Mrs Waterson’s Presentation Speech

January 1 1957


Handed Over By Mrs Waterson in Mechanics’ Hall Ceremony

“I have much pleasure Mr Provost in offering to you on behalf of the citizens of the Royal Burgh of Brechin this collection of pictures as a memorial to their fellow-townsman and one of their honorary freemen David Waterson”

In these words Mrs Waterson Bridegend on Thursday evening formally handed over to Provost Eddie a selection from the works of her husband the late Mr David Waterson RE.  The collection has been hung in the Mechanics’ Hall and the ceremony took place there in the presence of many friends.  All were taking much delight and pride in the very notable art gift which has been made to the community.

Reference was made to the generosity of Mrs Waterson in handing over such a very fine collection from her late husband’s work, the pictures will be a source of pride and will be treasured by successive generations.  Tribute was also paid to the generous gesture of the Mrs E and M Waterson Dalhousie Street who defrayed the cost of the framing.

Provost Eddie wearing his chain of office welcomed the company.  Mrs Waterson in words of moving sincerity spoke of the reason which has persuaded her to hand over a selection of her husband’s pictures to the community.

She wanted to say first of all how pleased she was that it had been possible to house that collection of pictures in that lovely hall and to find how beautifully they had been framed thanks to the generosity of her sisters-in-law and the fine craftsmanship of Mr Lamont of Dundee and how skilfully they were hung for which her thanks were due to Mr Small who had all along taken so sympathetic an interest in the project.

They might perhaps wonder what thoughts had impelled her to make that decision about some of her husband’s pictures, Mrs Waterson went on.  There were two main ideas which had influenced her.  As they knew Scots folk were proud of the many empire builders as they used to be called – founders of the Commonwealth would be a better term – who went from Scotland to the ends of the earth.  Equally proud were they too of the magnificent work done by Scottish missionaries especially in Africa, India and China and she did not need to remind them how many Scots had crossed the Border and became “heads of departments” (Laughter)

But how disastrous it would have been if no gifted Scot had been willing to stay in the land of his birth and put his talent or his genius at the service of his Mother Country.  How much poorer would Scotland have been had Burns become the overseer of a Jamaica plantation as seemed likely at one time.  Or what might have appealed to him more had he gone to London and become a political writer.  What an asset he would have been to the Whig Party with that tongue and pen of his.  And how welcome he would have been to the Whig statesman, Fox.  But fortunately for Scotland and Scottish literature Burns remained and decided “for puir auld Scotland’s sake to sing a sang at least.”  They were glad too that Raeburn had stayed in Edinburgh and painted those delightful portraits of Scots men and women that were among the treasures in the Scottish National Gallery and an abiding joy.

“I venture to think that some among you here and elsewhere are glad that my husband elected to stay in his native city working quietly and unobtrusively holding fast to his belief that Beauty is one of the eternal verities.  And everywhere he found Beauty – in the marvellous shapes and colours of the tiniest of God’s creatures that the microscope revealed; in the rounded limbs and laughing eyes of a little child; in the toil-worn face and tragic eyes of an old tinker woman; in glorious buildings like Notre Dame in Paris; in the closes of a mediaeval town where many would see only poverty and decay and most of all perhaps in the beauties of the Scottish landscape especially the hills and glens and rivers of this lovely county of Angus.  I remember his saying once to me “The artist should approach Nature with a pure and humble heart!  And I would add to this infinite patience.”  (Applause)

Smaller Collection of Pictures

 The second thought she had was the disturbing one of what might happen in these days of over-centralization to the great art collections if man did not eliminate war from his scheme of things.  Should the dreadful thing that hung like a cloud over the world, a nuclear war, ever break out what time would there be to rescue the priceless collections of art treasures that were housed in all the great cities of the civilized world?  How many beautiful things perished in the last war?  They could not all have been taken to caves in the various parts of the country.  Was it not then a sensible idea to have smaller collections of pictures and other objects of art in small towns and villages?

Mrs Waterson remarked at this point that she would like to say how glad she was that Brechin was going to have a folk museum and to wish every success to Mr Ferguson in the labour of love he had undertaken.

Surely then if a holocaust should come, which heaven forbid, there would still be enough left to remind them that some artists and craftsmen had lived and worked and died believing that the creative power of love would conquer the destructive forces of hate and fear.  (Applause)

They had all listened with great interest to her reasons for making this splendid gift, the Provost told Mrs Waterson and he was very pleased and very proud on behalf of the city to accept it.  He could assure her that everyone in Brechin greatly appreciated what she had done and that many Brechiners now resident out-with the city but who still had the interests of the city very much at heart when they read or heard of this gift would join in extending to Mrs Waterson their grateful thanks.  (Applause)

In all some forty-five pictures had been hung.  The selection which would be known as the David Waterson Memorial Collection was representative of all phases of the artist’s genius, oils, water colours, pastels, mezzotints and etchings.  The Provost referred in particular to a very fine painting of the Bridge, picture of the Cathedral and of some of the old parts of Brechin which had now disappeared. 

A Back Braes scene would bring back memories to many.  Mrs Waterson had made an indirect reference to the portrait of Granny Cameron a well known figure in her day in the district and all who remembered her would agree that it was most lifelike.  These and all the others would be a lasting memorial to a man who had loved his native city and who had preserved in his pictures its quaintness and many of its loveliest spots.  They accepted Mrs Waterson’s gift most gratefully and posterity he knew would be grateful to them for making this collection available.

The pictures had had to be suitably framed and the Misses Waterson had come forward and very generously agreed to meet the cost of framing so that no expense would be incurred by the community.  This generous gesture, the Provost added, had not only enhanced the beauty and dignity of the pictures but had also increased the value of the collection and the citizens would heartily thank these ladies for their public-spirited action.  The people of Brechin, he was sure, would value the collection as a memorial of one whom they all remembered with honour and affection.  (Applause)

Major T P Douglas Murray who accepted the collection on behalf of the committee of management of the Mechanics’ Institute said that he was very pleased to do so.  Not only would these works commend themselves to every Brechiner but he believed that to anyone interested in art they would also give great pleasure.