Born in Glasgow, the great-great grandson of William Skirving of
He trained with
Alexander 'Greek' Thomson
, becoming his chief
assistant and close friend.
In 1871, he moved to London to work with Heaton & Heaton the
glass-stainers and decorators. Whilst there,
paid him a
surprise visit and noted that: "Sandy... seems to be working
very hard and aiming at distinguishing himself." He also approved
of his interest in the Gothic style and admired an exhibition
design by Skirving "which", he said, "did him credit" (McFadzean).
By 1873, he was preparing to set up his own architectural
practice but this was delayed by a long illness until 1876,
when he returned to Glasgow.
Much of his work was Thomsonesque in style but he ultimately
failed to grasp the essence of his master's genius.
He produced tenements, houses, commercial buildings and
monuments for cemeteries, the latter including the Gilmour
Family Monument, Necropolis (n.d.). His most idiosyncratic
design was for the 1881 City Chambers competition, which was for
a Classical temple with a multi-domed attic (motto: Periclese),
the appearance of which prompted the press to comment:
" ... the irresistible thought is that, having got through all this
straight lined work in the façades, the author or his design could no
longer be controlled, and - just bubbled."
Another of his competition designs, the Southern Hospital (Victoria
Infirmary), Glasgow, 1882, was also unsuccessful, but was published in the British Architect
(Vol. 30, 1883, pp. 404-5).
After 1896, he produced "curious pseudo-Byzantine buildings"
(McFadzean, p. 282).
His work includes the warehouse at 6-12 Broomielaw (1883, dem.
c. 1990); the Scottish Legal Life Assurance Building, 76-84 Wilson
Street, which was the first large-scale red sandstone commercial building
in Glasgow and which was drastically modified prior to building (1884); the
Gothic Langside Established Church (1880, dem. c. 1977); the Barnhill
Poorhouse Extensions; and the domestic 5 Kennington Road (1893-6).
His best known works are Langside Hill Free Church, which
marked the end of the Classical style in Glasgow (1894-6), and his competition
winning Langside Battlefield Monument, Langside Avenue (1887-8).
The Langside Battlefield Monument commemorates the 320th anniversary
of the defeat of Mary, Queen of Scots' army at the Battle of Langside, in
1568, and was sculpted by
At Langside Hill Church, Skirving also intended to include a sculptural
reference to the Queen's tragic reign by filling its pediment with a relief
depicting John Knox Remonstrating with the her, but this was never completed.
Less well known is his restoration of the 17th Century Martyrs Stone in Old
Cathcart Churchyard, which commemorates the local Covenanters, the Polmadie Martyrs,
executed in 1685, in which he collaborated with the monumental sculptor William Scott
Skirving lived in the south side, at Chestnut Cottage, Langside Avenue. The nearby
Skirving Street was named after him by his brother-in-law, John Sommerville,
who feued the land, c. 1912.
, Design for A Warehouse, 26 January, 1884;
[Southern Hospital], vol. 30, November, 1883, pp. 404-5;
, Southern Hospital, Vol. 44, 21 April, 1883, p. 554, 16 June, 1883, p. 810;
,Design For A Proposed Monument, 4 July, 1879;;
- The Bailie, Vol. 30, no. 760, 11 May, 1887;
Journal (1918-19) [Death notice], June 1919;
: LK5/45, Macintosh, Glasgow Streets S-Y, p. 1797.