The Cowan Smith Bequest | How a Dandie Dinmont Terrier helped to build Scotland’s art collection

In April 1919 the National Galleries of Scotland received unexpected news. A Scottish engineer and building contractor, James Cowan Smith (1839-1919) of Retford, Nottinghamshire, had bequeathed £52,257 for a fund to purchase works of art for the National Gallery.

Cowan Smith specified one condition; the portrait of his beloved Dandie Dinmont Terrier Callum should be put on permanent display. He also requested that five shillings a week be paid to his coachman, Arthur Wing, to provide for his surviving dog, Fury.

John Emms Callum Dated 1895

The generosity of Cowan Smith’s bequest (equivalent to over £2 million today) and the unusual condition attached to it attracted much attention.

The Glasgow Herald dubbed Callum ‘The Enriching Dandie Dinmont’, while The Scotsman observed that: ‘there was considerable discussion as to whether the Trustees would accept.

'Yet, when one considers that the picture carried over £50,000 with it…. acceptance could never have been much in doubt…. there is something touching in a man making acceptance of a favourite terrier the sole condition of a great bequest’.

John Singer Sargent, Lady Agnew of Lochnaw (1864 - 1932). The Cowan Smith Bequest enabled the purchase of this popular work in 1925

The Cowan Smith Bequest has enabled the purchase of more than 40 paintings, drawings and prints for the national collection, including works by Jan Lievens (bought 1922), JMW Turner (1922), Francisco Goya (1923), John Singer Sargent (1925), Filippino Lippi (1931), Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin (1937), Bernardo Daddi (1938), John Constable (1944), Peter Paul Rubens (1947 and 1958), Joshua Reynolds (1952), Diego Velázquez (1955/6), Thomas Gainsborough (1962) and David Wilkie (1985).

More recently, the Bequest has been used to purchase 'The Penny Wedding' by Alexander Carse (2008), below left, and The Road Through the Rocks, Port Vendres, pictured below right, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (2017).

For a century it has been, as The Scotsman predicted in 1921, ‘enriching the Gallery, and adding to the heritage of beauty which the Scottish people possess in the National Gallery of Scotland’.

Alexander Carse The Penny Wedding About 1819
Charles Rennie Mackintosh The Road Through the Rocks, Port Vendres About 1926 - 1927

The Dandie Dinmont Terrier originated in the Scottish Borders around 1700. The earliest image of a dog resembling a Dandie Dinmont is a 1770 portrait of Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch and 5th Duke of Queensberry and his favourite dog Pepper by Thomas Gainsborough, later engraved by John Dixon, pictured below left.  

The breed is named after the farmer Dandie Dinmont in Sir Walter Scott’s 1815 novel Guy Mannering, who has a pack of ‘Mustard and Pepper’ terriers. Scott himself had two Dandie Dinmonts, Ginger and Spice, who appear in a posthumous portrait of the writer by his friend Sir William Allan, pictured below right. Scott’s terriers were given to him by a Borders farmer and renowned breeder, James Davidson of Hindlee.

John Dixon & Thomas Gainsborough Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch and 5th Duke of Queensberry, 1746 - 1812
Sir William Allan Sir Walter Scott, 1771 - 1832. Novelist and poet About 1844

Although Scott did not meet Davidson until after the publication of Guy Mannering, the farmer so much resembled ‘Dandie Dinmont’ that contemporaries soon began to refer to him by the character’s name.  Scott liked to present Dandie Dinmont puppies to his friends and the offspring of Ginger and Spice found homes with the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey and the novelist Maria Edgeworth, among others. The success of Guy Mannering helped make the Dandie Dinmont one of the most fashionable Victorian and Edwardian dog breeds, with Queen Victoria among those who owned and bred them, but it is now one of the rarest dog breeds in the world.

Tuesday 9 April 2019 marked the 100 year anniversary of Cowan Smith’s bequest. Dandie Dinmont Terriers Rupert and Freya helped us celebrate by visiting Callum’s portrait, as well as Sir William Allan’s portrait of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) with his Dandie Dinmont Terriers, Ginger and Spice. We did a dandie photoshoot with curator Charlotte Topsfield - have a look at the snaps below! You can find out more about Dandie Dinmont Terriers at:

By Charlotte Topsfield, 8 April 2019