A large hall window for the stairwell at South Bantaskine House was commissioned by John Wilson the owner and designed and executed by Ballantine and Son, 42 George Street, Edinburgh, in 1862.
The house stood in the ground where the Battle of Falkirk was fought in 1746 and Wilson had a relative at the battle and so that theme seemed appropriate. There are three compartments, each of which contains a figure. Armorial bearings are introduced in the panelling over and beneath the figures, and each light is surrounded by a richly embattled bordering.
The central light depicts Bonnie Prince Charlie, with the legend in rhyme: “Charles’ eagle glance like lightning scanned the field, and where the worn and wounded seemed to yield, anew their drooping hearts with love he fired, anew their frames with energy inspired.”
Lord George Murray, who was in command of the right wing of the Jacobites, is depicted in the left-hand light with the rhyme: “Murray, the first to lead in battle fray, on Falkirk Muir, thy courage won the day. Far in the van was ever heard thy cry – ‘Follow me, men; we conquer or we die.’”
Lord John Drummond, who commanded the left wing of the Jacobite forces, is depicted on the right light of the window. The inscription beneath his portrait is as follows: “Drummond, they valour, loyalty and zeal were all devoted to thy Prince’s weal. Perth’s gallant hosts dispersed the Stuart’s foes, and Stuart’s standard o’er Bantaskine rose.”
They are arrayed in the full Highland costume of the period; the likenesses, dresses, and accoutrements having been carefully studied. The lower panels measure 3.1m by 0.9m and the upper 1.7 by 0.9m.
The Scotsman in noticing the stained glass in the International Exhibition of 1862, has the following – “After the crooked necks, dislocated limbs, and distorted attitudes which appear in some of the neighbouring windows, it is refreshing to the eye to rest upon the easy, natural forms of Mr Ballantine’s compositions. In the true spirit of a thoughtful artist, he has always kept in view the important principle which he laid down in his admirable treatise on painted glass – “In the application of painted glass windows, the purpose and character of the building ought always to be considered. It is not necessary that the dim religious light so desirable in the church should be transferred to the boudoir or drawing room. In the windows of a palace, for example, nothing could be more appropriate than a series of monarchs arranged in regal robes, and accompanied by other emblems of State. For the windows of a literary and scientific institution, representations of such men as Newton, Watt, and Bacon would be peculiarly suitable; while emblematic devices, illustrative of the progress of mind or of civilisation, simply treated and easily understood, would always prove interesting and attractive.” This idea is ably carried out in the emblematic window for the National Bank of Scotland, and in the portrait windows for Bantaskine House and the Free Church Presbytery Hall. The Bantaskine window is an admirable production. The figures are life-like and unconstrained, and the frame-work is adapted to the outlines in a very skilful manner. The colour is soft, brilliant and harmonious. One of the great merits of Mr Ballantine’s windows is certainly that they transmit light; which is more than can be said of some rival productions.”
After being on display in the Great Exhibition of 1862 in South Kensington the windows were installed at South Bantaskine House and offered to Falkirk Town Council in 1947 by the National Coal Board in advance of the demolition of the house. They remained in storage with Falkirk Council until 1986 when they were renovated and installed into the Howgate shopping centre in the town centre. They are part of the Falkirk Museum collection.
G.B. Bailey (2019)