Much of the stained glass at Abbotsford, including that of the Ante-Room, was painted by Mrs Elizabeth Terry, wife of Daniel Terry and daughter of the great Scottish landscape painter Alexander Nasmyth. There are also easel paintings of friends, staff and one or two of Scott’s many pets, as well as humorous pen and wash drawings given by his friend Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe. These illustrate some of the stories that Scott loved to tell to guests visiting Abbotsford. The Reiver’s Wedding, for instance, depicts Scott’s handsome ancestor Willie Scott of Harden, captured while raiding the lands of Murray of Elibank and given the option of being hanged or of marrying Murray’s ugly daughter – known as ‘Muckle-mouthed Meg’. According to Scott ‘it was not until he found one end of a rope made fast to his neck, and the other knitted to a sturdy oak bough, that his resolution gave way, and he preferred an ugly wife to a literal noose. It is said they were afterwards a very happy couple’.
The paintings include one of Tom Purdie, a favourite man of all work, who at different times worked for Scott as a shepherd, a forester and even as the Abbotsford librarian. Scott was never happier than when working in the forest plantations around his home. As he put it: ‘Planting and pruning trees I could work at from morning to night’.
Part of the pleasure was the opportunity it gave him to spar with Purdie, who was shrewd, opinionated and determined to get the upper hand when he could.
‘This will be a fine year for our trees, Tom’
Scott once said to him.
‘Aye, and it will be a fine year for our books as well’
was the reply.