See all stories
18 Dec 2018

We’re walking in a photographic wonderland

Written by Ben Reiss, Morton Photography Curator
A black and white photo of a terrier in a snowy avenue of trees. The trees have bare branches. The dog has snow on its nose.
Photographic print from an album of a terrier at Brodie Castle, 1909, photographed by Violet Hope © National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle
Winter is a great time for us to share some of the snowy photographs in our collections. From fairytale castles to Japanese temples, they all have a story to tell.
A black and white photo of Erskine House – a grand mansion house – in the snow. There is a tree in the left foreground.
Glass plate negative of Erskine House, 1886, photographed by Archibald Kennedy, 3rd Marquess of Ailsa © Cassillis Estate, on loan to National Trust for Scotland, Culzean Castle

At Culzean Castle are c300 glass plate negatives taken in the 1880s by Archibald Kennedy, 3rd Marquess of Ailsa. Among them are several photographs of Erskine House, on the banks of the River Clyde. Major General Robert W Stuart, 11th Lord Blantyre, commissioned its construction in 1828 from Sir Robert Smirke (who also designed the British Museum) and it’s now a 5-star resort.

A black and white photo of Erskine House. In the foreground are snow-covered bushes and in the background are snowy hills.
Glass plate negative of Erskine House, 1886, photographed by Archibald Kennedy, 3rd Marquess of Ailsa © Cassillis Estate, on loan to National Trust for Scotland, Culzean Castle

However, Erskine House also holds a prestigious place in the history of medicine. In 1916 it became home to the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers (later just the Erskine Hospital), caring for a large number of soldiers who returned home from WWI having lost limbs. Pioneering Scottish surgeon Sir William Macewen helped to found the hospital, and enlisted Clyde shipbuilders and engineers to develop prosthetics for the patients, leading to the production of the highly successful Erskine Provisional Limbs.

A black and white photo of a terrier in a snowy avenue of trees. The trees have bare branches. The dog has snow on its nose.
Photographic print from an album of a terrier at Brodie Castle, 1909, photographed by Violet Hope © National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle

Violet Hope, wife of Ian Brodie of Brodie Castle, was very fond of animals. Her photographs are full of horses, swans, dogs and a very aristocratic-looking white cat called Eulalie. This terrier has clearly been enjoying itself snuffling about in the snow along one of Brodie’s avenues of trees.

A black and white photo of a robin on snowy ground. There are tyre tracks in the foreground and a bush in the background.
Photograph of a robin at Branklyn Garden, 1933 © National Trust for Scotland, Branklyn Garden

There are numerous reasons why robins are so closely associated with winter and Christmas. One story tells how the dull brown robin supposedly fanned the dying fire in the stable after Jesus’s birth, and burned its breast bright red in the process. Victorian postmen were often called robins because they wore red coats; at Christmas, people would eagerly await the arrival of these ‘robins’ with Christmas cards.

However, this photo also points to a very prosaic reason for the robin’s ubiquity in winter imagery and on Christmas cards. Red-breasted robins remain territorial, loud and bold all winter, standing out against bare black branches and white snow, just like this confident specimen from Branklyn Garden.

A black and white photo of five men on skis in a snowy landscape. The man in the middle is pointing right with his ski pole.
Photograph of some of the original members of the Glenshee Ski Club: (from left) Chuck and Robin Thomson, Charlie Walker, Ronald and Hugh Sharp, 1920s © National Trust for Scotland, Hill of Tarvit

Hugh Sharp (on the right) was the only son of Frederick Bower Sharp and Beatrice White. In 1904, Frederick Sharp commissioned architect Robert Lorimer to transform the 17th-century Wemyss Hall into a modern 20th-century mansion – Hill of Tarvit. This photograph from the early 1920s shows Hugh with other founding members of the Glenshee Ski Club; next to him is his cousin Ronald Sharp and in the middle is mountaineer Charlie Walker, who was married to Winifred Sharp, another of Hugh’s cousins.

By 1940, both Hugh and Ronald would be dead. Ronald had become a Lieutenant Colonel in the 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, and was killed during the evacuation at Dunkirk. Hugh was one of 35 people to die in the rail disaster at Castlecary in 1937. Poignantly, given the snowy setting of this photograph, the Castlecary crash was primarily caused by poor visibility in whiteout conditions.

A black and white photo of a shoreline under snow. A rowing boat is in the foreground and a church is in the background.
Film negative of Am Bàgh a Tuath, Barraigh (Northbay, Barra), c1936, photographed by Margaret Fay Shaw © National Trust for Scotland, Canna House

Margaret Fay Shaw took this photo of the shoreline at Am Bàgh a Tuath, Barraigh (Northbay, Barra) covered by snow in c1936. St Barr’s church in the background was only 30 years old when this photo was taken, just a little younger than the newly wed photographer. Margaret lived on Barra with her husband John Lorne Campbell until John bought the Isle of Canna in 1938.

A black and white photo of men curling on a frozen pond. They sweep the ice with brooms and are surrounded by curling stones.
Glass plate of curling in Innerleithen, probably late 19th century © National Trust for Scotland, Robert Smail’s Printing Works

Curling has a long history in Scotland, stretching back at least to the 16th century. It’s now played all over the world, from Canada to Japan, and China to New Zealand. This photo is from the collection at Robert Smail’s Printing Works. Although there are records of curling taking place on the River Tweed itself, these curlers are more likely to have been snapped on the old curling pond in Innerleithen – it’s now buried beneath a car park.

A black and white photo (with some hand colouring) of a Japanese temple by a lake, surrounded by snow-covered trees.
Photographic print of Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, c1883-c1923, collected by E A Hornel © National Trust for Scotland, Broughton House

Our wintry photographs are not just limited to views of Scotland. Included in artist E A Hornel’s collection of hundreds of photographs of Japan stored at Broughton House is this one of Kinkakuji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto. Images like this helped to fuel a European fascination with Japonisme in the late 19th century, which helped Hornel become one of the most successful Scottish artists of his day. What this photo doesn’t capture is that the top two floors of the temple are completely covered in gold leaf.

A black and white photo of 9 men in a snowy landscape, holding a flag showing the Scottish saltire, two thistles and a tower.
Photograph of members of the RAF Mountaineering Club Himalayan Expedition Team with a National Trust for Scotland flag in the Cairngorms, c1950-c1968 © National Trust for Scotland, Glencoe

Our photos can help to tell the story of the Trust as well. The National Trust for Scotland logo on this flag was used until 1968. In 1969 it was changed to a unified thistle/castle/saltire design to which (after various adjustments in the intervening years) we’ve recently returned. These men are members of the RAF Mountaineering Club Himalayan Expedition Team on a training exercise in the Cairngorms. They planned to take a Trust flag like this one with them on an expedition to Nepal.

A black and white photo of Brodick Castle visible behind heavily snow-laden trees, with thick snow in the foreground.
Film negative of Brodick Castle, 1940 © National Trust for Scotland, Brodick Castle

No matter how hard the winter is this year, it’s unlikely to be as bad as 1940; the January of that year was one of the coldest months on record in the 20th century in Britain. On the Isle of Arran, villages were cut off by the snow, and boats between the island and the mainland were unable to sail. However, this major inconvenience did at least lead to some picturesque photos of Brodick Castle in its winter coat. In 2019, once the snows have thawed and spring is firmly entrenched, Brodick Castle will reopen to the public after a programme of conservation work. Hopefully by then, it (and the rest of Scotland) will be looking a little greener and sunnier than in this photograph.

The Morton Charitable Trust has been funding fieldwork on the National Trust for Scotland’s photographic collections since 2014. In 2018–19, this work will further raise the profile of the collections through research, articles, talks and dedicated projects. The project will also involve the digitisation of the Margaret Fay Shaw photographic archive of mid-20th-century Hebridean life, leading to an updated database with high-quality images.