MacKirdy Fountain

Location: Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, Scotland

In 1873 water from a spring in Greenburn hill was directed to the village using a ditch. An agreement to provide the village with a proper water supply was reached years later with John MacKirdy who promised a generous donation to create what would become known as the MacKirdy tank. As part of the agreement, Birkwood House (the MacKirdy home) would benefit from the water supply, and a drinking fountain would be erected in the village.

The drinking fountain was erected in the 1880s at the junction of Abbey road and New Trows Road where it remained until 1926 when it became an obstacle to bus traffic. A decision was made to relocate the structure to MacKirdy Park, but during the dismantling process it was damaged beyond repair.

The junction continued to be referred to as the Fountain, and following pressure from local residents the South Lanarkshire Council authorised the creation of a reproduction. Machan Engineering was hired to manufacture and install an exact replica of the original fountain. This was accomplished using original moulds and new pieces created from drawings of the original. JPS Restoration & Property Services assisted in the assembly of the whole, the installation of the fountain and painting of the structure. The drinking fountain was restored to its original location on 24th June 2010.

The canopied drinking fountain is design number 21 (18 feet by 4 feet) from Walter Macfarlane’s catalog manufactured at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland. Seated on a circular plinth (originally a two tiered octagonal plinth), the canopy is supported by eight columns with griffin terminals which are positioned over capitals with foliage frieze above square bases.

The highly decorated cusped arches are trimmed with rope mouldings which display lunettes with alternate images of cranes and swans, or optional memorial shields. On each side arch faceplates provide a flat surface for inscription using raised metal letters; often the useful monition, Keep the pavement dry. Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains.

Doves and flowers offer decorative relief on the circular, open filigree, ribbed dome. The openwork iron canopy was originally surmounted with a lantern finial.


Under the canopy stands the font, design number 4 (4ft. 9ins), a single decorative pedestal seated on an octagonal base. The interior surface of the basin is engraved with a scalloped design. An elongated column decorated with floral relief offered drinking cups suspended by chains from two consoles.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions; owls are symbolic of guardians of the afterlife; and cranes are recognized as a symbol of vigilance.



  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Cusped Arch, the point of intersection of lobed or scalloped forms
  • Filigree, fine ornamental work
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Fret, running or repeated ornament
  • 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
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

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