ROBERT FINLAY MILLIGAN (1881-1963)
Ladies and gentleman, meet Robert Finlay Milligan, the creator of our famous stained glass window which is the ONLY depiction of Jesus that we know of with a mutton-chop moustache.
Robert (‘Bob’) was the eldest of the eight children of David Milligan and Mary Finlay, born on 25th August 1881 in 95 Fisher Street, Glasgow. He attended the Glasgow School of Art while serving an apprenticeship in his Father’s glazing business.
In 1901 he was awarded a bronze medal for excellence in art in ‘Subject 23d’ by the Board of Education, Kensington, London.
He established his glazing business in Bain Street, Glasgow, around 1906 and later moved to a former auction room at 92 Gallowgate, Glasgow, near Glasgow Cross, just before the 1st World War. Two of his brothers, David and George, also established glazing businesses in Glasgow in the early 1900s.
According to his grandson, Roy Milligan who came to see the window recently, this was a good time to enter the leaded and stained-glass trade which provided much work until the 2nd World War.
Once employing 6 men and a book-keeper, that number had reduced to 2 by the 1970s.
On Bob’s death in December 1963, the business was continued by his sons, David and Thomas (Tommy). Tommy suffered a serious stroke in 1974 and the business was sold after David’s death in 1976.
Robert had a long association with the Church of Scotland and in March 1904 was ordained and admitted to the Eldership of Calton Parish Church, Tobago Street, Glasgow. Later moving to High Burnside, Lanarkshire, he joined a committee in 1926 to see to the erection of a Church Hall and offices, becoming a member of the Committee of Management two years later.
In 1930 was one of the 14 Elders who were admitted to form the first Kirk session of this new Church which eventually occupied the former St. Gilbert’s Church of Scotland in Pollokshields, which had been dismantled and re-built to serve Burnside Parish.
His background in stained glass was most useful in his position on the Property and Building Fund Committee, using his experience and skill to oversee the removal of the windows from St. Gilbert’s and their re-installation at Burnside. However, a trefoil window dedicated to St. Gilbert was thought to be inappropriate in its new setting, and so Robert designed a replacement window endowed by a member of the congregation and depicting Jesus blessing the children.
He represented Burnside Church at the General Assembly in 1934, and in 1954 received a presentation from the Session marking 50 years as an Elder in the Church of Scotland. He retired from the Kirk session in December 1956.
It became increasingly difficult to gain new commissions as fewer windows were dedicated in memory of family members or ministers. Certainly, presbyterian congregations were more inclined to concentrate on ensuring that intended donations were channelled towards the fabric of the Church. However, the Roman Catholic and Jewish communities were still keen to commission windows in new Churches or Synagogues.
From the 1960s, much of the stained glass in the West End of Glasgow was disappearing as many residents removed large leaded panels from front doors and windows for security reasons. Leaded glass has no way of resisting a determined blow, but some of these panels were dismantled and re-leaded to suit installation in new or refurbished hotels and pubs if the architect was keen to incorporate this style into their commissions.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the business were contractors to the Ministry of Works and carried out the re-leading of windows at Cambuskenneth Priory, Stirlingshire and at the start of the restoration of the Great Hall at Stirling Castle.
Sadly, Tommy’s stroke in 1974 and his subsequent absence from the business meant that further work there did not continue for much longer. Work was also carried at Fordell Castle near Dunfermline for Nicolas Fairbairn QC.The existence can be confirmed of the following windows to date:
- Our window in the former Barony St. John’s Church building in Ardrossan (window in situ).
- Dundurn Parish Church, St. Fillans, Perthshire (window in situ).
- Burnside Parish Church, Burnside, Lanarkshire (trefoil window in situ).
- Shettleston Parish Church, Shettleston, Glasgow.
- 10 panels removed from Dennistoun Baptist Church, Glasgow, before demolition (ref. Brian Hutchison)
Many thanks to Roy Milligan for supplying this narrative and revealing the history of our unique window.