Featuring The Royal Diorama of Scotland and Birrell's Grand Diorama of Scotland
|Brodick Castle Arran Marine Waterfront, 1878. Thomas Dudgeon. An example of Thomas's paintings in Scotland.|
Neil (my husband) has been researching Scottish history, and my Mother's family history for over 30 years. He also has a of of Scottish blood running through his veins. A labour of love I guess you could say. When I started collating the mountain of Neil's research on Thomas Dudgeon, and then commenced writing this story, I realised just how much Thomas's extensive talent as a Landscape and Scenic artist were showcased and publicly appreciated during the 1800's. I was rather daunted by the task of writing about his accomplishments as I'm not an artist and honestly dear reader, at one stage I felt quite overawed when I realised how much he must have travelled and how hard he worked to achieve what he did, and provide for a family. I also thought that writing this story may become a bit laborious, however to the contrary I have really enjoyed delving into the many stories surrounding Thomas and his family (my ancestors). I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and as much as Neil has enjoyed researching it. As I write this, the research continues.
|Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond from Mt. Misery 1878, Thomas Dudgeon. An example of Thomas's Scottish paintings|
"Many of his artworks seem to tell a story, or have figures featured in them going about their daily lives in the 19th century".
So what was a Diorama? This successful concept was invented by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre in collaboration with Charles Marie Bouton. Movement of the painted scenes was the difference between a Diorama and the usual still exhibition of Panoramas. The use of large transparent paintings and the clever manipulation of coloured screens and various shutters, so that the direction of light could be controlled, meant the scenes could be illuminated from behind or in front, or to just one part of the picture, enabling various effects and transformations to be achieved. (Barnes, John, 1967.) The subjects of the dioramas were generally landscapes and architectural views, which were Thomas Dudgeon's forte, and why he was commissioned to paint many of the scenes for the Scottish and Irish Dioramas. When the Dioramas were first opened by Daguerre and Bouton in Paris in 1822 and in London in 1823, buildings were specially designed to accommodate them. However as Dioramas became more popular and started touring, many buildings were modified as the Diorama exhibition developed into a show with spectacular music and entertainment, prize givings and lectures.
Christmas time is traditionally Pantomime time in the UK, and at the beginning of December 1867, in Glasgow, Scotland at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Mr. Davis has produced his first pantomime, called "Harlequin Graceful, or the Fair One with the Golden Locks". The scenery was painted by our Thomas Dudgeon, Mr. Toland, and assistants. The first painted scene announced: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" with a painting of Father Christmas with a long white beard, and surrounded by Christmas good cheer. The entire pantomime was very favourably reviewed in the newspapers. (Glasgow Herald, Dec. 10, 1867.) This was probably the last work TD completed in Glasgow and indeed Scotland for a while as his adventures now take us to Ireland.
My Great Grandmother, Ellen Stella Fawcett Douglas Dudgeon, (Granny) was born in Belfast, Antrim, Ireland on the 3rd February, 1868. Thomas Dudgeon, Esq. and Agnes Dudgeon were her parents. I need to weave Granny's story into Thomas's life now, as she is intrinsic to a lot of his activities and who he was.
In April 1868, two months after Ellen Stella's birth, The Belfast Newsletter wrote:
There is at present being painted in this town by well-known artistes a diorama of Scotland, principally illustrative of Queen Victoria's visits. It is being executed on a grand scale; and, when painted, will form a series of the finest and most interesting views of Scottish towns and scenery ever executed."
Then in 1869, Thomas is engaged in the production of an entirely new diorama of Irish scenery for Dr. Corry . By November 1869, the Diorama was almost entirely finished and ready for exhibition in the Victoria Hall in December. For my full story of the Irish Diorama that I wrote in Post 12, click here.
"THE CHARGE OF ARSON AGAINST A PUBLICAN", 1870
It's January 1870, and Thomas and his family are still living in Belfast. This is confirmed by the account of an arson court case involving Mrs. Bingham, a publican, at which Ellen Stella's mother, Agnes Dudgeon, was a witness. Mr. Harriet Bingham, publican, Pilot Street, was brought up on a summons, on remand, charging her, on the complaint of Sub-Inspector French, with having, on the 13th January, 1869, unlawfully and maliciously setting fire to her house with intent to defraud the Scottish Fire Insurance Company. Sub-Inspector French was present, and Mr. Harper appeared for the defence.
The following is an extract from that court case, printed in the Belfast Newsletter, on May 7, 1870.
"Agnes Dudgeon, examined by Mr. McLean - I live in 18 Copeland Street. My husband's name is Thomas Dudgeon. He is an artist. We have been in this country for about two years. In the latter end of August I went with my husband and family to lodge with Mrs. Bingham. We had two rooms and a drawing-room.We left early in December. About a fortnight or three weeks before we left the house she borrowed a wedding ring, a keeper, five sheets, a vest of my husband's, three volumes of the History of Scotland, a jacket of my own, and two wrappers belonging to baby. Her niece took them to the pawn. I relieved the ring, but have not got the other things since. I asked her for them several times, but she put it off, and never gave me them." The baby was Ellen Stella.
I think it is interesting that three volumes of the History of Scotland were included in the possessions that were "borrowed". I know that these would have been treasured by Thomas and essential to his research and preparation for painting the Scottish Diorama.What a loss. Agnes's testimony at the court case then recollects that whilst she was there, a little boy brought a policy of insurance. Mrs. Bingham said she might burn the house as soon as she liked, but she then said that was a joke. Agnes then said You must not burn Mr. Dudgeon's box, to which Mrs' Bingham replied that if she did she would pay her for it. Agnes replied, "I would never be able to get out with the children. " This is an important piece of information as it proves that there were two children living with Agnes and Thomas at the time of the court case, Ellen Stella Dudgeon, and Agnes McIndoe Plunkett, her first born daughter by Capt. James Plunkett. If you would like to read the full story I have written about Capt. James Plunkett, please click here.
Agnes continued to testify in court that:- When Mrs. Bingham, James Moore, and I were in the kitchen some one said I should have a burned chemise. Mr. Moore then went out, and Mrs. Bingham said to me, "Mrs. Dudgeon, it was all a bit of fun." I said, "Mr Dudgeon and the children would not get out." and Mr. Moore said in Mrs. Bingham's presence, "There will be a fire escape." Mr. Moore kept a public house near Mrs. Bingham's house. Agnes replied to Mr. O'Donnell, My husband was at work. To Mr. McLean - When I left the house I left my eldest little girl [Annie] behind me. The morning after that conversation Mr. Moore brought the child to my new lodgings, at my request. I went back many times to Mrs. Bingham's after I left. The drawing-room was not so well furnished as it had been. The pictures were gone, and also the window-blinds. I was in Mrs. Bingham's bed-room, and it was the same as when I left.
To Mr. Harper - The conversation I refer to about the burning took place when the policy came in, that was in October. Mr. Moore read the policy. She did not pay much attention to me since the fire. A detective officer was at my house only once. I have no expectation of getting payment. (Belfast Newsletter, May 7, 1870.)
On May 26th, 1870, the Belfast Newsletter reported again on the case against Mrs. Bingham on the Charge of attempting to defraud an Insurance Company by setting fire to her house. The time frames provided by the court case have been very useful in identifying where the Dudgeon family was living at that time, and the list of contents "borrowed" is also relevant. However Mrs. Bingham, guilty or not was actually acquitted by the judge of the charge of arson, as she and her two children and her two nieces scantily dressed in night attire were rescued from the fire though the window of the premises.
One newspaper report says that on Wednesday night at 41 Pilot Street, Sub-Constables Martin and Geddes, while on duty in Pilot Street, saw smoke billowing out of the house of Mrs. Harriett Bingham. They placed a ladder against the side of the house, and searched for any occupants. They found them asleep in bed in an upper room, unaware of the fire in the house. They were brought down the ladder and taken to a neighbours house. Five lives were saved thanks to the police.The fire brigade arrived in half an hour. Mrs. Bingham then asked James Henry, a junior Accountant, to write to the editor of the Belfast Newsletter on the same day, thanking Sub-Constable Robert Martin, of Dock Street Station, for risking his life to save her life, the lives of her two children, and her two nieces. (Belfast Newsletter, 15th January, 1870) However the court case revealed some discrepancies with this story. Thankfully though the Dudgeon family weren't in the house at the time of the fire.
The judge, Mr. O'ODonnell couldn't believe that she would run the risk of being accused of murder as well by causing a fire with her children in the house. These days there might have been a little more psychiatric intervention in that whole case to determine if Mrs. Bingham needed treatment as the conflicting testimonies were just a little bit suspicious, don't you think?
Mr. Thomas Birrell, Alexander Lamb and the Royal Diorama of Scotland
I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Thomas Birrell, a close business associate of Thomas Dudgeon's, and quite the entrepreneur. I was fortunate to recently find an article written by Damien Kimberley (2016), titled The Lion Bicycle Company of Coventry and Wolverhampton. Damien has been researching the bicycle trade in Coventry, Warwickshire, and in the process unearthed some interesting information about Thomas Birrell, who was part owner of the Royal Diorama of Scotland and also a bicycle manufacturer in Coventry and Wolverhampton.
|The west side of Broadgate & Cross Cheaping (Coventry, Warwickshire ), as it would have looked in Birrell's time (From Coventry Past & Passing)|
Photo courtesy of Coventry Archives.
'The Royal Diorama of Scotland' consisted of a series of Scottish painted scenes of famous landmarks - the work of Thomas Dudgeon (1805-1880) and assisted by J.A. Keith. The Diorama made its debut at Victoria Hall, Belfast, then onto Wellington Hall, Liverpool. Although initially managed by C.E. Rainforth, by the following year the proprietors were stated as being Thomas Birrell and Alexander Lamb." Damien Kimberley, July 2016.
So now I am sure that leading up to the birth of his daughter, Ellen Stella, in Belfast in 1868, Thomas has been working for Birrell and Lamb, painting the scenes for The Royal Diorama of Scotland, with the assistance of Keith. The Diorama was completed and premiered in Belfast in 1868, before travelling to the United Kingdom.
The following is a timeline of where Birrell & Lamb's Royal Scottish Diorama travelled to in the United Kingdom from 1868. It's not totally inclusive but certainly gives us an idea of the busy life experienced by those touring with the Diorama.
Liverpool, England. Thursday, 31st December, 1868 - Wellington Hall (better known as Prince Patrick Hall), Camden Street.
This was the first public exhibition of the Diorama, and a very big deal in Liverpool. The hall underwent extensive alterations for the show. Thomas Dudgeon of Glasgow, and his assistants, were given full credit in the editorial for the magnificence of the paintings. It was logistically feasible that Liverpool was chosen as the first public performance in the UK, as the Diorama would have come over on a ship from Belfast to Liverpool.
Glasgow, Scotland. Tuesday, 13th April, 1869 - Hengler's Grand Cirque (Circus), West Nile Street, Glasgow. Hengler's Circus opened in Glasgow in 1867 on the site of the former Prince's Theatre in West Nile Street. - This fine diorama was exhibited for the first time in the Circus, West Nile Street, last night. Painted views of the most remarkable places in Scotland, principally the work of Mr. Dudgeon. (Excerpt from North British Daily Mail, Glasgow, in Aberdeen Free Press, 11th August, 1869.)
Glasgow, Scotland. Tuesday, 27th April 1869 - It's been two weeks and the first Scottish exhibition of the Diorama is still showing at the Circus.
Of all the many dioramas which during the past few years have sought the patronage of the public, none better deserved it than that now exhibiting in the Circus, West Nile Street. Alike in the choice of its illustrations, and in the manner in which these illustrations have been treated, the Royal Diorama of Scotland is entitled to the highest praise.The picturesque city of Edinburgh, the busy commerce-loving Glasgow, and all the larger towns have each their due share of attention; and what is more characteristic of Scotland-its magnificent mountain, river, and lake prospects-is most admirably dealt with. (Glasgow Herald, April 27, 1869.)
On the 1st July, 1869, the boys belonging to the Industrial Brigade of Glasgow, were admitted gratis to Henglers Cirque, courtesy of Birrell & Lamb to attend the Diorama show. There were also about a thousand Sabbath school children attending as well whom I'm sure were very well behaved, as the show was well patronised by the public as well. (Glasgow Herald, July 2nd, 1869)
Aberdeen. Tuesday, 17th August, 1869 - the Music Hall, Aberdeen, Scotland. For 2 weeks only. The paintings executed by Thomas Dudgeon, Esq. stamp the painter as an artist of no mean order. (Aberdeen Free Press, 11th August, 1869.)
Dundee. Tuesday, 7th September, 1869 - Kinnaird Hall, Dundee. Including a view of Dundee taken from the Firth. (The Dundee Courier and Argus, Sept. 2nd, 1869.)
Edinburgh. Tuesday, 21st September-October 9th (approx.), 1869. Waterloo Rooms. The views most artistically executed by Dudgeon.( Provincial Theatricals, The Era, Oct. 10, 1869.)
Newcastle. Tuesday, 26th October, 1869. Music Hall, Nelson Street, Newcastle. The Newcastle Courant, Friday, October 22, 1869. (Newcastle Guardian, Sat., Oct. 23rd, 1869.)
(At this point of the diorama tour, the Dundee Courier reports that the Diorama has been patronised by the Lord Provost and Magistrates of Glasgow, Perth, and Aberdeen and the Provost and Magistrates of Stirling and also by the officers of the 100th Regiment, the depot at Perth, and the Glasgow Highland Volunteers.)
Birmingham. .......April, 1870. The Assembly Rooms.
There was an interesting letter written to the Editor of the The Era newspaper in London, on April 3rd, 1870, regarding an error the Birmingham newspaper correspondent had made. Have a read:
MR. EDITOR-Sir,-Your Birmingham correspondent has made a curious,but rather awkward blunder in noticing the Royal Diorama of Scotland, now exhibiting in this Hall. He states that it was painted by Messrs Wm. Gordon and Son, from sketches by Mr Sam Bough, A.R.S.A.. Now such is not the case. Our Diorama was painted by the veteran Thos. Dudgeon, of Glasgow, and assistants, partly from his own sketches and partly from photographs taken by our Mr. Birrell. It was first exhibited to the public on November 3d, 1868, and since then has been shown in the leading Scottish towns and cities. Yours, &c., B. and L. Sole Proprietors of the Diorama of Scotland.
There was a retraction by the Birmingham Correspondent where he said, " I was not aware that another Scotch Diorama was in the field, and the artist's names not being mentioned I concluded they were the same as noticed in the Edinburgh news of The Era of March 13th."
By 1871, Birrell is back in Scotland at Hamilton. His occupation was still the proprietor of the Diorama of Scotland and he now had two small children to care for.
1872 and the dissolution of a partnership
Thomas Birrell and Alexander Lamb were at the beginning of 1872 the joint proprietors of the Royal Diorama of Scotland. However on July 30th, 1872, in the Partnerships Dissolved column of The London Gazette, this very important notice appeared:-
Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore existing between us the undersigned, Thomas Birrell, of Rothesay, in Scotland, but until the last few days resident in the city of Bristol, in England, and Alexander Lamb, of Glasgow, in Scotland, but until the last few days resident in the said city of Bristol, Proprietors of the Royal Diorama of Scotland (the firm being known as Birrell and Lamb, and the partnership business having for some time past and down to the 15th day of this instant June, been carried on in England), was dissolved by mutual consent, as from the said 15th day of this June instant; and notice is also hereby given, that the said Alexander Lamb will for the future be the sole proprietor of the said Royal Diorama of Scotland, and will continue the business connected with the same in England and elsewhere but will reside at Bothwell in Scotland, and will trade as Alexander Lamb, late Birrell and Lamb, on his own account, and it is requested that all debts due to the firm of Birrell and Lamb may be paid to the said Alexander Lamb, who will pay the debts due from that firm.- Dated [this 25th day of June, 1872.] Signed Thos. Birrell. Alexander Lamb.
Following the dissolution of the partnership, 40 new views for a new Scottish Diorama are being prepared by Thomas Birrell, and are to be exhibited first in Rothesay. He was spending a lot of time in a temporary shed erected at his home in Barone Road in Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute at the entrance to the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. One of the scenes is of Rothesay and its surroundings, taken from the centre of the Bay and yes dear reader, you guessed it, Thomas had been commissioned to do the paintings and is now working solely for Thomas Birrell.(Glasgow Herald, October 21, 1872.)
I can't find any documented evidence that Thomas and his family were living in Rothesay, but it seems very likely that they spent the Scottish summer of 1872 there whilst Thomas worked on the Diorama. Rothesay was a popular tourist resort for Victorian day-trippers and bathers from Glasgow who could travel over there on a paddle steamer. The Comet, invented by Henry Bell, first started operating on the River Clyde on the 10th August, 1812, and by 1872 the paddle steamers were doing a roaring trade. In this scene from a painting of the River Clyde painted by TD in 1857, paddle steamers can be clearly seen in the foreground.
Below is a photo of three paddle steamers, the Eagle, Dunoon Castle, and Lancelot at the Broomielaw Docks, Glasgow, taken around 1870. I would love to know if TD and his family went over to Rothesay on one of these. I think they would have.
|The Eagle at the Broomielaw with Dunoon Castle and Lancelot around 1870. (Washington Wilson)|
The Scottish Valuation Rolls for 1872-1875, record that Mr. Birrell owned two residences during those years at Rothesay, one at Barone Rd., and the other at Serpentine Road. His residential address was Clutha Villa, Rothesay, Scotland. This photo shows how Clutha Villa looks today. The shed adjoining the house at the back may be the same one used for painting the new Diorama. Thomas, Agnes, Ellen Stella and Annie possibly lived in the house on Serpentine Road while the paintings were being completed after moving from Belfast, or perhaps they rented somewhere else on the island. It would be nice to know.
|Clutha Villa, 37 Barone Road, Rothesay, Bute|
|The rear view of Clutha Villa|
1872 was an eventful year for Thomas Birrell, as he was also formally awarded with the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, with the Masonic Lodge. Thomas Dudgeon was also a practising Mason, having been registered as a Freemason with the St. Mark's Masonic Lodge in 1847. For the story of Thomas's life as a Mason please click here . This is in Post no. 6.
Alexander Lamb had been touring his "Royal Diorama of Scotland" since he separated from Birrell. Ralph Hyde  in his Dictionary of Panoramists of the English-Speaking World provides a concise account of the success of the Dioramas:-
Birrell & Lamb's 'Royal Diorama of Scotland' was painted by Thomas Dudgeon. When Birrell and Lamb separated, Lamb toured the 'Royal Diorama of Scotland', whilst Birrell toured his own 'Grand Diorama of Scotland' . If you are interested take a look at the following list of when and where Lamb and Birrell toured their respective dioramas as an exhibition hall panorama, not a diorama, as listed by Hyde. The term "exhibition hall panorama" describes any moving panorama that was designed to be performed in any public place other than a theatre.
Exhibition Hall Panoramas:
(With Alexander Lamb): 'The Royal Diorama of Scotland', Edinburgh, 1869, Cheltenham, 1872, Egyptian Large Hall, Piccadilly [1873?].
Birrell's Grand Diorama of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1872, 1887; Agricultural Hall, London, 1873; Royal Hall, St.Helier, Jersey, 1890.
Birrell's newly refreshed Scottish Diorama continued to travel throughout the British Isles, and opened at the Victoria Rooms in London in early January, 1874.
To accompany the beautiful scenic views of Bonnie Scotland, Birrell had a variety of supporting acts in his troupe - one of which was a pretty Scottish singer called Grace Wyse, who took the stage name of Griselda Weiss - the 'Scottish Nightingale'. (Damien Kimberley, 2016)
Griselda Weiss and Thomas Birrell were invited to sing at Covent Garden whilst in London in January, 1874.
"Anything more positive as to the professional ability and reputation of these minstrels could not, we should think, be given than in the fact that Miss Griselda WEISS and Mr. Thomas BIRRELL (the enterprising proprietor) were especially engaged to sing at M RIVIERE'S promenade concert at Covent Garden on Saturday evening last, when we observe, they took a leading part in the performance, their names standing side by side with those of Mddle Carlotta PATTI, Mddle Victoria BUNSEN, and Miss Constance LESEBY. Miss WEISS has been termed "the Scottish Nightingale. (Historic Ride Society, c. 2019)
Birrell and the Scottish Nightingale inevitably became romantically attached, with his former marriage to his Irish wife Annie, falling apart. By December 1874, Birrell's Grand Diorama of Scotland had reached the Corn Exchange, Coventry after a very successful tour. Birrell stopped touring with the Diorama for a while, and in April 1875 he became the landlord of the Coventry Cross Inn in Cross Cheaping.
|The Coventry Cross Inn, Cross Cheaping, circa. 1875. (highlighted). Photo courtesy of the Coventry Archives.|
So what was the engaging Mr. Birrell up to now? In 1879, Griselda Weiss had given birth to a daughter, named Margaret Griselda Birrell. The England and Wales Census records show that in 1881, Birrell was living at Tower Street, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England, aged 53, married, and his occupation was a Concert Hall Proprietor. However, he was also a bicycle maker in Wolverhampton, but not for long. A liquidation notice was published in the Birmingham Post of December 1882, citing that Thomas Birrell, bicycle-maker, and lessee of the Prince of Wales Concert Hall, Bilston Street, Wolverhampton, was filing a petition in the Wolverhampton County Court. The liabilities were estimated at about 3,500 pounds, and the assets at 500 pounds. Mr. Russell of (Messrs. Russell, Dickson, and Russell, accountants) was appointed receiver.
At this point I'd like to thank Damien Kimberley from Coventry, for his exhaustive research into the business dealings of Thomas Birrell, who had many adventures of his own, often connected to TD's adventures, and has proven to be a very interesting and enigmatic character in his own right.
By February 1884, Birrell and his company, were touring again with his own "Great Diorama of Scotland".
In 1891, The Census records register him living at Lodge Street, in Bristol, Gloucestershire, aged 63, now once again a Diorama Proprietor, and married to Griselda (transcribed as Grinelda in the FamilySearch online census). Margaret their daughter is now aged 12.
Thomas Dudgeon is at work again as a Theatre painter in September 1874, but surely he has never stopped working. He is back in Paisley, at the Theatre Royal. Throughout the Summer he has been working on decorating the stage and entire building of the the Theatre Royal, assisted by H. Smith also a scenic artist. Edmund Glover was the lessee of this great theatre. Thomas has been widely praised for painting a drop-scene for the theatre showing the River Clyde from Dalnottar Hill, and for painting a new drop curtain. Below is one of Thomas's watercolour paintings of "The Clyde from Dalnottar Hill" dated 1876. The drop scene for the theatre would have resembled this painting. A print of the oil painting was kindly sent to us by the Curator of British Art, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, where the original is held. This was one of TD's favourite scenes to paint.
|Watercolour entitled "The Clyde from Dalnottar Hill" by T Dudgeon, 1876|
In the centre is a shield bearing a portrait of the poet, supported by Fame, which is heralding the praises of the bard; and on either side of the shield are views of Tannahill's well, birthplace, and several other well-known spots in Paisley. Paisley Herald, Sept. 19, 1874.
Thomas obviously still had lots of work lined up. He was employed by Messrs. Strange and Wilson to paint the splendid new scenery for "A Christmas Carol", based on the Charles Dicken's Christmas tale, which started a show including various performances by Strange and Wilson's Aetherscope & Spectral Opera Company. The show opened in Nottinghamshire at the Albert Hall, on Friday, April 6th, advertised under Easter Amusements in the Nottinghamshire Guardian newspaper. Later they played at the Large Room, Guildhall, in Cambridge from 25th September, 1877 for 11 nights. (The Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal, Isle of Ely Herald, and Huntingdonshire Gazette, Sept. 22, 1877.)
If you are wondering what this entertainment entailed you might enjoy this description, which was very innovative for the day.
"By means of these optical contrivances, angels are seen floating about, and gliding through walls; human beings vanish or appear at will; demons roll in mid-air; fairy subjects dance on walls and ceilings; spectres creep up walls and gyrate in space, and rapidly dissolves into another. In fact, the whole thing, from beginning to end, is a combination of wonders not easily to be described." (The Star, August 7, 1877)
Messrs. Strange and Wilson's Aetherscope is still on tour 3 years later in June 1880, at St. Julian's Hall, Guernsey in the Channel Islands. This hall was also incidentally the meeting place for the Mariners Lodge (168). The Masonic connections continue to be evident wherever Thomas is involved. It was reported in The Star newspaper, that at the conclusion of the Carol a grand illuminated spectacle of "The crypt of the Holy Sepulchree", painted by Thomas Dudgeon, Esq., was shown.
Lamb's Royal Diorama of Scotland is back in Belfast, Ireland entertaining large audiences at the Victoria Hall. It is still owned solely by Alexander Lamb. No doubt it was broadcast widely that this was the last visit of the Diorama to Belfast, before it undertook an extended colonial tour to Australia, via New Zealand. (Belfast Newsletter, Nov. 25th, 1878, p.5.) I wonder if Thomas would have been working over there as well painting new scenes and touching up the Diorama.
1879, an awful year
In 1879, Thomas requested that Ellen Stella and her Mother come over to Belfast in Ireland to be with him. This extract from her Memoirs refers to how Granny and her Mother revisited Ireland in 1879.
"My father went to Ireland to paint an old ruin of a Norman Castle. It is the oldest, or was, ruin in the Kingdom then. It was a lovely painting. Well, while he was there he wrote and asked Mother to come and bring me too so as I could see the house and room where I was born, also the Doctor and Nurse - Dr. Corrie and Nurse Dunn and the Minister that Christened me - the Rev. Dr. Cook, so we sailed for Belfast. (Granny DeLandelles memoirs, c. 1949)"
Carrickfergus Castle is an old Norman castle dating back to 1177, and could be the castle ruin that Thomas was painting. It is situated in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, on the Northern shore of Belfast Lough. Dr. Henry Cooke had already died by the time Ellen Stella and her Mother embarked on the voyage to Belfast, so it was a bronze statue in memory of Dr. Cooke that Ellen and her Mother went to look at. He died on Sunday, 13th December, 1868, aged 84. An obituary to this great man was printed in the Dundee Courier and Argus newspaper, on Tuesday, December 15th, 1868. Rev. Dr. Cooke was a highly respected Presbyterian minister belonging also to the Presbyterian Branch of the Reformed Church and was also the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. The Rev. Dr. Knox and Rev. Wm Johnston of Belfast, had been appointed by the Presbyterian General Committee after a lot of debate, to collect subscriptions from the Presbyterian public for a Cooke Memorial, as well as a new Assembly Hall in Belfast, as part of two separate fund raising campaigns, which were very successful. The memorial statue of Dr. Rev. Cooke can still be found in Belfast to this day.
|Bronze Memorial statue of Dr. Henry Cooke (1788-1868) in Belfast|
"It was very rough crossing and my Mother was very seasick an d she caught a cold from which she died 10 days later, but she kept up for a week and we saw White Abbey and Grey Abbey and went to lots of places and met heaps of nice people". (Granny DeLandelles memoirs, c. 1949)"
In Granny's words, Agnes was very hot and coughed a lot too, and Dr. Corrie sent her to bed. The next day she was much worse, and he got a nurse for her, but the next day she was very ill and Dr. Corrie gave her a draught, and she never woke from it. Sadly, Granny's Mother died on the 2nd November, 1879 in Kearney's Building, Ballymacarrett, Belfast. Granny was aged 11. Agnes's death had a profound effect on Thomas, which Granny says in her diary he never really recovered from. I'll talk more about Thomas and Ellen Stella Dudgeon in the next chapter.
1885 in New Zealand
The Royal Diorama of Scotland is now in new hands, those of Mr. Geo. Lingard. His Royal Diorama of Scotland is showing at Abbott's Opera House in Auckland, New Zealand. Grand Opening Night was October 3rd.
In December 1885, Mr. Geo. Lingard's Royal Diorama of Scotland, had arrived in the Southland of New Zealand, at Invercargill, New Zealand's southernmost and most western city. It was a great choice of venue and sure to attract crowds as many of the early immigrants had Scottish roots. Also, during the 1880's an export industry based on butter and cheese grew, encouraging a dairy industry, and combined with a burgeoning coal and timber industry, a commercial centre was rapidly developing. The Southland Times newspaper, the daily rag of Invercargill , reported that Mr. Dudgeon who painted the series, was something more than a scenic artist, having been a landscape artist of repute. Thomas was now receiving international acclaim for his painting of the magnificent Scottish scenes comprising the Scottish Diorama, and this surely was one of his greatest achievements. Interestingly though, scenes of Aberdeen were missing from the paintings. Madame Lingard was also on tour and played the piano and accompanied the vocalists very well. It was the holiday season and the residents of Invercargill were looking forward to the show at Sloan's theatre. December 26th, 1885, was the Grand Opening Night.
|Sloan's Theatre, Invercargill, 1885.|
By 1886, Lingard's Royal Scottish Diorama had travelled to Australia, or the colonies as the British loved to call Australia in those days, and some still do. It was mentioned in Queensland newspapers in Brisbane, Ipswich and Rockhampton as touring those places. Remember I mentioned previously in my last post (12), that Thomas had embarked on painting his third and most prolific artwork, the Royal National Diorama of Scotland, whilst in Ireland, presumably from photographs which he took over with him .These paintings became the Royal Scottish Diorama, comprising 80,000 feet of moving canvas, illustrating scenes strange, wonderful and sublime. (Queensland Figaro and Punch, Brisbane, Qld., Saturday, May 22, 1886, p. 839.) The Scottish Diorama showed at the Town Hall In Brisbane on Monday 24th May, 1886, returning to triumphantly recommence with Opening Night on Boxing Day Evening at the impressive Brisbane Town Hall in 1886. The Brisbane Courier Mail promoted the Boxing Day event as Lingard's latest Pictorial Enterprise, "The Royal Diorama of Scotland and Soudan War." (The Brisbane Courier, Saturday 25th December,1886, p. 8.)
The Diorama was constantly touring as The Launceston Examiner (Tasmania) reviewed that it showed to a packed house at the Mechanics' Institute on Monday 1st February, 1886.
On 30th June, 1886, The Diorama was exhibited in the Ipswich School of Arts (Queensland) to a crowded house. In addition to the entertaining musical items described in the review in the Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, 1 July 1886, p. 5, mention is made of the very handsome and valuable gifts that were distributed to the audience. It's no wonder then that many persons wanting to attend were actually turned away from the doors as there was no room left. Everyone likes a freebie.
The Diorama had also toured Rockhampton in October, 1886, showing at the School of Arts. Gifts given out at this spectacular event included large vases, a large lamp, a silver tea and coffee service, and a silver butter bowl. There was also a special afternoon performance for the children from the Rockhampton Orphanage. (The Morning Bulletin, Wed. October, 1886.)
Many people contributed to the success of the Scottish Diorama, and perhaps one of the most affluent and influential investors in it's development, Thomas Birrell, died in 1887, aged 69.
I hope you enjoyed reading this story, highlighting the artistic achievements of Thomas Dudgeon.
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