Gravestone for Chief Constable Alexander McCall

M033 Gravestone for Chief Constable Alexander McCall

Address: The Necropolis, Cathedral Square, Glasgow G4 0UZ
Date: 1890–1
Client: Glasgow Police Commissioners, friends and colleagues
Authorship: Authorship category 1 (Mackintosh) (Mackintosh)

Photograph of middle section of Alexander McCall monument

Alexander McCall (1836–1888) served as Glasgow's Chief Constable for 18 years, until his death on 29 March 1888. 1 Throughout this period, the Chief Clerk in the City of Glasgow Police Force – effectively McCall's personal assistant – was William McIntosh, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's father. 2 According to the inscription, the monument that marks McCall's grave in the Glasgow Necropolis was erected by 'THE POLICE COMMISSIONERS; A FEW FRIENDS; AND THE FORCE OF WHICH HE WAS SO LONG THE HONOURED CHIEF'. It seems highly likely that the commission to design it came to Mackintosh as a result of his father's close links with the deceased.

Photograph of Alexander McCall monument with surrounding gravestonesPhotograph of front of Alexander McCall monument

This early work gives no hint of the architect's future individuality. It takes the form of a Celtic cross in grey granite, indistinguishable from numerous others to be found in Victorian cemeteries. At the bottom, on the front of the shaft, a bronze tablet by James Pittendrigh Macgillivray incorporates a circular relief portrait of McCall and the dedicatory inscription. Entries in McGillivray's account book suggest that the work on the monument is later than previously thought i.e. 1890–1 rather than around 1888. 3

Photograph of portrait and inscription from Alexander McCall monument

The sides of the shaft and the head of the cross are carved with interlace ornament, while the space immediately above the bronze panel is filled with sinuous lines looped around circular bosses. Bulbous pink granite bosses are set in the corners of this space, and there is another at the intersection of the arms of the cross. The back is plain.

Photograph of upper section of Alexander McCall monumentPhotograph of upper section of Alexander McCall monumentPhotograph of side of Alexander McCall monumentPhotograph of middle section of Alexander McCall monument

The base is inscribed with the names of designer and sculptor, 'Chas. R. McIntosh Arch' and 'Peter Smith S'. Peter Smith was active both as an independent sculptor and as manager of the Glasgow branch of J. & G. Mossman, monumental sculptors. 4 He took over Mossman's business in 1890.

The cross has been damaged and repaired on at least two occasions. A photograph said to have been taken c. 1980 appears to show it intact, but in 1991 it was toppled and the head was broken. 5 It was put back together and re-erected in 1996 by J. & G. Mossman, the bronze tablet being replaced with a fibreglass cast. 6 After further serious damage it was once again reassembled and repaired in 2005 by Kenneth Pollok-Smith of Mossmans. 7 The two quarter circles below the arms are now missing (2011).

A report on the McCall monument was produced as part of the Mackintosh Buildings Survey, led by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society and carried out between 2015 and 2016. 8

Notes:

1: Glasgow Herald, 30 March 1888, p. 9.

2: Iain Paterson, 'William McIntosh', Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 67, Summer 1995, pp. 5–8; personalia related to William McIntosh is held by the Glasgow Police Museum.

3: Pittendrigh McGillivray account book, Aberdeen University Library, Special Collections, MS 3095: 6 March 1891 payment of 10 received 'For Medall. of McCall' and 25 March 1891 payment of 14 for 'McCall / Medallion'. A fibreglass cast of the original is now on display; the original bronze is in the care of Glasgow Museums.

4: 'J. & G. Mossman', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011: sculpture.gla.ac.uk/ [accessed 5 February 2013].

5: Iain Paterson, 'Alexander McCall Memorial, Necropolis', Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 69, Spring 1996, p. 8.

6: Iain Paterson, 'Alexander McCall Memorial', Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 70, Autumn 1996, p. 12; Iain Paterson, 'Alexander McCall Memorial', Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society Newsletter, 71, Spring 1997, p. 15.

7: Scotsman, 10 October 2005, p. 13.

8: A copy of the report (MBS02) is held by the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, Mackintosh Queen's Cross, 870 Garscube Road, Glasgow G20 7EL. The Mackintosh Buildings Survey was funded by The Monument Trust.