The stained glass windows
Although not installed immediately the design of St Mary’s always envsioned stained glass and these windows have been progressively placed in the church over the century and, hopefully, there are still more chapters to come.
The design of the new church had been a bold departure from the style of the old church, and the new church’s stained-glass windows were to build upon this departure. The reformed church’s antipathy towards religious imagery had meant that no stained-glass windows had ever been installed in the old church over its almost three hundred years as parish church. By contrast, the stained-glass windows installed in the new church over less than a century represent a remarkable selection of the changing styles and imagery of Scottish ecclesiastical stained glass.
There are six groups of windows in the church, and all of them are memorial windows. Five of them are memorials to individuals closely connected with the church, and the sixth is an impressive memorial to those who suffered and died in the Great War.
Three of the groups of windows were designed by one artist, Willie Rodger, the others being designed by a range of artists.
An immediate start: the ‘Dalrymple Window’
The first stained-glass windows in the church were installed within weeks of the dedication of the church in 1914. The windows, which have become known as ‘The Dalrymple Window’, were installed in the West Transept and were donated by Mrs Dalrymple of Meiklewood and her stepson, Mr George Connal Rowan, in memory of the late James Dalrymple Gray Dalrymple of Woodhead. James Dalrymple had been for some time one of the principal heritors and an elder of the church and had been involved the planning of the new church. (One of the earlier members of this old Kirkintilloch family had been largely responsible for the building of the original St Mary’s Parish Church at the Cross in 1644.)
A fitting design?
The planning for these windows had commenced months before the completion of the church. As the contractual responsibility for the construction of the church still lay with the heritors, the church architect, George Bell, passed on to them the design sketchs for the windows, to provide his opinion on their merits, and for the heritors’ own consideration. He confirmed in his covering letter that the windows’ subjects were in keeping with the general scheme for the proposed windows in the church. This scheme had been prepared some time before, very probably by the Rev Mr T Angus Morrison.
Mr George Bell’s comments on the window designs, though generally positive, were that the subjects were somewhat crowded and that the architectural details could be reduced or simplified as a way of reducing the crowding. He also said that the ‘attitudes of the principal figure’ (meaning Jesus) could be varied a little in the windows. It is unlikely that his suggestions were taken into account in the final design and construction and these ‘faults’ that he felt ought to be remedied may still exist.
The Dalrymple windows, planned in the scheme to represent ‘The Work’ of Christ, were designed and built by the firm of Messrs Atkinson Brothers, of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Technically, the windows are examples of an older style of window, as they are made of ‘painted glass’ not ‘stained glass’. Some of the colours used are untypical: Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem shows him riding on a purple donkey.
In the scheme, the windows were located opposite proposed windows in the East Transept representing ‘The Word’. The ‘works’ portrayed in the window are four of Jesus’s miracles and four episodes from his mission. Each window shows two miracles and two works from his mission.
Almost a donor’s memorial as well
The dedication below the window reads: ‘To the Glory of God and in memory of James Dalrymple Gray Dalrymple of Woodhead. Died 22nd February 1908. Erected by his widow and stepson, George Connal Rowan’.
The window was dedicated by Mr Morrison at the morning service on Sunday, 3 October 1914. Mrs Dalrymple unveiled the window, dressed in heavy mourning for her stepson, who had been declared “missing in action” in France while serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Lt George Francis Connal-Rowan had joined the Argylls in 1910, had been sent to the front early in the war and been declared “missing” in early September. Although the window which he helped install could have become his memorial as well as that of his stepfather, George did, in fact, survive the war, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died in 1960. (A plaque in his memory can be found in the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling.)
Each of the windows depicts scenes of Christ’s work from the Bible. Two miracles and two episodes from his mission are shown in each of the windows.
The motifs making up borders along the bottom of the stained-glass windows include architectural elements that seem to replicate in stained glass aspects of the church’s decorative scrollwork in wood and stone.
The War Memorial Window
The War Memorial window in the north wall of the chancel is the most impressive stained glass window in the church. In the traditional orientation of a Christian church this window would have been the ‘great East window’, lit by the light of the rising sun. Situated as it is, the window is best lit by the setting sun in summer.
The window was unveiled and dedicated at a special service on 20 June 1926, the officiating clergy being the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev John D McCallum DD, and the minister of the church, the Rev Mr T Angus Morrison.
A dedicated memorial
The window was unveiled by Mr Alexander Park, Chairman of the Heritors of Kirkintilloch. (Just over a decade earlier Mr Park had played a leading role in the construction of the new church.) In his address before unveiling the window, Mr Park spoke of how he:
‘regarded the installation of this beautiful memorial window as the crowning event and effort of the congregation, which would always most fittingly commemorate and perpetuate the memory of those who throughout the whole of this parish, not only served in the Great War, but more especially of those who made the supreme sacrifice.’
The theme of the window is the liturgical hymn, ‘Te Deum laudamus’ – ‘We praise thee O Lord’. This theme and the layout of the window conform to the original scheme for the stained-glass windows drawn up shortly before the completion of the church. Although the window was not originally designed as a memorial to those in the parish who served, suffered and died during the Great War, it has come to fulfil this purpose for all, regardless of their creed. The symbolism of the window should be read broadly, providing avenues of understanding for all who view it as a commemoration of sacrifices by people from the entire parish.
Who deserves the credit?
The Memorial Window is signed ‘MC Webster, Stephen Adam Studio, Glasgow’, but a complex story lies behind this simple ascription. The report in the Kirkintilloch Herald on the dedication and unveiling of the window states that it had been designed by the late Alfred A Webster of the Stephen Adam Studio and that soon after designing the window he had joined the army and died on the Western Front. The report also confirms that the Chairman of the Heritors, Mr Park, had been closely associated with Mr Webster when he produced the design for the window.
After the war, Alfred’s widow, Maude Caroline Murdoch (or MCM) Webster continued to manage the studio until their sons were old enough to take over the business. In doing so, she became an example of female leadership in the arts in Glasgow during the early part of the twentieth century. Using staff such as Douglas Hamilton, who had worked for the studio prior to the war, the studio executed designs prepared by Alfred Webster prior to his death. Douglas Hamilton, who had been Alfred Webster’s close assistant and a studio apprentice, was most probably in charge of the workshop at the time the War Memorial window was executed.
As Maude was recorded as managing the studio at the time, it has always been assumed that the signature on the window referred to her. However, the Rev Mr Jeff Hopewell, in his research of the life and stained-glass work of Douglas Hamilton, has provided compelling evidence that the signature refers to Martyn Webster, the eldest of Alfred and Maude’s three sons. Hopewell has established that by the early 1920s Martyn had begun to represent the studio and had his name associated with its work. Hopewell suggests that Martyn may have contributed to some of the designs and may have reused his father’s old cartoons, or elements thereof.
Martyn’s initial interest in the business seems to have waned and Mr Hopewell records that, in the late 1920s, his deeper interest in the theatre drew him to London where he became a producer of BBC radio programmes. His younger brother, Gordon MacWhirter Webster (actually George Gordon MacWhirter Webster) had a more intense interest in stained glass and was trained by Hamilton. Although there is at least one source which credits Gordon Webster with the design of the chancel window, he only took over the ownership and management of the studio in March 1930. Gordon became a prominent Glasgow stained-glass artist, much favoured by the Church of Scotland.
With the design of the window credited to Alfred Webster and evidence for its ascription to Martyn Webster, there are sources that hint at Douglas Hamilton being a third artist with a claim to responsibility for its design and execution. As Alfred Webster’s assistant prior to the war, Douglas Hamilton was well-placed to return to the Stephen Adam Studio after the war to complete several of Alfred Webster’s commissions. Hamilton’s own designs were influenced by Webster’s style and ideas, and when he left the Stephen Adam studio and pursued the craft in his own right, the Webster legacy was still evident in his work.
This poses a question. As the chancel window was executed and installed 12 years after Alf Webster joined up to fight in the Great War, how much of the window is Webster’s and how much of it is Hamilton’s? Some sources suggest it was more Hamilton’s than Webster’s. In the March 1954 issue of The Parishioner, the Rev Mr Frank Haughton writes in an article announcing the impending unveiling of the Morrison Memorial window: ‘The window has been designed and built by Douglas Hamilton, who was responsible for our chancel window.’ Also, whether by omission or by design, the East Dunbartonshire Council pamphlet entitled Stained Glass in East Dunbartonshire Churches does not mention the chancel window in a list of Alfred Webster’s work, but does credit Douglas Hamilton with having designed a window or windows in St Mary’s.
It is possibly best to conclude that all the artists mentioned in connection with the window had an influence on the outcome. It is also fitting that Alfred Webster has been given so much credit for its design. His brilliant and promising artistic career was cut short in the service of his country. The window is his memorial as well as a memorial to the people of Kirkintilloch.
The Morrison Window
When he passed away in 1941, the Rev Mr T Angus Morrison had been minister of the church for 48 years. He had been the visionary and driving force behind the design and construction of the new church. Although the building itself is a memorial to his life and work, soon after his death thoughts began to turn to a dedicated memorial.
The Morrison Memorial window, installed in the East Transept of the church is an interesting blend of Old and New Testament figures and imagery. It is loaded with symbolism in relation to the life and work of the minister to whom it is dedicated
In 1943, on the 50th anniversary of Mr Morrison’s ordination at St Mary’s, the Kirk Session appointed a committee to consider how his long and successful service could be commemorated. Many suggestions were made but it was eventually decided to delay taking any further action until after the war. It took another 10 years for the idea to be revisited and brought to fruition.
Then a committee appointed by the Kirk Session invited Douglas Hamilton, the eminent Glasgow stained-glass artist mentioned above in connection with the chancel window, to submit designs for four lights which could be installed in the windows of the East Transept or, alternatively, in the two windows of the gallery. The installation in the East Transept was to cost £750, and the installation in the gallery was to cost £400. The Kirk Session immediately agreed to target fundraising to the sum of £750, to be raised by special offerings and donations.
First departure from the original scheme
The choice of the windows selected for the installation was interesting in relation to the original stained-glass scheme drawn up with the Rev Morrison’s input. In the scheme, the windows in the East Transept were to have been the twin of windows in the West Transept, and were to have shown scenes symbolising ‘The Word’. The windows in the gallery, described in the scheme as the ‘two end windows in the tower’, were to have shown scenes under the theme ‘the building of the Old Temple’. With the decision to install a memorial window to Mr Morrison, the windows with the theme of the building of the Temple were now moved to the East Transept window. It was the first departure from Mr Morrison’s scheme and there was to be no return to it with the installation of subsequent windows.
Installation and dedication
In his parish newsletter, the minister at the time of the window’s installation, the Rev Mr Frank Haughton, remarks how assiduously the installers committed themselves to their task, as if inspired by the subjects of the windows. They started on a Monday and were practically finished by the Wednesday. The window was dedicated at a service conducted by Mr Haughton on Sunday, 11 April 1954. The preacher was the Rev Dr CJM Conn, PhD, of Kilmarnock who had been an assistant minister in the church under Mr Morrison. The unveiling ceremony was performed by Mrs Mary Morrison, widow of Mr Morrison. Mrs Morrison, who was in her 85th year, was accompanied at the dedication by various members of the Morrison family, including her daughters, Mrs Cheshire, Miss Greta Morrison, Mrs McInnes, Mrs Hopkins, a son-in-law and four grandchildren.
The dedication on the window reads:
‘To the Glory of God and in grateful remembrance of Thomas Angus Morrison, Minister of this congregation, 1893-1941. These windows are erected by members and friends’.
In his sermon, Dr Conn recalled how, as a minister and Freemason, rituals and symbols had held a fascination for Mr Morrison: ‘Morrison had an insatiable appetite for symbol. He did his religious thinking in symbolic terms. Religion spoke to him in symbolic language…They determined Morrison’s interests and gave meaning to his ministry. There could be no more appropriate memorial to his life and work, both here and elsewhere, than this window, whose symbolism is akin to his own conception of things’.
Mr Haughton read the symbolism of the occasion well when he spoke of the church that had been Mr Morrison’s vision and labour as ‘this temple’. As a representation of Mr Morrison’s life and work, the linkage it creates with his role in the building of the church is obvious, but there is a deeper level of interpretation that can be explored.
Loaded with meaning
The Kirkintilloch Herald gave an interpretation of the window in its April 14 edition, under the heading ‘Key to the window’. This interpretation was probably given to the Herald as a ‘press release‘ of the day:
‘The theme is the building of the Church. The window on the left symbolises the re-building of the Temple. The central figures are Ezra and Nehemiah, who played the prominent part in the restoration of the building. Also included are Moses, representing the Law; Solomon for Wisdom; Bezaleel, the cunning workman of the Tabernacle; and Malchiach, who repaired one of the city gates.
‘The window on the right symbolises the coming of the Church. The central figures are Jesus, the Carpenter in Nazareth; and Christ the risen Lord and King of the Church. Andrew represents the patron saint of Scotland; Paul, missionary enterprise of the Church.; the Dove, symbolising the Holy Spirit, hovers over the church; and the lamb is the symbol of the One that taketh away the sin of the World.’
The text glosses over some of the detail and, particularly in relation to the window on the left, falls victim to inaccuracy. Ezra and Nehemiah are the books of the Bible which describe the rebuilding of the temple and the walls of Jerusalem, but Ezra and Nehemiah did not play a prominent part in the rebuilding. The rebuilding of the temple had been in progress long before their arrival. Shown in the window holding the ground plan of a building (possibly that of the new temple), Ezra is in fact a priest or scribe in the mould of Moses, below whom he appears in the window. In the Bible, he returns to Jerusalem, at the prompting of the Persian king, to remind the Jews of the laws and obligations God had given them in the desert.
The rebuilding of the temple had already antagonised the non-Jewish communities, since they were excluded from taking part, regardless of their beliefs, and Ezra now reinforces their separation by insisting that the law of God can only be kept if Jews dissolve their marriages with non-Jewish partners. He does not build the temple, but builds Israel as a separate community.
In the window, Nehemiah is shown below Solomon, the builder of the first (or old) temple. Nehemiah is also a builder, but not of the new temple. In the biblical account, years after Ezra had been despatched to Jerusalem, the Persian king sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. Nehemiah’s task and intention is to physically separate the purified Israelite community from the surrounding non-Jewish communities. These communities strenuously oppose the rebuilding of the walls and the builders arm themselves as protection for their building efforts. For this reason, Nehemiah is shown with a trowel in one hand and is armed with a sword in the other.
It is tempting to draw parallels between Nehemiah’s experience of opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s city walls and the opposition Mr Morrison encountered in the construction of the new parish church.
Bezaleel, shown below Ezra in the window, was indeed the ‘architect of the tabernacle’, but not in the contemporary meaning of the word ‘cunning’. Exodus tells us that God directly chose Bezaleel and ‘filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts’ and received from Moses ‘the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary’. The people bring so much in freewill offerings for the work that the workmen have to stop their work to ask Moses to order the people to stop bringing offerings. The jar Bezaleel holds in the window probably represents one of the vessels he made for the altar.
Below Nehemiah, we have Malchiah, carving out the capital of a column with a chisel and mallet. The capital’s design resembles the stone scroll work in the sanctuary of the church. There are many Malchiahs mentioned in the book of Nehemiah, most of them as workmen on the rebuilding of the city walls under the leadership of Nehemiah. Malchiah, one of the ordinary, almost unidentifiable workmen, can be contrasted with the Bezaleel, the clearly identifiable son of Uri, who was chosen directly by God. They both add to the symbolism of a window that tells the story of Mr Morrison’s central role in the planning and construction of the new church.
All of these characters and the roles they fulfilled can be seen as having some symbolic relevance to the story of the construction of the new church and how it was perceived by the community of Kirkintilloch. There was a great deal of antagonism towards the amount of money that was required to build a church of this grandeur and the demands that were placed on almost the entire community to contribute. Like Nehemiah, Mr Morrison had to defend his vision for the church against those who were opposed to its construction. Also, like Bezaleel, Mr Morrison may have felt appointed to be the architect of a sanctuary that was a fitting house of God, but unlike those who honoured Bezaleel, the people were for the most part not willing to provide offerings if they were not members of the church.
The significance of other elements of the window
The sun and the moon at the top of the left lights are sometimes used to represent the New and Old Testaments: the sun being the new covenant, which shines brightest, and the moon the old covenant, which shines with the reflected light of the new covenant. They appear at the top of a window that consists entirely of Old Testament figures.
The burning bush, the symbol of the Church of the Scotland, appears at the top of the right lights, which tell the story of the coming of the church.
Andrew has his symbol of a fishing net over his shoulder, and as if pausing in the midst of his work. Jesus found him and Simon casting a net into the Sea of Galilee and called them to follow him, promising to make them “fishers of men”. In the window, it seems that Andrew holds his net ready to carry on this task. He looks down at the representations of Christ below. As he is the patron saint of Scotland, it is possible he has been shown looking down at its people.
Paul, on the right, is shown as Saul on the occasion of his conversion on the road to Damascus. Struck down by the shaft of light shown behind him, he looks upwards in fear and awe as he hears the voice of God.
Christ the carpenter, Christ the King and the Dove shown with wings folded over the image of St Mary’s church all have fiery haloes, like the flames around the burning bush above them. Fiery haloes are not common in traditional stained-glass windows, but combined they are reflective of the trinity, from the burning bush representing God at the top of the window, through Christ and down to the Dove representing the Spirit at the bottom of the window.
All the figures in the window are fluid and realistically portrayed, almost of the real world. Christ the King, by contrast, is shown in a more stylised, formal pose, appearing almost out of a Byzantine iconographic or medieval artistic tradition. The Α and Ω on his chest show that this is the Christ of Revelation: ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End’; Revelation 22:13. He is also holding a chalice which is symbolic of his blood sacrifice.
The Lamb of God is shown in a scene from Revelation, representing Jesus and standing on the book from which hang the seven seals, the breaking of which would bring about the apocalypse. The triumphant lamb with its leg hooked around the pole of a flag or standard is a common religious image. The flag or standard is normally a red cross on a white background and the pole is tipped with another cross. In the window, the pole is tipped with a cross, but instead of being in red and white, the flag shows a white cross on a green background. The image of Christ and Lamb in the right light seems to have been designed to bring to reality the words of Revelation 5:13: ‘Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ”To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever”’.
The Six Days of Creation, the Ferguson (Christmas) window and the Haughton (Easter) window – Willie Rodger’s stained glass legacy:
Willie Rodger is a local artist, former art teacher and member of the congregation. He has made both the most recent and most prolific contribution to stained-glass art in St Mary’s. As Scotland’s most renowned printmaker, his medium and style translate readily and successfully to stained-glass. (His windows can also be found in churches in Kippen and Milton of Campsie.)
Having no practical experience of working in glass, Willie worked in partnership with the stained-glass artist, John K Clark, to translate his designs into the finished artwork. John Clark had his own studio in Glasgow at the time of the execution of the Six Days of Creation windows, but since 1990 he has executed most of his work, including the Ferguson and Haughton windows, at the Derix Glasstudios in Taunusstein, Germany. This entailed Willie’s travelling to Germany to work with John.
Although the windows are entirely of Willie’s design, in the creation of the windows some of John Clark’s own interpretation, style and artistry has inevitably come through.
Willie’s art work in the church has gone beyond the design of stained glass. He was first commissioned by the Stirling family of Barleybank to design the table which graces the vestibule, in memory of his best friend Elphinstone Stirling (1930-1966), shortly after his sudden, early death. A simple arched frieze runs around the table beneath its top and includes the letter ‘S’. When a new table was required for the chancel for newly married couples to sign the register, Willie recreated the design of the Stirling table, replacing the letter ‘S’ with intertwined circles representing the rings of eternal love. The Celtic frieze was the contribution of Jim Pearson, whose carpentry skills created the table.
When some of the pews were reduced in size to allow the positioning of wheel chairs, Willie used the wood from them to make the statues holding the Alpha and Omega in the recesses in the transepts and also for the praying hands and
angel displayed in the church along with the old pewter communion vessels and plates. Again, Willie worked in partnership with another artist to create these works, this time Edinburgh sculptor, Iain Mackintosh, RSA, who interpreted Willie’s designs in three dimensions.
The Rodger family has had a long association with St Mary’s. Willie’s father, the Robert Gilmour Rodger to whom the Six Days of Creation windows are dedicated, together with his wife, Elizabeth, was elected an elder in 1915 and served until his death in 1958. Robert and his parents had contributed significantly to the funds for the building of the new church and for the installation of its organ and received personal recognition from the Rev Mr T Angus Morrison for their contribution in securing the new church for Kirkintilloch. By 1904 Robert and his sisters were serving in the Sabbath School as teachers, and in February 1916 Robert established the church’s Bible Class. He served as its president for many years, until he retired in April 1927.
The family had made a significant donation to the church prior to Willie’s gift of the Six Days of Creation windows. Three sets of communion silver had been donated in 1903 by Mr JDG Dalrymple, a member of one of the older families of Kirkintilloch and the owners of the Woodhead Estate. These silver services had replaced the possibly early nineteenth-century pewter set which is currently on permanent display on a shelf to the left of the door leading to the session house. In April 1928, Willie’s grandmother, together with her son Robert Rodger and his surviving sisters, gifted a required fourth set of communion silver in memory of their daughter and sister, Mrs Louisa Patrick Traynor. Mrs Traynor had been the victim of a tragic accidental drowning on 11 June 1927. While on her way home from New York, where she had settled after her marriage, to visit her parents in Kirkintilloch, she had fallen overboard from the SS California. Two sailors, Alister Gilchrist of Partick and John McIsaac of Langside, who jumped into the sea to save her, also disappeared and perished. Mrs Traynor’s mother and surviving sisters Annie and Mary presented the silver paten and pair of communion cups. Her brother Robert at the same time gifted a silver flagon. The paten and flagon were inscribed in Louisa Traynor’s memory. The presentation date marked what would have been Louisa’s 43rd birthday.
The Six Days of Creation
The original stained-glass scheme for the church had not mentioned the six small windows in the side aisles; they were probably intended to remain glazed with clear glass. The original scheme had only addressed the larger windows and these aisle windows may have been considered too small for similar treatment.
The windows are first known to have been considered for stained glazing when Douglas Hamilton designed and installed the Morrison Memorial window in 1954. The church archives hold six cartoons by him which appear to have been intended for potential future installation in the aisle windows.
Nothing came of the plans for the aisle windows, however, until the 1980s, when Willie Rodger designed and gifted windows in memory of his parents, Robert and Elizabeth Rodger. Willie was familiar with the six windows from when he had attended church as a youth, and consideredd how they could be used to portray a religious theme. Their number fitted perfectly with the Six Days of Creation, with the individual designs inspired by the descriptions in Genesis, Chapter 1.
They were dedicated on Sunday, 7 September 1986 at a morning service conducted by the Rev Mr Frank Haughton and unveiled by Willie and his eldest son, Robin. The organ for the service was played by Robert and Elizabeth Rodger’s eldest grandchild, James Rodger Hutton.
The completed windows are a worthy addition to the church’s existing stained-glass works by the artists Messrs Atkinson Bros, Webster and Hamilton. The authors of The Buildings of Scotland, Stirling and Central Scotland describe the Six Days of Creation windows as ‘highly accomplished’. In commenting on his work on the design Willie has said that the first window was the most difficult to conceive, as nothing had happened on the first day except the division of light and dark. His favourite window is ‘Day Three – The creation of vegetation’.
Willie has also worked a deeper symbolism into the windows. Willie’s father and Mr Morrison had both been Masons and had been interested in the incorporation of symbolism in the church building. The ‘XP’ or ‘Chi Rho’ is a sacred monogram drawn by superimposing the first two letters of the Greek word for ‘Christ’, with the X also invoking the imagery of the cross. Used in the Morrison Memorial window at the end of the dedication text, the
XP also stands for the Greek word ‘Chrēston’ meaning ‘Good’. In his design, Willie used the predominant colours of the windows to subliminally create the cross in the nave. Not immediately apparent to the casual observer; it is necessary to look across the church to the opposite set of windows to see how the reds of days one and four, the greens of days three and six, and the blues of days two and five align symbolically across the nave and over the congregation members attending church.
Beginning with the window nearest the pulpit, the theme follows a clockwise direction. The dedication at the foot of the sixth window reads: ‘In happy and loving memory of Robert (1877–1958) and Elizabeth Rodger (1892–1984)’.
The Ferguson window (also known as the Christmas window)
Above: The Ferguson window. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Christmas window’. The window was donated in memory of Robert Ferguson, an elder at St Mary’s for twenty-five years.
This window in the nave and the Haughton window opposite were not included in the original scheme for stained glass in the church. Donated by his sister in 1991, it was installed in memory of Robert Ferguson, an elder at St Mary’s for twenty-five years. It pictures scenes from Christ’s nativity.
Rachel Ferguson gave Willie an entirely free hand in subject and the design. As in the bottom tier of the chancel window, Mary is shown in the centre with the baby Jesus, flanked left and right and below by those who came to praise him. As in the chancel window, Mary is shown in blue, with the manger and straw shown below her. Mary and Jesus are both shown with haloes, which are not found on the Haughton window opposite. Joseph is shown looking over Mary’s shoulder with the doubtful expression Willie intended in his design. At the bottom right, Willie included a robin, with its red breast, symbolic of the blood of Jesus.
On the left we see the shepherds, shown the way to the stable by an angel. Willie has shown them in contemporary garb, with anoraks and wellies.
The right window depicts the three wise men travelling to the stable, guided by the star in the centre. Traditionally shown on foot or riding sedately on camels, in this window the three wise men are shown mounted on galloping horses, with an angel above blowing on a trumpet to add to the feeling of haste and urgency. The angel, shown wearing red and yellow shoes, hints at the joy of the occasion and as Willie puts it, says “Let’s go for a party!”
The dedication below the window reads: ‘To the Glory of God and in memory of Robert Ferguson, elder of this church, 1964–1989. Installed by his sister Rachel’.
Willie could not recall why this window was located where it was instead of in the sunnier and better illuminated opposite side of the nave. The orientation of the church lies somewhere between the four points of the compass, but the window can still be considered as being on the more favoured east side of the church, and adds symbolically to the imagery of Christ’s birth.
The Haughton window (also known as the Easter window)
In April 1992, the Rev Mr Frank Haughton, the minister of the church, informed the Kirk Session that he had arranged to install a stained glass window in loving memory of his wife of 35 years and that it was to be unveiled on Sunday, 12 April at the 11 o’clock service. The window he donated and had installed provides a strong message on the faithfulness of women in the Christian story, contrasted with the inconstancy and disloyalty of some of Jesus’s male followers in his last days.
A Pietà fills the centre space, showing the dead body of Jesus on his mother’s lap. Mary is shown alone in her agony. A cock is shown below, contrasting the mother’s love and courage with the story of Peter’s disloyalty and denial of Jesus. A red skull is shown at the bottom left looking out of the light, showing that death did not want to face up to Mary and Jesus. Normally shown in white, the skull was allowed to burn red.
The swirls of red that can be seen on the grey pallor of Jesus’s lifeless body, which seem illustrative of his bleeding wounds and the marks of the scourge, were not in the original design. When Willie and John Clark put the glass in the kiln in Germany to fire it, the glass came out with the red swirls. Thinking that the red would burn off, they put the glass back in the kiln, but the more they fired the glass, the darker the red swirls became. Overawed by the symbolism, they decided to do no more and left the glass as it was.
The Last Supper is depicted in the left pane. The bread is shown ready to be broken and Judas is seen with his head turned away. Jesus’s agony in the garden of Gethsemane is shown below, with the disciples shown sleeping.
The right pane shows the empty tomb discovered by the female followers of Jesus and, below it, the dinner at Emmaus and told in Luke’s Gospel, at which two of Jesus’s followers only recognised him when he broke bread with them. One of the followers is named in the Bible as Cleopas. The other is not identified, although it is suggested by many scolars to have been his wife (Mary) who had stood by the Cross. Indeed Willie Rodger has chosen to portray this second follower as a woman here again emphsisin the role of women in finding the empty tomb and bringing the message of the risen Lord back to the disciples.
The scenes in all three lights are set against a curtain, representing the curtain in the temple that was rent when Jesus died as represented at the top of the centre light above the Pietà.
This is a memorial window to Peggy Haughton and Willie remembered that she did not like crucifixes and purposely left this imagery out of the design of the window. In all other respects, Mr Haughton gave Willie a free hand with regard to the design. On the whole he felt the window was a difficult subject to undertake and portray. Its gloominess is in stark contrast to the happier nativity window across the nave. This is a reason why he left out the haloes included in the nativity scene. Although he was generally pleased with the centre light showing Jesus and Mary, he was less pleased with the lights to the left and right. He felt that some of the design of the hands had been lost in translation from the original drawing to stained glass, and he also feels now, looking back at the design, that some of the faces in the left and right lights are too stereotyped and too similar.
Regardless of Willie’s feelings of discomfort on looking back at the window, it is one of the most powerful and symbolic in the church. The dedication at the foot of the centre panel reads: ‘Installed by Rev Frank Haughton to the Glory of God and in memory of his wife Peggy, for 35 years the Lady of the Manse’.
THE FUTURE OF STAINED GLASS AT ST MARY’S
The cost of maintaining a church of the size and complexity of St Mary’s has meant that any recent ideas for the expansion of the stained glass window scheme with funds from the congregation have had to be put on hold in favour of work to keep wind and water at bay. This has not stopped the members dreaming about more stained glass windows, and stained glass often forms part of suggestions for improvements to the sanctuary.
Shortly after the installation of the Haughton windows, thoughts turned to the commemoration of the old church’s 350th anniversary in Kirkintilloch in 1994. A member of the Kirk Session, Tom Leishman, suggested the two windows in the gallery be fitted with stained glass to mark the occasion. The Anniversary Committee suggested the installation of two stained-glass windows at the front door of the church at an approximate cost of £3,500. On that occasion, the Kirk Session voted to defer the decision, although Willie Rodger had been approached to prepare the designs and several subjects were considered.
The two initial design ideas focused on the message to churchgoers as they left the church after the service. An idea from the Book of Revelation showing the horsemen of the Apocalypse was designed to challenge those departing. This idea was replaced with an idea for a reminder of churchgoers’ Christian responsibility towards their fellow man in the form of a design which incorporated the story of the Good Samaritan. The most recent of Willie’s proposals for the two windows at the front door was to have Noah as the main character, symbolising the transition between the canal and its role in local industry outside the church and the spiritual realm within the church.