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Telephone: 0131 226 6932 or 0845 388 5879
46 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3NH, Scotland (TSOH)

Biography and current catalogue for

B. McKillan Drummond (or Dowinar) (fl. 1850–1880) 

Ship portraitist in oils, working in Leith in the mid-19th Century, similar in style to William John Huggins (1781-1845). I believe, but cannot yet prove, that he emigrated to Scotland, possibly from present day Slovakia around 1845 and sometimes adopted the more Scots-sounding name of Drummond.

Having seen several examples by "both" hands, I am convinced that the the distinctive, somewhat naive style of painting rolling waves is identical in both cases. It is likely that like several ship portraitists, he started out working in shipyards as a ship-painter, or, as in the case of William Clark of Greenock, apprenticed to a house-painter. Alternatively he may have worked as a hand aboard early steam ships, as he has a fondness for paddle and screw steamers and a keen eye for detail of sails and rigging. Roger Finch, in his book, "The Pierhead Painters",
illustrates a portrait by Dowinar of the full-rigged ship "Drummond" of Leith, off the Bell Rock, circa 1855. Possible ammunition for my Dowinar/Drummond theory?

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has a portrait by B M Dowinar of the barque "Nile", painted in 1857; Aberdeen Art Gallery also has several examples by him.

On the other hand, the Peabody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts has a portrait of the "Helen McGregor" a single-masted paddle steamship, by B. McKillan Drummond, demonstrating the unmistakable wave pattern and signed by him at Leith in 1851. She was built at Birkenhead in 1843.

In our fine, large example, under the hand of B M Drummond, the Mail Packet "Ivanhoe" is running with nearly all sail set before a fair south-westerly, with Edinburgh Castle seen behind the funnel and Calton Hill, Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat showing ahead of her starboard bow. The engine would be damped down, for fear of cinders or sparks catching the sails.

The SS Ivanhoe was an iron screw steam ship, built at St Peter's Shipbuilding Yard & Engine Works, at Byker on the Tyne, Newcastle in 1850. Her registered number was 7717 and she was 178 tons, a fine-looking ship, 163 feet overall in length, with a 20 foot beam and 3 masts. Following her early career as a fast mail packet, she became a general cargo ship. Under her master, Captain Cairns, she left Leith early in the morning of Sunday 1st December 1867, with a general cargo, including paraffin casks, stowed on deck, bound for Amsterdam. She was last sighted off St Abb's Head, later that day and the subsequent Inquiry, held at Leith, presumed her lost with all hands, possibly in English waters.