Greenock is often seen as a post-industrial town in decline and is overshadowed by its neighbour, Glasgow. These acquisitions help us explore the literary and artistic side of 19th-century Greenock in an attempt to show this unexplored history.
Sir Joseph Noel Paton was a Scottish artist, illustrator and sculptor. He had a great interest in, and knowledge of, Scottish folklore which is reflected in his paintings. Paton studied at the Royal Academy in London in 1843 and it was during this time that he met John Everett Millais. Although he painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style, Paton turned down Millais’s invitation to become a member of the Brotherhood. While in London Paton was commissioned to design some of the illustrations for The Book of British Ballads by Samuel Carter Hall. Other commissions followed, including for Coleridge’s poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, published by the Art-union of London in 1863.
Allan Park Paton (1817 or 1818–1905), a writer and patron of the arts, was one of the most accomplished and eminent citizens of the 19th-century Greenock. He is probably best remembered as the Librarian of the Watt Library, a post for which the Greenock Advertiser reported he was “so peculiarly qualified” because of his interest in old books and manuscripts. The library was his life and even at the age of 74 he was reluctant to retire. Before his librarianship he was a notary, a poet, and a Shakespearian scholar.
The bound album entitled Drawings Pmalder Cottage, contains watercolours, prints and photograph by the Paton family and close associates of Allan Park. The title of the Album “Pmalder Cottage” relates to where he lived and is a play on words; his home in Margaret Street off the Greenock Esplanade was located at the Red Lamp, so he used this backwards to name the cottage where he lived.
The album contains 65 watercolours, 53 drawings, and seven photographs as well as prints and family ephemera. It contains an early salt print photograph, possibly taken by Julia Margaret Cameron, of Paton with his sister Mary Weir. With the album is a small, unsigned watercolour along with newspaper clippings and a photograph that tell the story of the windows of Old West Kirk in Greenock. Paton’s family connection to Sir Joseph allowed him access to some members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Burne-Jones. He was able to raise funds locally to commission several stained glass windows for the Kirk from William Morris, which were designed by Burne-Jones and Rosetti.
Inverclyde Archives already has a collection of papers relating to Allan Park Paton and the Watt Library, so these two items are wonderful additions to the Archive collection.