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University museums – beyond the exhibitions

Visitors to the recent 2019 Fisherfolk Festival in the Easter Ross village of Balintore were amongst the first people to see a unique collection of paintings documenting past life on the Moray Firth.

The exhibition was made possible by the long reach of SFC’s museums, galleries and collections grant. The University of St Andrews, one of the nine Scottish universities to receive the special funding, has been working with the community to restore and display the work of John Paterson, a local fisherman and artist who was born on the Black Isle in 1872.

The oil paintings were discovered by the artist’s grandson who found them when clearing out old fishing stores. As well as self-portraits, the paintings depict villagers and record sea faring communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Paterson family had salmon fishing stations along the east coast of Scotland for over 100 years and John Paterson was a well-known figure from Durness to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Maureen Ross, a director of the Seaboard Centre which hosted the Fisherfolk Festival, said: “When I saw the paintings I recognised the community heritage potential and the endless possibilities this find could have.”

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “One of the exciting things about our work is that it reaches into so many parts of Scotland’s educational, economic and cultural life. It’s great that some of our funding has helped to save these paintings for future generations and I hope they will be studied and enjoyed for many years to come.”