The guest speaker for the Kirkcudbright History Society’s recent meeting was retired Church of Scotland Minister, Graham Finch, who delivered a fascinating and informative talk on the development of stained glass in Scotland from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century with particular reference to the life and work of one of the key participants, Alf Webster. Graham began by highlighting James Ballantine who, in Edinburgh in 1837, opened a studio which produced the first stained glass made in Scotland since the Reformation. One of his apprentices was Stephen Adam who then set up his own studio in Glasgow. Adam’s work was admired by Kirkcudbright artist EA Hornel who possessed a couple of small pieces of Adam’s work at Broughton House. There is an Adam’s window in Twynholm Church which Hornel admired but thought it made the church interior look lopsided because it lacked a second window to balance it.
In the first decade of the 20th century, Adam took on a young apprentice called Alf Webster who was eventually made a partner and then took over the business on Adam’s death. Webster was one of the greatest stained glass artists Scotland ever saw but his career was tragically cut short by a sniper’s bullet at Ypres in 2015. Graham read out a very touching letter from Harry Lauder’s son, Capt. John Laurie, who shared a ward with Alf Webster, describing Alf’s last words before he died.
After the war, Webster’s widow, Maude, continued to operate the studio and the war memorial window in Twynholm was made by the studio during her time providing the balance which Hornel had craved. Eventually, Alf’s second son Gordon took over and was a prominent stained glass artist in his own right
Detail of Greyfriars
There is a Gordon Webster window in Greyfriars Church, Kirkcudbright, one installed in Balmaclellan Church and early and late Webster windows in St Michael’s Dumfries. Graham illustrated his talk with further examples of the work of all the artists mentioned above with a particular focus on the two Alf Webster windows in Cadder Parish Church in Bishopbriggs and on two war memorial windows there also made by the Stephen Adam’s studio when it was under Maude Webster’s management. A symposium held to mark the centenary of Alf Webster’s death described him as ‘Scotland’s Lost Genius.’
There will be an article about the window in Greyfriars, in our Features section, shortly.