This week, we start with a little tale of some recent detective work. It involved a painting and was a bit like an amateur version of the BBC’s Fake or Fortune programme – except we knew all along exactly who the artist was; it was the location that we were trying to verify.
It all started when Bill Craig, who lives in Dumfries and Galloway, emailed The Blog to ask if we could pinpoint the location of a painting by the artist, Alastair Dallas. Bill inherited the painting, and when it was re-framed he discovered the inscription “Clach Eurich, Fearnan. Alastair Dallas 1944.”
Did this location still exist, he wondered?
The watercolour is a very attractive landscape but the name, and indeed the location, had us scratching our heads.
Alastair Dallas was a professional artist who was based in Kirkcudbright – but what was his connection with Fearnan, and where had this picture been painted?
The first step was to contact two other Alastairs (or, to be exact, an Alastair and an Alistair). That’s Alistair Kininmonth, who has a lifetime’s knowledge of this area, and Alastair Barnett (now in British Columbia) who was at school in Fearnan at the time the picture was painted.
But neither of them could place the picture or the name, Clach Eurich. Alastair B, however, did remember the artist:
“I remember Alastair Dallas. He visited during the summer and rented the cottage next door to Springbank Cottage.
“He was a colourful character dressed in kilt and Deerstalker hat. Usually, he was accompanied by one or two young men and he didn’t seem to mind us children tagging along with him and his companions when he’d walk by the loch. (I remember one of his young friends was called Robin.)
“Dallas painted a small picture of Springbank and it hung by the fireplace in the front room of the Butters’ cottage.
I don’t remember him ever being in the village in winter.”
That last sentence suggested the possibility that the picture might been painted in Dallas’ studio, based on sketches made during one of his visits to Fearnan. But where had he been sketching?
The next port of call was the Fearnan Archive, to see if there were any references to Clach Eurich or find any other clues that might help with the mystery. And, hey presto! A photo of Dalchiaran in the snow, probably taken in the 50’s or 60’s, started to look promising.
That tree looks very like the tree in the painting. The roof lines are right. Neither tree nor cottages sit on a hillside, but the land does start to rise behind the cottages, as the second photo (below) shows. Both photos were taken around the same time.
There’s no burn on that side of the road, and there is one on the other side of the road – so we have all the component parts of the picture but just not in the right order! Perhaps, just perhaps, Dallas made individual sketches in Dalchiaran and used artistic licence to create a dramatic landscape higher up the hill, along with a sketch of the stream from the other side of the road to fill the foreground.
After 73 years, I’m not sure that we can get any closer than that – unless one of the readers of The Blog has another suggestion. Please get in touch if you can throw any further light on this, or on the name Clach Eurich. Sue spotted that it is not dissimilar to Clach na Cruich (or The Measles Stone), but the picture doesn’t depict either the stone or the field in which it sits and which is named after it. In the 1940’s, the cottages did not have individual names, but were known as Cottages 1-4, Dalchiaran, so it can’t be a house name.
Does anyone know what happened to the picture that Alastair Barnett mentions of Springbank Cottage? And are there any other pictures of Fearnan by Alastair Dallas? Please contact The Blog if you can help.
Social events continue apace, and the April Coffee Morning was a very enjoyable and sociable event, with lots of chat and people catching up after Easter.
It was very well attended and numbers were boosted by the Walking Group who arrived ready for coffee and cake after their exertions.
And following hot on the heels of the Coffee Morning was the latest Charity Quiz Night run by the Hall Committee, and which raised over £200 for the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance Service, and Hall Funds. Our Star Baker (Frances) won the Star Prize in the raffle – a spanking new TV! Many thanks to Tricia and Tom Coyle for generously donating this prize.
The next event is the May Coffee Morning, on Tuesday 23rd May at 10.30am in the Village Hall.