And he quite famously introduces Japanese elements to his own garden in Kirkcudbright. So that is his focus when he goes back in 1921.

He wants to get back into Japanese horticulture; he wants to feel the blossoms, feel the compositions.

And in A Japanese Garden that we have on show here, we’ve got very typical elements that you can imagine. There’s a stone lantern; there’s a geisha surrounded by blossom; there’s a suggestion of a water feature.

We all know the great water lilies of Monet and that bridge crossing the pond, that’s the kind of suggestion here. These elements that are becoming stereotypical Japan, the tourist …

You know, what we have in Scotland as our cake tin, our shortbread box image of Scotland.

This is the sugar-coated image of Japan that Hornel’s really buying into.

[JB]

There’s clearly been a change in style since the first visit which looked to me more authentically Japanese. This does look stereotypical.

Was that conscious? Did he ever write about that?

[SG]

He was very conscious that this is what he was looking for. He believed very much in a reverence for nature, with flowers being the truest expression of the Japanese spirit.

I think for Hornel that became the truest representation of the human spirit.

And I think he took that as being the most important. So, what we’re seeing in these later works is some detail going into the faces of the women being portrayed.

He’s taking that from the photography that he’s collecting.

But in the rest of the composition, the use of colour and form are again suggestions of a spirit of what he’s feeling of nature at the time.

It’s a peaceful spirit. It’s a spirit of beauty, of aesthetics.

I think there’s elements again of that Whistler legacy: this is art for art’s sake. There’s no moral story here; there’s no judgement; there’s nothing to take away beyond enjoying the colours, the moment, the atmosphere.

And I think when looking at A Japanese Garden we can reflect on Ueno Park in Tokyo when it is springtime and the blossoms come out and everyone’s looking their best and everyone’s feeling their best.

It is, following the Great War, the new spring, heading towards a new age.

[JB]

You mentioned judgement there, and it is quite interesting that some people now, and I mean now as contemporary society, look at Hornel’s paintings, especially the second trip, and they are critical of the stereotypical nature of almost all of the paintings. Is that fair?

[SG]

I think it is fair, to a certain extent.

Hornel himself is very critical of the reality of Japanese art, which had become very westernised.

When he goes to Japan in the 1920s, he’s coming into a very modernised country – we know where history is taking us.

He’s choosing to ignore that. And he’s choosing to ignore that for a couple of reasons: one is that he’s still holding true to this idea of innocence and beauty and form, that he doesn’t want anything to detract from that; the other is that he has a market that will buy his paintings.

[JB]

He knows what sells.

[SG]

He knows what’s selling!

And these paintings, these feel-good paintings that are easy on the eye, that are colours, that are refreshing, that give energy, that give a sense of tranquillity – they’re being bought by his fans, basically. And he knows that that works very well.

So, he’s producing art at this point with a very simple idea but he’s producing it en masse; he’s producing it in almost industrial quantities.

And his set-up at Broughton House, with his studio and gallery space, is reflecting this level of production that he’s putting out at this point.

He’s not looking to ‘put shade on Faed’ anymore; he’s not looking to make that big impact in the art world.

What he’s looking at doing, I think, is something which is much more personal. And it’s about a sense of beauty and aesthetics, and it ties very much to a love of travel, a love of Japan, a love of colour and above all a love of flowers.

[JB]

Let’s look at our final two paintings in the exhibition here, which I think sum that up.

They’re two paintings, exactly the same size, side by side.

Two female faces, garlanded almost by flowers.

One is of a geisha, and it’s called Study of Japanese Girl.

And the other is Girl with Wild Flowers.

One is Japanese; one is Scottish.

I’m reading this: they show the extent to which Hornel brought Japan into his later Scottish works, using similar poses and backdrops but a subtle difference in colour palette to reflect East and West.

Why did he do that?

[SG]

I think it’s great to show these two paintings together, and our curator Emma Inglis is very wise to put these together.

Our exhibition is about taking Glasgow to Japan, but we had this important coda, and that’s Japan back to Scotland.

And having these two paintings together, we’ve almost got a wonderful pairing – a mirroring – of Hornel’s style.

In fact, yes there are differences in colour and tone, but they are the same painting in principle.

We’re looking at two young women; one Scottish, one Japanese.

We’ve got one setting which is in the Galloway countryside; this is probably not far from Hornel’s home. It’s summertime, the wildflowers are out. There’s a sense of peace with nature, of that connection to the natural world.

When we look at our Japanese girl in the other painting, she could be at Ueno Park. The blossoms are just coming out; there’s a purity and innocence into what their experiences are.

Both young women, thousands of miles apart, are having almost the same experience.

And for Hornel, I think this really nicely unifies how much the Japanese experience for him had become his hallmark; and how much he was able to, in his later works, really swap out his form between Japan and Scotland, and how they were fused together in this really striking arrangement of colour and form.

[JB]

They’re very romanticised.

Were they successful, especially when he transitioned to using lots of Scottish models?

[SG]

Yes, they were successful, but again to quite a limited market.

So, we’re dealing with a mature artist; he has an established clientele.

His paintings are not resonating in the same way as before, but because he’s now made his market and he’s got his connections – he’s very well-connected as well – his paintings are going into lots of people’s collections.

They’re not going maybe into the collections such as William Burrell and Sir John Stirling Maxwell. In fact, William Burrell does get rid of some of his Hornel paintings at this period. I don’t think he was Sir William’s favourite artist, but we are seeing his paintings getting into much wider audiences.

And I think when it comes to dealership at this point, we’re dealing with some different dealers as well.

But the fusion is quite extensive, and quite a lot of people in Scotland will find Hornel paintings in relatively modest houses.

They’re very popular in Edinburgh with the intelligentsia and middle class of Edinburgh.

So they’re hitting a slightly different, less connoisseurial market (if I can use that word).

But they’ve got a real sense of popularity. And I think there’s a sense of credibility and consistency now with Hornel that even at a point as we’ve seen with that Glasgow/Japan relationship change, we’re seeing the commercial relationship change.

But actually, Hornel’s quite a safe investment, and I think that a lot of people were buying his work because he’s become at that point such a well-established, well-known name in the Scottish art market.

[JB]

You mentioned the industrialised set-up of his studio. We can see that he’s changed his style, a bit more mass-market. If we go back to our earlier conversations, the Glasgow Boys, we do things differently! We revolutionise!

Did Hornel sell out?

[SG]

Did Hornel sell out is a very good question, Jackie!

[JB]

No disrespect! He made a lot of money and was a very successful artist, but it begs that question.

[SG]

As a Glasgow Boy, yes.

As someone who was looking to challenge things, absolutely.

This was a big shift.

But it’s a shift in his own life.

In the 1920s, the most important part of his life is his book collection, alongside his garden.

And I think that’s really important to understand, that from his point of view it was comfort that was so important.

This was not an artist who was willing to die penniless; this was an artist who enjoyed the finer things in life.

He enjoyed his standing within his community and his reputation. And he was very keen to see that legacy be preserved.

And indeed, in that period, in his later period, he’s setting up the groundwork for what would become the Hornel Trust, to preserve his collections, to preserve his house. And of course, thanks to the Hornel Trust, Broughton House and so many of his paintings are now with the National Trust for Scotland.

[JB]

And that’s why I find this exhibition so fascinating. It is not just a collection of paintings and differing styles, it is a story of a man’s life and how that life changed … how all our lives changed.

So it is authentic because it is reflecting that.

And I think it’s wonderful.

When is the exhibition running to and from?

[SG]

Well, we opened on 24 March and we’re running 7 days a week until 19 June 2022.

[JB]

Well, I would encourage as many people as possible to come and see it if you can.

For more details, just head to the National Trust for Scotland website.

Sam, thank you very much for being our guide today.

[SG]

Thanks, Jackie.

[JB]

That’s all from this episode of Love Scotland. I will be back with another very soon.

Until then, from me, goodbye.

[MV]

Love Scotland is a Think Publishing production, produced by Clare Harris in association with the Big Light Studio. Presented by Jackie Bird, with recording and reporting from Cameron Angus MacKay. Music and post-production is by Brian McAlpine. Executive Producer for the Big Light is Fiona White.

For show notes, access to further episodes and information on the National Trust for Scotland, go to nts.org.uk or visit thebiglight.com/lovescotland and please like, share, rate, review and subscribe.

From The Big Light Studio (sound of a light switching off)

Keeping the outdoors great

As wildfires take their toll on Scottish mountainsides, it’s more important than ever that we all take care of our wonderful wild places. Jackie heads to Glencoe to meet ranger Scott McCombie and hear how the National Trust for Scotland’s dedicated staff can help you learn about – and look after – the great outdoors.

Hear about how you can see everything from native forests to golden eagles on a trip to Glencoe and take part in a guided walk or even a Land Rover safari to get as close as possible to Scotland’s outstanding natural heritage.

Scott also talks us through the steps he and his team are making to help ensure the great outdoors stays great, as more of us take the time to enjoy what Scotland has to offer.

A blue title card reads: The Love Scotland podcast | Keeping the outdoors great; How Glencoe's rangers protect and celebrate nature. The National Trust for Scotland logo is at the bottom of the card.

Glencoe Keeping The Outdoors Great

Transcript