The ambitious re-development of Paisley Museum received a boost last year when it was announced that the project was to receive £200,000 in capital funding from The Wolfson Foundation and an additional £200,000, pledged by The Hugh Fraser Foundation. The transformation of the Museum is set to turn it into a world-class cultural destination, expected to attract 125,000 visits each year after it reopens in 2022. The Museum holds the largest single collection of works by artist and Burns enthusiast James Elder Christie (1847-1914) including an oil painting of a scene from Tam O’Shanter and many illustrations of his poetry.
Christie was passionate about Burns and associated with both the London and Paisley Burns Clubs throughout his life. He was born in Fife and went to art school in Paisley and the Royal Academy of Arts, London. He set up a photographic business in Paisley called Christie and Adam, and although he spent most of his working life in London he regularly came back to Paisley and was in attendance at the revival of the Paisley Burns Club in 1875. He was gregarious and moved in elite art circles, a founding member of Chelsea Arts Club and a member of the New English Art Club. He also founded the Paisley-Renfrewshire Society in London which was a celebration of all things Paisley (and by extension, of Scottish national heroes). Christie was by all accounts hugely passionate about the work of Robert Burns, and his recitals of Tam O’Shanter and the Address to a Haggis were reported as sublime and astounding by other members attending.
This year the Paisley Burns Club, which lays claim to being the oldest Burns Club in the World (founded in 1805), will break with tradition and meet online to celebrate on the 25th January. The Museum holds Burns Club ‘relics’ owned by the Club in its collection which unfortunately it is unable to access this year. They include a ‘gavel’ to bring the proceedings to order, a snuff box and the Burns caup used to toast the Bard. The caup was presented to the club by James Armour brother-in-law to Robert Burns in 1814 and was frequently used by the poet.