The Idea for Memorial Windows

My mother, Margaret Hewlett, decided to commission a stained glass window for Dalserf Parish Church in 1996. She wanted to honour her father, Andrew Shaw, who had emigrated from Dalserf village to the United States in 1905. Her father and she had been very close as she grew up in Indiana. He died at the age of sixty-nine, never having returned to his homeland. But beginning in 1980, my mother made several visits to Dalserf and grew to love the parish church where her father attended services as a child. Dedicating a window to his memory was the one great wish of her lifetime.

Finding it impossible to get the project started from Houston, Texas, she and I turned for help to Andrew Merrylees, the nephew of our friend John Craig. I explained the sentiment behind my mother’s proposal in a note to Andrew dated 19 November 1998:

The idea for this window grew from an American daughter’s love for her Scottish father. The father’s gift to his daughter was his steadfast loving kindness. He treated her with gentleness and generosity during the forty years she knew him. He never reproached her in any way, ever. Devoted to his only daughter, he was never too busy to give her his time and attention.

The joy felt from steadfast loving kindness is what we would like the window to be about. We would like this spiritual feeling to be at the centre of the symbolic analogue portrayed by the artist, no matter what his style might be.

My mother began talking to the minister of the church, the Reverend Dr D. Cameron McPherson, and they both decided that the large windows on either side of the pulpit might be candidates for commemorating her father. Both Cameron and Andrew agreed to help bring her dream to fruition.

Andrew Merrylees, through his experience in his Edinburgh architectural firm, selected Douglas Hogg as the artist to remove some of the old glass in order to add a twentieth-­century statement. Douglas declined to replace the windows in their entirety. In a telephone conversation on 20 January 1999, he explained that there is ‘elegance in a modest answer’ to the challenge of retaining parts of the old windows in order to let in light and to meet budgetary requirements. Douglas felt that the old glass cast a ‘toffee-coloured glow’ into which he would cut his twentieth-century design. He felt that a sense of harmony would be created by ‘the new entering the old’.

Douglas sent two rough sketches to me in Houston, saying that he would know more about the final design as he worked with the glass. One morning I woke up at three o’clock, thinking about the windows. I went into my library half-asleep and straight away put my hand on a book about Celtic art published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I ­removed the book from the shelf and telephoned Douglas in Berwickshire to discuss his design ideas. He had that very same book on his desk. Needless to say, the project proceeded with perfect trust on our part—and we were not disappointed.

Questions about the original windows, however, nagged at me then and continued to do so—until the mystery was solved on my mother’s birthday in 2005, three years after she had died. I had always wondered if someone had commissioned the old windows, and if so, who? And when were they installed? No one could find the answers to these questions, not even an ­architectural historian in Edinburgh.

Then I casually asked Rosalind Marshall, the author of Duchess Anne, if she had ‘any tips on how to find out the facts’. She responded energetically, ‘You have come to the right person!’ For the next twelve days I felt as though we were in the middle of an exciting mystery novel, with twists and turns and dead ends conveyed via e-mail—until Dr Marshall’s perseverance paid off. I will now let her continue the story.

See “The Mystery of the Stained Glass Windows” and “The Dalserf Address”