Celtic Art of George Bain

 Celtic Art of George Bain

Each year since 1946 a Celtic design has appeared in the Games Programme. Created by the artist George Bain, it shows a Highland Dancing competition taking place on the Games field beneath a sky created from a pattern of Celtic knotwork.

Bain (1881-1968) was a native of Scrabster, Caithness but moved to Edinburgh as a young man where he commenced his artistic training with a lithographic firm. As a part time student he attended Edinburgh College of Art from 1896 to 1902 when he gained first place in a National Scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London.

In London, Bain was employed as a book and newspaper illustrator while he also exhibited his paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy and in Paris. Wishing to return to Scotland, in 1911 he gave up Metropolitan life to take up an appointment with the Art Department of Kirkcaldy High School. During the First World War he recorded incidents of the 26th Division in Salonika before returning to teaching in Kirkcaldy High School. There he was to remain until his retirement from the post Principal Teacher of Art in 1946.

Bain’s greatest legacy to Scotland came in his devotion to Celtic Art. From an early date he showed great interest in Highland Culture especially in ancient stone slabs, crosses and brochs many of which are to be found in his native Caithness. This interest prompted him to a study of Pictish and Celtic art forms and from this he developed patterns which he applied to textiles, rugs and metals.

At an International Collection of Embroidery mounted by J. & P. Coates Ltd. of Paisley at the Empire Exhibition of 1938 in Glasgow, examples of George Bain’s Celtic Embroidery designs were judged to be amongst the most outstanding specimens to be displayed.

In conjunction with his practical work in the field of Celtic Art, Bain also wrote a number of booklets on the subject which were published by Maclellan Publishers. He followed this with a book, “A Comprehensive Study of Celtic Art,” in 1951.

In 1946 George Bain retired to Drumnadrochit where at Kilmore Old Manse (the present day Ben Leva Hotel) he set up his College of Celtic Culture and devoted the rest of his life to the stimulation of further interest in Celtic Art. He was accompanied by his wife Jessie who was a native of Drumnadrochit having been born at Upper Drumbuie where her father Thomas Mackintosh lived as a gamekeeper on the Balmacaan Estate.

Examples of George Bain’s Celtic Art work are to be seen in the Celtic Cross to Georgina Mackintosh in Old Kilmore Cemetery and the beautiful carpets with Picto-Celtic motifs to be found in St Ninians Episcopal Church, Glen Urquhart.

In March 1968 George Bain died at the home of his daughter Chirsty at Codsall, Staffs and his ashes were brought north to be scattered beside those of his wife on the hill-side at Upper Drumbuie which overlooks the Games Field at Blairbeg.

The author, Fraser Mackenzie, would like to acknowledge the fact that much of the information used in this account was provided by the late Claire Bain, the artist’s daughter.