The Holy Day of St Bartholomew


I am a long admirer of Peter Anson. Not only did he co-found the Apostleship of the Sea, but he left a legacy of articles and longer writings – some about the North-east – and a shedload of paintings. In all he penned some 40 books including titles as diverse as The Caravan Pilgrim and A Tourist Guide to Banff.

The paintings are mainly maritime in theme and encompass every aspect of seafaring from the hauling in of nets to the painting of the ships-painters colouring the hulls of ships and of course the seafarers who sailed them.

His skills in drawing seafarers were somewhat mixed and often simplistically stylised but when you realise that he used images and even postcards from other artists as inspiration this is not surprising.

His ship paintings and his harbour-head work is however often stunning. Macduff, Portsoy, Banff and Aberdeen feature in his work and, in an age when photography had pretty much overtaken the activities of the harbour-head painters he produced a lasting record of the coastal trade of the first half of the twentieth century. In truth he was a draftsman and although a parade of seamen feature in his work, it was the drawing of ships and the recording of harbour scenes which interested him most.

There is much more about the man in my next book but a chance reading of page 26 of a local paper set me thinking about both the Apostleship of the Sea and the original 12 Apostles. Often known by it’s alternative title Stella Maris – Anson had a boat of the same name - the Apostleship pounds on and is a global outreach phenomenon.

Apostle-wise, at least according to the Press and Journal, is the holy day of St Bartholomew – the patron saint of beekeepers and leather workers. Beekeepers I can understand since no doubt the ancient saint was a busy man. But why leather workers?

The answer seemingly is that the poor chap was skinned alive.

In fact, a brief survey into the causes of death of the other apostles makes sorry reading.

Andrew, crucified on an X shaped cross. James the Elder, beheaded by Herod. James the Lesser, sawn into small pieces. Judas, suicide by hanging. Jude, slain by arrows. Mathew, martyred in Ethiopia. Peter, crucified upside down in Rome. Philip, hanged in far-off Hierapolis. Simon, death by crucifixion. Thomas, killed with a spear in Madras.

All in all, a sorry list. Fortunately, Peter Anson made it into old age and died peacefully in a Lothian monastery. A splendid statue in Macduff commemorates the man and his achievements.

There is more about Peter Anson in both The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire and the forthcoming The Little History of Aberdeenshire – both by Duncan Harley

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