A Family in Harmony

A love of music cascaded down the generations. Robert Stodart, who taught music to the daughters of King George III, patented the first British grand piano in 1771 and founded his piano making firm four years later. His sons John and William continued the craft. The restored rooms of Kellie were filled with music played by John’s daughter Hannah and her children, especially Alice, Louise and Robert.


Robert, likely to have been named after his great grandfather, had a life long love of music. His son Hew was frequently embarrassed by his enthusiastic outcries of ‘Bravo!’ during Beethoven or Mozart concerts in the Albert Hall. He would have loved designing Ardkinglas for the Nobles, knowing that it would be a house filled with music. Lady Noble, who still went for five mile walks age ninety, bought herself a new piano aged ninety-nine, a piano she enjoyed for a full three years. Robert shared his passion for music with the blacksmith Thomas Hadden and stained glass designer Douglas Strachan, who both worked with him on the Scottish National War Memorial. Robert became the conductor of two hundred craftsmen, crafting the Memorial which forms an elegy for all the Scots who gave their lives during the Great War: the crescendo of his career.


“If the National War Memorial has any merits, it is because we tried to get the same qualities into it as are in music - rhythm, harmony, colour, subordination of parts to the whole, and a kind of tonal effect which was arrived at by trying to combine all these qualities. The architect of such building is very much like a conductor of an orchestra.”

- Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer


Down the Royal Mile, a choir of angels in his Thistle Chapel play their instruments, including the bag pipes, to frighten away the carved demons which perch outside. Round the corner on George IV Bridge at the National Library of Scotland, a duet is formed with the figure of Music playing her pipes, designed and carved by Hew.



Spring Moonlight (1896), John Henry Lorimer, Kirkaldy Galleries, Photo: © Kirkaldy Galleries

Part for first violin, Symphony, no. 1, op. 21, C major, Ludwig van Beethoven

Sketch of Robert Stodart Lorimer playing the violin (1882), John Henry Lorimer, Kellie Castle, Photo: © National Trust for Scotland

Allegro Molto, C Major, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Angel playing the Bagpipes (1911), Designed by Robert Lorimer, Modelled by Louis Deuchars, Carved by William and Alexander Clow, Thistle Chapel, Edinburgh, Photo: © Kim Traynor (Wikimedia Commons)

Allegorical Figure of Music (1955), Hew Lorimer, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, Photo: Private Collection




The Pre-Dawn Chorus

At this season of the resurrection of Nature - that ever-fresh miracle - one thing happens that even keen bird-lovers seem hardly to appreciate to the full. I mean the birds’ Morning Hymn. […] About 20 minutes past 4, one blackbird begins his fluting. He is almost immediately joined by another and another. A whole choir of thrushes quickly follow, then all the small birds, chaffinches and the like, lend their little notes to the chorus, starlings gurgle from the seclusion of some of yews, jackdaws from a hollow tree begin their kuck-kucking, that sound that calls up visions of the flying buttresses of Beauvais, the towers of cathedrals, and all sorts of delectable places. Then the cock pheasant gives his crow and flutter of the wings, an owl hoots, a pare of mating partridges run with their grating cry across the field, wood pigeons coo : in the distance peewits and the curlews’ thrilling notes are heard, and lambs call to their mothers. For 10 to 15 minutes the whole air seems to throb and vibrate with this joyous canticle; then it begins to die down, and by about 10 minutes to 5 there follow for a time what, by contrast, is almost as impressive as the music itself - silence absolute and profound.


Gibliston, Fife, 18th April 1929


Extract from the letter to The Times, Robert Stodart Lorimer


The birdsong which accompanies this online gallery was recorded at Gibliston, Fife on 18th April 2016 by Charlotte Lorimer.



Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer outside Gibliston House, Photo: Private Collection



"He must be a dreamer of dreams, must have imagination, that gift of the gods at all times dealt out so sparingly to each generation. He must be a keen lover and minute observer of nature. He must feel the endless suggestion of buds and berries and seed-pods, of creeping and flying things, of the twilight and the dawn. He must be methodical, a manager of men, but through all he must be the artist – literally – to his fingertips."

- Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer



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