NS3975 : MacFarlan's Hurdles

taken 12 years ago, near to Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

MacFarlan's Hurdles
MacFarlan's Hurdles
According to a Dumbarton Heritage Trail leaflet, these Burmese cannon, which are sometimes nicknamed "'McFarlan's Hurdles', were presented to the town by Provost MacFarlan on the opening of the Municipal Buildings". For reasons that I elaborate on below, I was sceptical about their having been presented on that day.

[July 2016 update: For my part, I was unable to find out more about their origin. However, a newly-published article, cited at the end of this description, provides further details.]

Another mention is in Margaret Sterndale Dilke's "The County of Dunbarton" (1959): "Objects of interest include three old Burmese cannon in the grounds of the municipal buildings". No further information about their origins is given there.

NS3975 : Dumbarton Municipal Buildings themselves (completed and opened in 1903) are shown in the background.

For the middle cannon, see NS3975 : Burmese cannon; for the one that is on the right in the present picture, see NS3975 : Burmese cannon.

Robert MacFarlan was born at Glendaruel (c.NR9984), Kyles of Bute. He was a lawyer, and he also served as Provost of Dumbarton for a total of 13 years, an unusually long time. It was in that town that he was last seen alive, on a blustery night in January 1921; his body was found in April of the same year, near NS4273 : Milton Island.

A personal note on the claims that the cannon were presented on the opening of the Municipal Buildings: I have been unable to find any corroboration for this information elsewhere. I am doubtful about their having been presented on the day of opening. Contemporary accounts of the opening of the Municipal Buildings mention the giving of several gifts (for example, Provost MacFarlan is recorded as having made, on the day, the gift of a stag's head with twelve points), but no cannon. Had they been presented on that occasion, this would be an unusual detail to omit (the contemporary account runs to several pages, and contains many much less significant details). Nor does the Provost's obituary shed any light on how he might have come to acquire such items. (The article cited below places their presentation to the Town Council "shortly after" the opening of the Municipal Buildings; that would account for their not being mentioned in the account of the official opening.)

July 2016 update: although some mystery remains about these cannon, more light has been shed on the matter by H.D.V.Prendergast, in his well-researched article "'Memorials And Trophies' Cannon in Britain from the Third Anglo-Burmese War", appearing on pages 107128 of the Summer 2016 issue of the "Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research". That article provides as much information about the provenance of these three cannon as is known at present, and, as its title suggests, it discusses their acquisition in a much broader context.

On a related point, a nearby building that is now NS3975 : Dumbarton Sheriff Court used (at the start of the twentieth century) to have a cannon set prominently in front of it. Large-scale (town) mapping labelled it "Russian Trophy". I have not come across any mentions of it, let alone what happened to it.
Dumbarton Municipal Buildings

The buildings were erected on College Park (the former grounds of College Park House). The land was bought from the railway company by Lord Overtoun, and gifted by him to the burgh. The buildings, by James Thomson, were officially opened in 1903. The College Bow Link now stands in the grounds, as do a Boer War Memorial Link and a statue of Peter Denny Link

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NS3975, 598 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Tuesday, 19 August, 2008   (more nearby)
Tuesday, 19 August, 2008
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts 
Period (from Tags)
20th Century 
Cannons   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 398 755 [100m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.7669N 4:34.0131W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 398 755
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West-southwest (about 247 degrees)
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