Stained Glass Memories part 4

21 September 2023

This is the Fourth part of a four-part blog.

The first instalment for this can be found here.

The second instalment can be found here.

The third instalment of this blog can be found here.

Stained Glass Memories’ in Airdrie continued

Flowerhill Parish Church, Airdrie –  memorial window installed 1903

 Cairnlea Parish Church in Airdrie (previously the site of Flowerhill Parish Church), contains a stained glass window that was dedicated to the church on 23 August 1903, to commemorate Mr David Mitchell, banker and Church Elder at Flowerhill Church and his wife Mary.
David and Mary Mitchell were the parents of James Mitchell of Bannockburn House.   David was a prominent banker and writer (solicitor) in Airdrie.   He was originally from Glasgow, and entered the office of Mr James Thomson Rankin (Ann Mitchell’s father) as a law-clerk.  David worked his way up to become a partner and the firm became ‘Rankin and Mitchell’. 

David also worked as a bank manager for the City of Glasgow Bank, before its scandalous failure in 1878, and then for the Bank of Scotland in Airdrie.  As a bank manager, David would have been considered a highly respectable figure in the town who was trusted to uphold the values of the bank and Victorian notions of morality.  David also had a variety of business interests, and was one of the original partners of Messrs James Nimmo and Co. Coalmasters (where James Mitchell subsequently became chairman).

David was a well known public figure in Airdrie, who was a member of the Town Council for 9 years (3 times returned) and was highly popular.   He was very involved in Airdrie life and was often to be found at charitable events, taking an active role on many levels, whether in his official capacity as town councillor, senior bank manager or Church Elder, and even winning prizes for his rhubarb at the local gardening shows.

 

David was married to Mary Rankin – the youngest daughter of Mathew Rankin of Garngibbock.  They lived in Arranview, a distinctive Greek Thomson villa in Airdrie, where their children were born, including their eldest, James Mitchell – who went on to own Bannockburn House.   David died in 1884, at 57 years of age, at his home, after a few years of deteriorating health.  After David’s wife Mary died in 1902, their children commissioned the memorial window in Flowerhill Church, which subsequently became Cairnlea Parish Church.
The design of the window is based on the texts “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, and ‘”Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil”, and “The Righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance”.

A description at the church informs that the left hand window depicts the risen Christ welcoming the Christian into Heaven.  The right hand window shows the Christian soldier, without weapons, walking in faith supported by his guardian angelic guide. His feet are shod with “the preparation of the Gospel of Peace” and he wears “The belt of truth”.  He is trampling fearlessly on the spiteful head of the green serpent writhing before the crossing,which is potent symbolism of the victory of Christ being shared by the believer.  The outstretched hand of the Lord confirms the Christian’s conviction.

The window was commissioned from the William Meikle studio in Glasgow, leading stained glass artists of the time. A full description of the window can be found here:

Mitchell Window – Cairnlea Parish Church, Airdrie

The signatures of the window makers can be seen on the two bottom panels of the window.

David and Mary Mitchell were considered to be great supporters of the church from the beginning of its history until their deaths.

A word from the author

Looking into the stained-glass windows commissioned by the Mitchell family has provided an extraordinary insight into the values and beliefs of the family.  The memorials reflect their priorities of education and knowledge, religion, culture and charity, and their involvement in public life.

It also provides a legacy of beautiful work from the talented stained glass artists who were at the top of their fields and whose work is seen in cathedrals and public buildings across the land.

Most importantly it helps us to understand the stories behind each dedication, and to bring to life the people mentioned on the brass plaques, to honour their memories and what they stood for.

To learn more about the Mitchell family and the other families who lived in Bannockburn House, tours are now available for booking, as listed on the website. https://www.bannockburnhouse.scot/our-events/

We would like to express grateful thanks to the following:

  1. Robin Webster, OBE, for additional information regarding the Ladywell Church commission, and the work of Gordon Webster.
  2. The National Archives, Kew – for the picture of James T Rankin, Provost of Airdrie
  3. Lloyds Bank Archives, Edinburgh – for the picture of David Mitchell as Bank of Scotland Manager
  4. Cairnlea Parish Church for information on the Mitchell memorial window
  5. New Monkland Parish Church for information regarding the Mitchell Window
  6. Airdrie Library Local Reading Room and North Lanarkshire Archives for their assistance with the Rankin Window in Airdrie Library
Post by Dr Helen Young
Dr Helen Young is a member of the History Team.
Catherine Bradley.

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