Scottish Silver at Dumfries Museum

Staff at Dumfries Museum have been polishing the silver display in preparation for a talk by Scottish silver expert George Dalgleish on Thursday 29 September.

George Dalgleish recently retired from the post of Keeper of Scottish History and Archaeology at National Museums Scotland. He commented; “Silver has played an important part in Scottish history from the time of the Romans onwards. It played a key role in establishing and communicating power and prestige. In more modern times it was seen as a display of wealth and good taste.”

Siller gun medal 1828

Entitled “Collecting Scottish Silver”, George’s talk will look at silver made by Scottish craftsmen from the 16th century onwards and will be illustrated with examples from the Dumfries Museum collection. It takes place at Dumfries Museum on Thursday 29 September starting at 6.30. The talk will be followed by light refreshments and an opportunity to view the museum displays.

Councillor Tom McAughtrie, Chair of Communities Committee said: “Dumfries has a proud history of skilled tradespeople and Dumfries Museum has some fine examples of items made by local silversmiths. It is s pleasure to welcome silver expert George Dalgleish to give a talk which places our local collection in a national context.”

The silver collection at Dumfries Museum has been refreshed over the last year in a new case funded by Museums Galleries Scotland. New items are on display thanks to the National Fund for Acquisitions and generous individual donors. These include an early 19th century cream jug made by Dumfries silversmith Joseph Pearson and a Silver gun medal that was presented to Hammerman (blacksmith) James Johnston in 1828.

The earliest reference to a silver trade in Dumfries occurs in 1504 when King James IV paid “the Dumfries goldsmith” 14 shillings for falconry equipment. Between 1500 and 1900 there were over 30 silversmiths living and working in Dumfries. Few could rely on sufficient business to make only silverware, and most of them also worked at other trades such as gunsmithing or clockmaking. Their output was mainly flatware or cutlery and other tableware. But they also made medals, communion cups and snuff mulls.

Some Scottish towns, including Dumfries, had their own marks for silverware. The main town marks used by Dumfries silversmiths were an anchor, a unicorn’s head and a stag’s head.