THE north wall of the former Barony St John’s church is by far its best feature.
The magnificent church organ is there along with four beautiful stained glass windows (five if you count the large circular one hidden behind boards at the moment), according to my research, were installed in 1889.
This article is about the two smaller stained windows situated either side of the alter area.
At first glance, they look identical - but a closer look reveals subtle differences. The flowers are different and as you focus in on the wording, they too are different.
The first window, which is on the far left hand side of the church wall as you face it, says “Blessed are the Pure in Heart for they shall see God”. There is a dedication at the foot of the window but although it is partially obscured by decades of dirt and grime, one of our volunteers, Emma Paterson, managed to piece together the writing - it reads “Erected by James Mutter in memory of his father William Mutter of Meikle Laught”.
The second window, on the far right of the wall, says “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted”. There is also a dedication at the bottom of this window which Emma also managed to decipher as “Erected by James Mutter in memory of his mother Jane Rankine”.
Although Emma had heard of Meiklelaught, as an incomer to Ardrossan, I never have so I thought I’d do a wee bit of investigating and here is what I found out:
William and James Mutter were twins, born on September 16 1805, and rose to fame as the proprietors of the world famous Bowmore Distillery on the Isle of Islay.
According to an article by Penny Tray published in “The Threetowners” webpage on August 30 2010, William Mutter was presented with a bottle of whisky, distilled and bottled by W & J Mutter “at the time of him giving up his share of the distillery in 1851. He then became a rentier and moved to Ardrossan and James took over the Bowmore Distillery and family farms on Islay.”
This bottle of whisky later gained fame itself when it was sold for what was then a World Record amount of £29,400 in 2010 (although this has since been bested several times over and the World Record for a bottle of whisky is now over the £300,000 mark).
The article continues; “Looking at the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald BMD database I see that a William Mutter’s death is intimated in the 30/4/1886 edition of the newspaper. There is a side note to the effect that the death occurred at Crescent Park, Ardrossan - aged 81 - Meiklelaught.”
So it would seem, William Mutter had a son, James, whom he named after his twin brother and who commissioned these two stained glass windows to remember his father and mother by.
His gravestone can be found in Ardrossan cemetery and reads:
“In Memoriam William Mutter of Meikle Laught. Died 29th April 1885, his wife, Jane Rankine Died 3rd March 1884.
“Alice Mary Graham, Wife of James Mutter, Died 10th September 1896, aged 35. James Mutter of Meikle Laught, Son of William Mutter, Died 23rd February 1911, aged 69. William Graham Mutter, Son of James Mutter, Died 27th August 1973, aged 76.”
Having looked through the archives of the local newspaper, The Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald, I have also found out that James Mutter (who commissioned the windows and who died in 1911) was a local Justice of the Peace and I also came across this article in the June 7 1895 edition of the newspaper:
“PRESENTATION TO MR MUTTER On Friday evening (May 31 1895), a meeting representative of kirk session, Sabbath school teachers, choir and guild was held in the vestry of the New Parish Church, Ardrossan, at which Mr James Mutter (shown below), Crescent Park, was the guest.
“There was a very large attendance, the commodious room being completely filled.
“After praise and prayer, the Reverend J D McCall who presided, said they were met under very pleasant circumstances, met to do honour to one unto whom honour was due. He was more than happy to be present because his connection with the gentleman they had with them was a very long connection indeed.”
He had known Mr Mutter since boyhood, having had the pleasure of acting towards him as a Sunday school teacher and it was wonderful how in the events of divine providence, the old friend he had known for so many years, should come and dwell in the very parish where his own lot was to be and where, as he well knew, he had laboured for the long period of 40 years. So it would seem that the Reverend J D McCall of what would become the Barony St. John church was originally a Sunday school teacher on the Isle Of Islay before coming to Ardrossan. What a great coincidence that James Mutter would meet up with his former Sunday school teacher on the mainland.
I also found a sketch of James Mutter featured in another Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald article dated November 21 1902:
“MR JAMES MUTTER ADDRESSES LORD PROVOST OF GLASGOW
“Mr James Mutter of Meiklelaught, as president of the Glasgow Consular Corps, conveyed the respects and congratulations of the representatives of foreign countries resident in Glasgow to the Lord Provost of the City on Monday (17 November 1902). He did so in a happily-expressed speech.”
The Glasgow Consular Corps currently represents the 22 foreign countries with consulates in the city of Glasgow so I’m guessing its role was the same back in 1902 albeit perhaps with fewer countries having consulates in Glasgow at that time.
So it would seem James Mutter was a wealthy, well thought of, man in the Ardrossan parish community with connections to Glasgow and Islay.
If anyone knows any more, please get in touch.
If you are interested in reading more news about our discoveries and the renovation work in the Barony St. John buildings, check out my blog at www.ardrossman.wordpress.com. Or if you would like to volunteer, fundraise to save the buildings or know more about our charity, please contact us via www.ScotCPS.org.uk or on Facebook or Twitter.