Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Mary’s Loch, Selkirkshire; and ?Margate from the Sea


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 x 181 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXVIII 24

Catalogue entry

The sketch across the top half of this page begins a series of views of St Mary’s Loch in this sketchbook. The sketch is inscribed ‘St Mary Lake’ by Turner, and was made from the north-east end of the loch near the source of the Yarrow Water. Over the next eight pages Turner continued to sketch the loch from the northern end, perhaps walking around the head of the loch to the settlement of Cappercleuch, before returning to the road to the east: folios 24–28 (D26140–D26148). The hills seen beyond the water to the south-west are, from left to right: Bowerhope Law, Nether Hill, Riskinhope Rig, East Muchra Hill, Oxcleuch Rig and Watch Law. These same hills can be seen in most of the sketches of St Mary’s Loch. Sketches of the loch also continue on folios 29 verso–30 verso (D26151–D26153).
Turner visited St Mary’s Loch during a two-day excursion from Edinburgh on 2–3 August 1834. Having travelled south to Peebles, he continued south-east to Innerleithen, before turning south and then west to St Mary’s Loch. From here he journeyed east along the Yarrow Valley to Newark Castle, and then onto Selkirk, turning north to Abbotsford and Melrose before returning to Edinburgh; see the Tour of Scotland for Scott’s Prose Work 1834 Tour Introduction.
This tour was undertaken to collect material to illustrate new editions of Sir Walter Scott’s Prose Works and Waverley Novels, as well as J.G. Lockhart’s proposed Life of Scott. Gerald Finley has suggested that St Mary’s Loch may have been envisaged as a possibility illustration to Scott’s novel Saint Ronan’s Well which is set in the area.1 Although Turner did not complete any illustrations for the series, Robert Cadell’s ‘Abbotsford edition’ of the Waverley Novels was published with an engraving of St Mary’s Loch by William Millar after Peter Paton to illustrate St Ronan’s Well.2
Turner may also have been interested in the biographical significance of the area to Scott and his friend the poet James Hogg, known as the Ettrick Shepherd, as the two poets apparently met at Tibbie Sheils Inn at the southern end of the loch.3 Hogg is referred to in an inscription on folios 26 verso (D26145), and a note on folio 27 (D26126) may read ‘Tiby Inn’. Hogg was born in Ettrick Forest and by 1834 was living at Altrive Farm (now called Eldinhope), between Dryhope and Mountbenger near the north-east end of St Mary’s Loch.

Thomas Ardill
January 2011

Gerald Finley, Landscape of Memory, Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London 1980, p.182.
Sir Walter Scott, Waverley Novels [Abbotsford edition], vol.VIII, Edinburgh 1845, facing p.501.
John Brewer, Border Cycle Routes, Milnthorpe 2001, p.101.

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