Dunnett painting of Duncan Macrae on display in Glasgow

A couple of weeks before the DDRA AGM in April I received a enquiry about something I’d been trying to follow up for some years. It was from a copyright officer at the Public Catalogue Foundation who was working on a series of catalogues called Oil Paintings in Public Ownership. She told me they were preparing to publish two catalogues of paintings held by Glasgow Museums and were requesting my assistance in contacting the family or estate of the late Lady Dorothy Dunnett as one of the painting they were cataloguing was Duncan Macrae (1905–1967), as Jamie the Saxt.

I was happy to put them in touch with Dorothy’s family and asked where exactly the painting was currently being displayed. It turned out that it is now on show at the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green.

As I was going to be in Glasgow on business a couple of weeks later I immediately decided to visit the museum and soon found it on the top floor high on one of the end walls. To my surprise the card describing the painting had no attribution and I asked one of the members of staff about it, using the name Dorothy Dunnett. He replied that it was by Dorothy Halliday (her maiden name of course) but that they had no further details about her. Fortunately a few minutes later he was able to contact Fiona Hayes, the convenor of social history at the museum and we chatted for a few minutes during which time I was able to give her some details and direct her to this website. It seems they had not realised the connection between Dorothy Halliday and Dorothy Dunnett and any other information had been lost when the painting was moved there from the Citizens’ Theatre where it hung for many years.

I hope to get permission to use a copy of the photograph taken for the catalogue but in the meantime here is one that I took myself. Duncan Macrae was a well-known and loved Scottish actor and his performance as King James VI in Robert McLellan’s classic Scots language comedy has gone down in theatre legend.

Duncan Macrae as Jamie the Saxt, by Dorothy Dunnett (nee Halliday)

Duncan Macrae as Jamie the Saxt, by Dorothy Dunnett (nee Halliday)

You will notice the Crown and Sceptre of Scotland in the bottom-right of the painting. Their inclusion required that Dorothy be locked into the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle overnight so that she could capture their images while not interfering with their public display.

Alastair Dunnett describes in his autobiography how Macrae would often fall asleep while sitting for the painting and would drop the book which you see in his right hand. Since the book was an old and valuable one of Alastair’s he took to setting a cushion underneath it to catch it when it fell.

If you happen to be in Glasgow do drop into the People’s Palace and see the portrait.


Dunnett painting of Duncan Macrae on display in Glasgow — 1 Comment

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