Glasgow & West Scotland

Mystery solved over Maryhill Burgh Hall glass panel

The glass panel and drawing from Mechanics Magazine
Image caption The stained glass panel of the "unknown worker" and a drawing of a hydrostatic press from Mechanics Magazine

A mystery surrounding a 130-year-old stained glass panel appears to have been answered by an author conducting research into his new book.

The panel was one of 20 commissioned for Maryhill Burgh Halls in 1878 to depict local trades and industries.

All except the "unknown worker" had been identified by trustees overseeing a £9.2m refurbishment of the halls.

Now Glaswegian Michael Meighan has identified the mystery man as using a hydrostatic press to pattern cloth.

The author identified the image while researching his new book "Glaswegians with a Flourish".

"I was aware of the Maryhill stained glass puzzle, and I was as intrigued as anyone," he said.

Bandana gallery

"While I was investigating the role of the Mechanics Institute in Glasgow I came across the institute's 'Mechanics Magazine' published in 1824 and held by the National Library of Scotland.

"On the front page of one of the issues was a drawing of a press almost exactly like the equipment being used in the stained glass window."

Image caption Trades depicted in the other 19 panels have been identified

Mr Meighan described how he then read a "Description of the Great Bandana Gallery in the Turkey Red factory of Messrs Monteith & Co. at Glasgow".

This, he said, described in detail the process of using a hydrostatic press to impregnate and pattern cotton cloth with Turkey red dye.

The author added: "Turkey red dyeing was originally brought to Scotland from France, and became a massively important industry in the west of Scotland in the 1800s.

"Besides cowboy bandanas, the British Redcoats were dyed with Turkey red, as well as beautifully patterned cloths which were exported throughout the world.

"The dyeing process was revolutionary as it allowed whole cloths to be dyed, rather than the threads from which they were made, shortening the process considerably."

Mr Meighan brought his theory about the stained glass panel to the attention of the Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust.

With all the original paperwork for the commissioned panels having been lost, it finally offered an answer to the mystery of the "unknown worker".

'Mystery solved'

The trust's heritage development officer, Gordon Barr, said: "Just when I started to think we'd never know for sure what was going on in this panel, I got a phone call from Michael out of the blue.

"We're delighted to have the mystery solved, and fill in the last blank.

"But just as one puzzle is solved, it also reveals more questions to be asked - we don't know which company in the Maryhill area might have been using this process at the time the panels were commissioned - so there's still more to find out to keep us busy."

The £9.2m renovation project aims to transform Maryhill Burgh Halls and an adjacent former police station into a community hub.

A public hall, a cafe, office space and a commercial and community recording studio will be among the new resources.

The halls had lain empty for almost a decade before restoration began and were on the city's buildings at risk register.

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