see caption
An example of one of Paton’s damask designs
Source: Victoria & Albert museum, London

Joseph Neil Paton (1797–1874) was a damask designer and weaver based in Dunfermline. His wife, Catherine MacDiarmid, was related to the Scottish song writer Carolina NairneCarolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (16 August 1766 – 26 October 1845) was a Scottish songwriter. Many of her songs, such as “Will ye no’ come back again?” and “Charlie is my Darling”, remain popular today, almost two hundred years after they were written. Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (16 August 1766 – 26 October 1845) was a Scottish songwriter. Many of her songs, such as “Will ye no’ come back again?” and “Charlie is my Darling”, remain popular today, almost two hundred years after they were written. , and the couple’s children all went on to become well-known artists themselves. More than seven hundred of Paton’s designs were purchased by the Victoria and Albert museum following his death.

Deeply religious, Paton followed several denominations before adopting the doctrines of the Swedenborgians. He built a chapel beside his house, in which he delivered sermons.

Paton was a passionate collector of artefacts. Ranging from furniture connected to royal households through to a large selection of books, his extensive collection also included curiosities associated with witchcraft.

Personal life


see caption
The family home in Dunfermline, Wooer’s Alley
Source: Atalanta, Volume 6

Born in 1797,[1] to a Unitarian father, Paton held strong religious beliefs throughout his lifetime. After initially dabbling with Presbyterianism, he turned to Methodism before embracing the doctrines of the Quakers. He married Catherine MacDiarmid, a folklorist from an old Highland family and a relation of Carolina NairneCarolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (16 August 1766 – 26 October 1845) was a Scottish songwriter. Many of her songs, such as “Will ye no’ come back again?” and “Charlie is my Darling”, remain popular today, almost two hundred years after they were written. Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne (16 August 1766 – 26 October 1845) was a Scottish songwriter. Many of her songs, such as “Will ye no’ come back again?” and “Charlie is my Darling”, remain popular today, almost two hundred years after they were written. .[2] The couple had three children: Amelia Robertson, born in 1820; her younger brother, Joseph NoelScottish artist, antiquary, poet and sculptor born a year later in 1821; and their youngest child, Waller Hugh, born in 1828. All three became notable artists.[1][a]Amelia was a sculptor who, at the age of forty-two, married David Octavius Hill (1802–1870);[3] Joseph Noel was an artist; and Waller Hugh, a landscape painter.[1]

Paton became a Quaker before the birth of his first son, and all the children were tutored by a Quaker governess as youngsters. The family home, a cottage named Wooer’s Alley, in Dunfermline was built by Paton and, later when he turned to the Swedenborgian religious beliefs, he built a small chapel close to the house, in which he preached regularly. One of the ceilings in the cottage was decorated by Robert T. Ross, reflecting works by Old Masters such as Raphael.[4][5]

Career


Paton initially studied as a student of art at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh.[5] Returning to Dunfermline, he commenced weaving linen before returning to Edinburgh, where he served an apprenticeship as a bookbinder. Shortly afterwards he established his successful textile design business based in Dunfermline; his work attracted buyers from firms throughout the UK, but he is predominantly linked to Erskine Beveridge & Co, which in the 1850s became the largest company in the town.[6][b]The factory of Erskine Beveridge & Co was built in 1851; within twenty years it had a staff of fifteen hundred women.[7]

In 1822 Paton won an annual prize for his work in the category for “Designs for table linen”.[8]

Antiquarian


An avid collector of antiquities, Paton maintained a museum in his cottage, Wooer’s Alley, to which he allowed the public access. Among the exhibits were a table dated 1310 that had belonged to Robert the Bruce plus other furniture and memorabilia from royal households. A scold’s bridle and the skull of Lilias Adie, an elderly woman from Torryburn who died in prison while being interrogated on witchcraft charges, also formed part of the collection, along with the possessions of others convicted of witchcraft and sorcery.[9][10][c]In 2017 a forensic team from the University of Dundee reconstructed the face of Lilias Adie based on photographs taken of the skull before it went missing.[11][12]

Death and aftermath


Paton died in his home on 14 April 1874.[13][14] A selection of his collection of antiquities and books together with more than a thousand damask designs were offered for sale at Chapman’s auction in Edinburgh during November 1874.[15] The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, bought more than seven hundred of the designs.[6]

The cottage was auctioned in early April 1875 with a reserve price of twelve hundred pounds. It was purchased by a local merchant.[16]

Citations



Bibliography


Bown, N. (2004). Paton, Sir (Joseph) Noël (1821–1901). In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35413
de Montford, P. (2004). Hill [née Paton], Amelia Robertson (1820-1904). In H. C. G. Matthew & B. Harrison (Eds.), The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (p. ref:odnb/47294). Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/47294
Henderson, E. (1879). The Annals of Dunfermline and Vicinity: From the Earliest Authentic Period to the Present Time, A.D. 1069-1878; Interspersed with Explanatory Notes, Memorabilia, and Numerous Illustrative Engravings. J. Tweed.
Marshall, R. D. W. (1875, September 7). Historic Scenes in Fifeshire: Dunfermline. Dundee Courier, p. 7.
Moncrieff, J. S. (1904). The Queen’s Limner for Scotland: Sir Noel Paton. Part II - His collection. In Chamber’s Journal (Vol. VII, pp. 823–826). W & R Chambers.
Moncrieff, J. S. (1904). The Queen’s Limner for Scotland: Sir Noel Paton. Part I - His art. In Chamber’s Journal (Vol. VII, pp. 805–808). W & R Chambers.
Nenadic, S. (2014). Designers in the Nineteenth-Century Scottish Fancy Textile Industry: Education, Employment and Exhibition. Journal of Design History, 27(2), 115–131. https://doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epu002
Nenadic, S. (2012). Industrialization and the Scottish People. In T. M. Devine & J. Wormald (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History (pp. 405–422). Oxford University Press.
O’Neill, E. (2019, August 26). Bid to return skull taken from Scotland’s only witch grave launched. The Scotsman.
Staff writer. (1874, April 15). Death of Sir Noel Paton’s Father. Edinburgh Evening News, p. 2.
Staff writer. (1874, November 7). Mr Chapman’s sales. The Scotsman, p. 12.
Staff writer. (1875, April 8). Dunfermline. Wooer’s Alley. Fife Herald, p. 3.
Story, A. T. (1895). The life and work of Sir Joseph Noël Paton. Art Journal.
Younger, D. (2017, October 31). Face of 313-year-old witch reconstructed. Retrieved from https://www.dundee.ac.uk/news/2017/face-of-313-year-old-witch-reconstructed.php

Notes

   [ + ]

a. Amelia was a sculptor who, at the age of forty-two, married David Octavius Hill (1802–1870);[3] Joseph Noel was an artist; and Waller Hugh, a landscape painter.[1]
b. The factory of Erskine Beveridge & Co was built in 1851; within twenty years it had a staff of fifteen hundred women.[7]
c. In 2017 a forensic team from the University of Dundee reconstructed the face of Lilias Adie based on photographs taken of the skull before it went missing.[11][12]