Monthly Archives: June 2018

The grand opening of the Kirkcudbright Galleries

Kirkcudbright’s status as Scotland’s Artists’ Town took a giant step forward last week with the opening of the Kirkcudbright Galleries in the former Town Hall on St Mary’s Street. As Friends of the Galleries, Julie and I were honoured to be invited to the preview on Friday ahead of Saturday’s opening to the public.

The multi-million pound project, generously financed by the EU Leader Fund, Heritage Lottery, Dumfries and Galloway Council and by the sterling efforts of Kirkcudbright’s own art lovers, has transformed the murky and musty red sandstone structure into a bright, inviting and contemporary space.

The Ground Floor is dedicated to the paintings, drawings, illustrations, book covers, ceramics and sculptures created by artists who lived in or visited the town to take advantage of its sparkling light and stunning landscapes.

Works by Hoernel, Peploe and Jessie M. King feature prominently, alongside a meticulous re-creation of Charles Oppenheimer’s studio.

But towering above all else for the Galleries’ early weeks is Landseer’s iconic Monarch of the Glen, gazing imperiously down on all who approach, whilst Kirkcudbright’s identity and attractions are neatly summed up in a stencilled quotation from Dorothy L. Sayers, “If one lives in Galloway, one either fishes or paints…”.

Visiting exhibitions occupy the Second Floor with a varied, occasionally challenging raft of contemporary offerings from WASPS – Workshops Artists Studio Provision Scotland – contrasting sharply with the traditional fare below.

Particularly striking is the curved, almost sculptural representation of three androgynous figures entitled Neutrois/Trans Identity, which is art at its very best. Everything was pleasantly watered by a glass of decent white wine (hence the slightly blurry photo!) and accompanied by delicious Galloway nibbles!

For more information on this splendid addition to our Artists Town’s attractions, please visit www.kirkcudbrightgalleries.org.uk and, should you be in a generous mood, you might very well consider becoming a Friend of Kirkcudbright Galleries for a mere £20 a year.

~ Peter Duncan

More history about Castleview House

After my opening blog post, and to my considerable surprise, a number of you got back in touch so as to learn more of the story and history behind Castleview House. Back in 2011 at the time of purchase, I too had been keen to know more as to quite how these honest Kirkcudbright but and bens had sunk into the state that they were in.

Originally a row of three cottages at ground level only and built towards 1800 in the tradition two-room style, the property in Millburn Street lay outside the then town boundaries and formed part of an industrial community. Little is known of the history of its journey through the 19th Century ahead of its upward extension around 1900, but local gossip suggests that it may have gained notoriety as a “honeymoon hotel” at some point.

Castleview House in Kirkcudbright was converted from a Masonic Lodge into a luxury five-start self-catering accommodation

Masonic memorabilia from the fascinating history of Castleview House

After the First World War, a family of Irish coal merchants, the McConnells moved in with the house becoming their depot. The patriarch Moses’ demise is commemorated in the stamp located in our Loft Room – he sadly died in a fall from his coal wagon, perhaps after drink had been taken in one of the town’s many hostelries, and the family gravestone can now be found in Kirkcudbright Cemetery.

However, Castleview House’s most distinguished occupant arrived in the 1950’s when a London banker Mr. Sproat-Williamson, purchased the now much sub-divided property as a retirement home for two family retainers.

Once they had moved on, the structure was then transformed into Masonic Lodge No. 41 of the Kilwinning Ayrshire Branch, reflecting Kirkcudbright’s strong links with the Protestant faith in general and, presumably, Sproat-Williamson’s background in particular, and it functioned as such for nearly 50 years until 2007 when numbers declined and money ran out.

A rare archive of Masonic memorabilia can be found in the Heritage Neuk on the first floor (see image left).

A full photographic record of the conversion to today’s 5-star luxury self-catering environment is also available to view.

A main feature of this was the re-instatement – yes! – of a ceiling that ran the length of the house and which had been removed to create the essential Masonic Temple.

This massive piece of work allowed the building to operate once more on three levels and to return to its former status and, whilst I am happy to report that there are no recorded sightings to date of ghostly presences, it would be interesting indeed to be able to delve back in time and learn more of the goings-on at the top of the town.

Stay tuned for more musings coming shortly!

~ Peter Duncan