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12:01am on Wednesday, 27th March, 2024:

Gathering of the Clans


My maternal grandmother used to have this picture hanging on her bedroom wall.

I've known it all my life, as she had known it all her life: it belonged to her father. It depicts the Gathering of the Clans, hosted by Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. I believe it took place at Loch Lomond.

My grandmother's parents were Scottish. She didn't know where her father got the picture, but guessed it was probably from a newspaper in around 1910 or so. I did a newspaper search for it once, but didn't find anything.

Her father made the frame himself, out of pieces of a wooden dancefloor that was being replaced. Unfortunately, he didn't do a very good job of the back, and there were gaps between the three slats. As a result, for as long as I can remember it had a big dent running down it on the right and a smaller one on the left. My grandmother would have liked it to be flat, but when my dad took a look at it for her he was reluctant to take the back off because he was afraid that it would fall to pieces. It looked brittle, and newspaper is quite fragile.

He needn't have worried.

After my grandmother died, my mother inherited the picture. When she died, it came to me. By now, the dent on the right had got so bad that bits of the picture were coming off, and there were tears in the backing card stock exposing the picture to the elements.

I decided that I really had to take the back off to stand any chance of saving it. If it came to pieces, well, at least I might be able to find out what newspaper it was from.

I removed the frame, which wasn't hard because the metal brackets in the corners were on the point of falling out anyway. I discovered that the paper the picture was printed on was much thicker than any of us had thought. Furthermore, it wasn't from a newspaper: it was from a calendar.

At the bottom, hidden beneath the frame but now exposed, were the months of the year. September was clearly visible to the right. Also, there were some inch-long strips along the gold edge: I took one off just now and underneath is the year 1886.

It's a calendar from 1886, the year of my great-grandfather's 24th birthday. He must have liked the picture and kept it come 1887, framing it when a useful bit of polished wood came his way.

I don't know who painted the original of which this is a copy, but I do recall managing to find it online perhaps 20 years ago, in the collection of a provincial museum in the United States. I should have made a note of which museum, because I can't find it now. I also have a vague suspicion that the painting was based on a photograph, but I can't find that online either. The postcard that my mother stuck onto the glass doesn't give any source details.

The picture is now in a plastic wallet in my large folder, gradually being flattened by the weight of other plastic wallets containing maps of Europe in 1869.

The picture wasn't actually alone when I inherited it. Tucked into the gap in the backing card at the back was a note from my mum.

I don't think I shall be throwing it away any time soon. I'll leave that decision to our daughters, if neither of them wants it.

My mother died a year ago today.

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Copyright © 2024 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).