John McTaggart Memorial Drinking Fountain

Location: Barr, Ayrshire, Scotland

Located in this small Ayrshire town is a drinking fountain dedicated to a local man who was killed in the Boer War. Lance-Corporal John McTaggart is listed as having died of disease on 31st May 1901. During the Boer War, more men died from disease than during combat. A massive outbreak of typhoid fever borne of contaminated water entered Bloemfontein, and the British Army suffered huge losses of approximately 6000 soldiers. Within the Bloemfontein Cemetery there is a garden of remembrance identifying all the men who succumbed during the war.

Drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane’s catalogue was manufactured at the Saracen Foundry at Possilpark in Glasgow. The structure is 9 feet 6 inches high and consists of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals unite with arches formed of decorated mouldings.

Rope moulded cartouches within each lunette host the image of a crane, and a shield with a dedication to John McTaggart; In memory of / John McTaggart / Lance-Corporal 1st. K.O.S.B. / a native of Barr / who died in war / at Bloemfontein / South Africa / 1901 / Erected  by the / people of/ Barr. On two of the sides provision was made for receiving an inscription using raised metal letters; whilst on the other two sides was the useful monition, Keep the pavement dry. Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains. The structure is surmounted by an open filigree dome, the finial being a crown with a pattée cross.

Under the canopy stands the font (design number 7) 5 foot 8 inches high. The basin which has a scalloped edge and decorative relief is supported by a single decorative pedestal with four pilasters and four descending salamanders, a symbol of courage and bravery. A central urn with four consoles offer drinking cups suspended by chains. The terminal is a crane.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions, salamanders display bravery and courage that cannot be extinguished by fire, and cranes are recognized as a symbol of vigilance.

Glossary

  • Capital: The top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Cartouche, a structure or figure, often in the shape of an oval shield or oblong scroll, used as an architectural or graphic ornament or to bear a design or inscription
  • Console: a decorative bracket support element
  • Filigree, fine ornamental work
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Griffin, winged lion denotes vigilance and strength, guards treasure and priceless possessions
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Pattée cross, a cross with arms that narrow at the centre and flare out at the perimeter
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Pilaster, a column form that is only ornamental and not supporting a structure
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

 

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