Elementary to show work by Conan Doyle’s dad

Ann Treherne with the collection. Picture: Jane Barlow
Ann Treherne with the collection. Picture: Jane Barlow
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ILLUSTRATIONS created by the father of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as he languished in an asylum have been brought back to Scotland for the first time in over a century.

The drawings and paintings are part of a scrapbook kept by Charles Altamont Doyle during his incarceration in a number of different institutions around Scotland where he was treated for alcoholism and depression. He died in 1893, while still a patient in Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries.

Ann Treherne, a trustee of the Arthur Conan Doyle centre on Palmerston Place, who will be giving talks over August about the author, said the painting were an important part of the author’s relationship with his father.

“Conan Doyle’s youth was marred by his father’s “episodes” – his early acceptance to university at the age of 16 happened around the same time his father lost his job and his graduation was also shadowed by his father’s first incarceration,” she said.

“However, in later life he felt that his father had been an unrecognised genius and was said to have felt guilty about how his life had turned out. He decorated his first office as a writer with his father’s work and apparently playwright and political activist George Bernard Shaw declared that they deserved a room to themselves in a national gallery.”

Workers at the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre have now tried to bring that idea closer to being a reality, by hanging some of the paintings in the centre. This is the first time the works have ever been put on public display in Scotland.

“Some of the drawings are quite wild and scary, depicting the things he saw on the hospital wards where he was kept, with notes alongside them saying he was a prisoner,” said Ann. “Fairies were an obsession of the Doyle family. Conan Doyle’s grandfather and uncles were also artists, and every one of them painted fairies. And of course Conan Doyle himself wrote a book about his belief in the five Cottingley Fairies photographs, which were revealed to be a hoax decades later.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was also a fervent Spiritualist, and wrote a two-volume history of the religion.

Ann, who is a practising Spiritualist and medium, said: “The centre is a hub for Spiritualism in Edinburgh, though all are welcome to come along and see what we have to offer.”

The Arthur Conan Doyle Experience will run on August 13, 15, 20 and 22 at the centre at 25 Palmerston Place. For more information visit www.25palmerstonplace.com.