Archivist tries to trace subjects of nursery sketches

One of Betty McTaggart's child drawings from Cowgate Nursery School
One of Betty McTaggart's child drawings from Cowgate Nursery School
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AS an artist, she certainly had some pedigree.

But for Betty McTaggart, her studio was the playground of the Edinburgh nursery school where she worked.

Some of the child drawings by Betty McTaggart

Some of the child drawings by Betty McTaggart

It has emerged that Betty, the daughter of Scottish art great William, sketched the children at the former Cowgate Nursery School, with the results showing that artistic flair certainly ran in the family.

Now, more than 70 years on, an archivist is hoping to trace some of the faces in Betty’s drawings and “reunite” them with the artwork.

Betty, who lived most of her life in Bonnyrigg, is known to have worked at the school, possibly in the 1940s.

During this time she produced around 100 sketches of the children, several drawn on the backs of envelopes and on scraps of paper.

McTaggert family group with Betty on her mother's knee

McTaggert family group with Betty on her mother's knee

Ken Bogle, archivist at Midlothian Local Studies and Archives in Loanhead, where the sketches have been kept since around 1990, has now launched the appeal for the people featured in them to get in touch.

He said one possible option to track the people down was to hold an exhibition of the sketches. “It’s not impossible that these children might still be alive and likely to be unaware that these sketches exist,” he said.

“It is interesting that some of the children in the sketches are named. It would be nice to trace some of these children, who now would be in their 70s and 80s, and to reunite them with their sketches.”

Although the collection of drawings, which includes two black sketch books filled with pictures, is stored at Midlothian Local Studies, it is owned by the Bonnyrigg and Lasswade Local History Society.

Betty was born in 1896, never married and lived most of her life in Bonnyrigg before moving to a house called Davaar in Longniddry, East Lothian.

She inherited some of her father’s talent and was an accomplished artist in her own right, holding exhibitions of her work.

Betty died in an Edinburgh nursing home on October 10, 1986. After her death, her nephew, Neil McTaggart, presented a collection of McTaggart family papers to the history society. Her father was famous for his landscapes, although he considered himself primarily as a portrait painter.

Like Betty, William often included children in his work. In 1890, William moved to a house called Dean Park in Bonnyrigg, where he lived until his death in 1910.

Mr Bogle, 46, who lives in Blackford, Edinburgh, added: “If anybody has any further information about either Betty McTaggart or Cowgate Nursery School, then please e-mail local.studies@midlothian.gov.uk.”

• Are you in one of the sketches? Contact the Evening News on 0131-620 8733.

SCHOOL ROLL

SOME of the children who are named in Betty’s sketches are: Charlie Ainslie, Joan Cairns, Anna Conway, Peter Daly, Nancy Day, David Elder, Catherine Gardiner, Sandra Huggan, Isaac McCallum, Martha McEwan, Joe McGlyn, Josephine McGlyn, Alec McGregor, Robert Marshall, Linda Milne, Catherine Mooney, Jimmy Moore, Janette Niven, Mary Niven, Maureen O’Connor, George O’Donnel, Maureen Sandman, James Taylor, Rosemary Watt.