Work of William M. Palin (1862-1947)

Scope and Content

The collection of Palin's work consists of 17 cartoon drawings for the murals at McEwan Hall.

Administrative / Biographical History

The painter William Mainwaring Palin was born in Hanley, Staffordshire in 1862. He was the son of engraver William Palin. The younger Palin was educated at Cobridge Collegiate, Stoke-on-Trent, before undertaking an apprenticeship with Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, Etruria, Staffordshire. At the age of eighteen he obtained a National Art Training Scholarship at the Royal College of Art. In the early-1880s he was in Italy and in Paris where in the latter he worked under Lefebvre and Boulanger. Between 1893 and 1897, Palin was involved in the decoration of the McEwan Hall, Edinburgh, and had been recommended to the Building Committee for the project by the Science and Art Department, South Kensington.

The McEwan Hall is situated in Bristo Square, adjacent to Edinburgh University's Medical School. It was built by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson (1834-1921) between 1888 and 1897 in Italian Renaissance style. The D-plan Hall, like a 'magnificent petrified blancmange with a shallow ribbed dome and lantern', was originally planned as part of the University's new Medical School - which was completed some 10 years earlier - but the government at the time refused to fund a graduation hall which they considered frivolous. Instead, the University turned to William McEwan, the brewer, who contributed one-hundred and fifteen thousand pounds to fund the construction of the ostentatious building. The Hall is regularly used for graduations, concerts, meetings and examinations.

Palin's painted decoration of the interior of the McEwan Hall is considered 'opulent'. On the dome there are figures of the Arts and Sciences. Over the proscenium arch to the apse there is a huge allegorical scheme on the theme of Temple of fame with enthroned goddesses of Science, Art and Literature. On the right of the arch is Minerva receiving the McEwan Hall, and on the left Fame crowning Success. There are also figures of Perseverance, Intelligence, Imagination and Experience.

Palin's other principle works include the decoration of St. Clements Church, Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1900, and his paintings submitted to the Royal Academy, Orphans (1892), The artist's mother (1898), The light that never fails (1901), A summer afternoon (1904), Morning sunshine, Caudebec-en-Caux (1910), and Chums (1915). William Mainwaring Palin died on 23 July 1947.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Drawings transferred from Patrick Geddes Centre, December 1998, Accession no. E98.74.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using an electronic source published by the Department of Geography, Edinburgh University (The Gazetteer for Scotland), and with: (1) Gifford, John [et al.]. Edinburgh. The Buildings of Scotland. Repr. p.246. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1984. (2) Who was who 1941-1950. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1952. (3) McKinstry, Sam. Rowand Anderson. 'The premier architect of Scotland'. p.135. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.