Iron and Coal—the Irish dimension

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2014), Letters, Volume 22

Iron and Coal by William Bell Scott, 1855–60. (National Trust, Wallington, Northumberland)

Iron and Coal by William Bell Scott, 1855–60. (National Trust, Wallington, Northumberland)

Sir,—Your readers may be interested to learn that the painting Iron and Coal by William Bell Scott, which illustrates Eoin Dillon’s article on modernity, economic crisis and international aid (HI 22.3, May/June 2014), has an Irish dimension.

The painting is the last of a series of eight on the history of Northumbria commissioned by Sir Walter Trevelyan and his wife Pauline in 1855–61 to decorate their mansion at Wallington Hall near Morpeth in Northumberland. The paintings of the cycle incorporate portraits of the Trevelyans and various friends and relations. In Iron and Coal the workman on the left, facing the viewer as he swings his hammer and displaying a magnificent set of sideburn whiskers, is a portrait of a cousin of the Trevelyans who would inherit the Wallington estate on Sir Walter’s death in 1879 (Sir Walter and Pauline had no children), none other than Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan (1807–86), the senior treasury civil servant whose role in supervising official relief during the Great Irish Famine has provoked so much controversy, then and since. The Trevelyan connection makes Iron and Coal a rather more appropriate illustration for Eoin Dillon’s article than it appears to the casual viewer.—Yours etc.,

PATRICK MAUME
Dictionary of Irish Biography

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