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

Biography and current catalogue for

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

Drummond/Dowinar was a ship portraitist in oils, working in Leith in the mid-19th Century, painting in a style similar to William John Huggins (1781-1845). The surname Dowinar appears to be of Slovak origin. I believe, but cannot yet prove, that he emigrated to Scotland, possibly from present day Slovakia around 1845 and at some stage 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. This is possible ammunition for my Dowinar/Drummond theory and would explain his choice of Scots name.

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 same unmistakable wave pattern and signed by him at Leith in 1851. The "Helen McGregor" was built at Birkenhead in 1843. Dundee Art Gallery has a painting by B M Drummond of the Sailing Ship "Sea King", which is painted in a remarkably similar style to our "Ivanhoe".

In our fine large example, painted around 1855, also under the hand of B M Drummond, the Mail Packet "Ivanhoe" is running seawards from the Firth of Forth, 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. Her engine would be well damped down, for fear of cinders or sparks catching the sails on the following wind. In order to have all sail set so soon after leaving the Port of Leith, it's likely she would have headed into wind up river under engine, hoisting sail, before bearing away downwind, freeing sheets and heading at increasing speed for the open sea. For a sailor, there's a feeling of reckless exhilaration in this portrait; with her sails set on starboard tack, but the waves on her port quarter, she appears to be sailing "by the lee" and in danger of a crash gybe and the possible loss of her mizzen sail

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, capable of over 17 knots (20 mph) under sail. 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 still in English waters.