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Olden timers

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Old Willie: The Village Worthy

I present to you one William Thomson, someone Google reliably informs La Triv is an Ancestral Personage.  This 1886 portrait was painted by James Guthrie, and is part of the collection of Glasgow Museums — possible hanging right now beneath the dusty rafters of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  It’s called “Old Willie, the village worthy”.

I love this picture for so many reasons.  One, it’s just a gorgeous example of portaiture.  Look how Signor Guthrie has captured every crag and crevice of Signor Thomson’s face!  (God forbid Signor Guthrie should ever have turned his attentions to the currently sleep-deprived La Triv — would need a truckload of Shu Uemura Stage Performer, a Princess among primers, to bear up to the laser-like scrutiny of the  portraitist’s eye).

Two, La Famiglia Trivialista has so clearly sprung from the loins of this man.  The auld cobbler is the spitting image of La Triv’s beloved Grandpa Sam, a native of Kirkcudbright before he answered an ad for fruit pickers and voyaged to the Wide Brown Land when Pappa Trivialista was a wee lad of two in 1951.  And Old Willie even has the same sloping snake shoulders as La Triv’s no. 2 brother, Sport Billy Superdad.

Most of all, I just want to reach into this picture and grab this man, cut through his dour Scotch exterior, and chat to him about his day, his life.  He would have been poor.  He would have been hard-working.  So what did James Guthrie, who was only 29 years old when he painted this, have to do to convince him to sit for a portrait?  Would Willie have thought that a trivial waste of time (gods forbid!)?

In 1898, the Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser published a piece about Old Willie, and it included these gemstones:

He is somewhat striking in appearance, and when arrayed in his apron, with an old soft hat on his head and a pair of ‘specs’ on his nose, he has the appearance of having just sprung from some old world scene of a century ago. Hard work has been his lot in life, yet he has never allowed it to blunt the higher aspirations of an active and superior mind…His private life he looks upon as his exclusively to use according to conscience and the dictates of reason. His tastes have lifted him above the sordid and commonplace in human life to the contemplation of the wonderful and beautiful in nature. 

Genetics — and history — are marvellous things.  As is Google.

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