An emotional reunion with Catterline pic

Photos by: Grant Anderson  - www.grantanderson.me / @grantandersondotme'Joan Eardley's portrait of Margaret Livingstone
Photos by: Grant Anderson - www.grantanderson.me / @grantandersondotme'Joan Eardley's portrait of Margaret Livingstone

Aberdeen’s Treasure Hub was the scene of an emotional meeting recently when, after 63 years, Margaret Livingstone came face to face for the first time…with herself.

Margaret, and older brother Alan, were the young subjects of Joan Eardley’s much-loved 1955 painting Brother and Sister.

The artist is well known for her seascape paintings of Catterline, where she lived in the latter years of her life.

The painting is currently housed in the Treasure Hub ahead of the redeveloped Aberdeen Art Gallery re-opening next year. But Margaret had never seen the painting for herself, until now.

The siblings were two of thousands of children that celebrated painter, Joan Eardley, sketched in the Townhead area of Glasgow in the 1950s.

In the painting, Alan puts a protective hand around Margaret’s arm; the children were largely left to fend for themselves in 1950s Glasgow while their mother worked at the local ‘steamie’.

Poignantly, Margaret, who described herself as a “wayward” child, was taken into care shortly after this painting was made, and sadly, she lost contact with her mother and brother for many years.

She spent time in two children’s homes and at the age of ten she was fostered by a family in Kilmarnock. From there she spent a year at the King Street Home for Girls in Aberdeen.

She then became a live-in mother’s help for a family in Newton Mearns in Glasgow. Aged 15 she moved to London, where she lived and worked until her retirement in 2010. She now lives in Essex.

Margaret said: “I was incredibly moved when I saw the painting in the flesh for the first time today. I was so pleased that my daughter and grandson were here with me for this very special moment.

“I always felt that my family started with me, but seeing the painting today was a bridge to the family I lost. I’ve already decided that I need to come back to see it again next year when it’s hanging in Aberdeen Art Gallery.”

Aberdeen City Council co leader, Jenny Laing met Margaret at the Treasure Hub and was moved by the tale behind the painting: “It was such a pleasure to meet Margaret today and hear her touching story at first hand.”

The visionary founders of Aberdeen Art Gallery, including granite merchant, Alexander Macdonald, looked to their contemporaries when choosing work to collect. Brother and Sister was purchased in 1956 with income from the Macdonald Bequest. Macdonald’s monetary bequest has formed the basis for over 100 years of collecting contemporary art – as he had specified, painted within 25 years of purchase.

For Margaret seeing the painting for the first time with her eldest daughter and grandson is the realisation of a long-held dream.