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Our First Port of Call

March 16, 2010

When we reopen in November 2011 one of our inaugural exhibitions will be War at Sea. This will look at Scotland’s role in the naval engagements of the First World War when the two greatest navies the world had ever seen fought for supremacy on the icy waters of the North Sea.

'Flotta and Weddel Sound, Orkney' by Sir John Lavery (Collection of the Imperial War Museum, London)

Glasgow Boy, Sir John Lavery, was selected as the official war artist and over thirty of his atmospheric paintings are being lent to the Portrait Gallery by the Imperial War Museum. They show how important the ports, harbours and the men and women of Scotland were in this crucial but now largely forgotten war.

Talking last week to a group of potential Gallery supporters I mentioned the exhibition and how it would be shown on the middle floor of the Portrait Gallery with views to Burntisland, Granton, Leith and Rosyth; all places that Lavery painted. In my audience was Professor Gordon Milne who later told me about the Merchant Navy Memorial Trust (Scotland). Their project is to create a memorial in Leith to the Scottish men of the Merchant Navy. A site on The Shore in Leith has been found for the memorial and the sculptor, Jill Watson, has won the commission to create it. I very much hope that in the months ahead Professor Milne and I can develop closer links between his trust and the Portrait Gallery.

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