Papers of Pittendrigh MacGillivray, 1856-1938, sculptor and poet

Scope and Content

  • Volume of letters to and from Pittendrigh MacGillivray
  • Volume of lectures on Scottish Clan Tartans, 1906

Administrative / Biographical History

James Pittendrigh MacGillivray was a Sculptor, born in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, in 1856. He was the son of a local sculptor, William MacGillivray, and was educated in Edinburgh. He had no specific art training in schools whose system of education he always condemned. In 1872 he became studio assistant to William Brodie, remaining with him for six years; then, around 1880, he spent two years in the studio of John Mossman and was later apprenticed to James Steel in Glasgow. He carried out most of the classical decorations for the theatre later known as the Metropole. He returned to Edinburgh in 1894 and carried out many portrait busts, monuments and statues, becoming a regular exhibitor at the Royal Scottish Academy where he was elected an Associate in 1892 and the Royal Scottish Academy in 1901. He also designed his own studio which later turned into a place of pilgrimage for those devoted to art, culture and learning. He is best known for his statue of Robert Burns at Irvine, and of Thomas Carlyle and the figure of 'Historia' for the Gladstone Memorial in Edinburgh.

MacGillivray graduated with the degree of LLD in 1909 and, in 1921, he was appointed King's Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland. Some of the works that he produced during his lifetime include: the statues of the Marquis of Bute at Cardiff, Lord Byron at Aberdeen and the bronze of John Knox at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. His magnum opus and first large scale achievement was the Gladstone Memorial. Pittendrigh retained a deep sense of his own Scottish heritage, and his knowledge of tartans, of which he made a special study and accumulated a remarkable collection, was second to none. He spent a lot of time writing poetry and left a number of published works, some of the publications themselves being masterpieces of typography which are now collectors' pieces. He died in 1938.


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information

Access is open, however an appointment may be required. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Acquisition Information

Purchase : McNaughton's : 1987 : ACCN 4493

Other Finding Aids

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives and Special Collections, please email:

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 247 procedures

Custodial History

Not known


None expected