Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
James Harrison Mackinnon

An architectural and monumental sculptor, he was born in Pollokshields, Glasgow. He trained and worked with James Young for most of his career and studied at GSA , under W Kellock Brown , winning a prize for figure modelling in 1890, a free studentship, 1891, and a further prize in 1894.

He taught modelling at the school from 1894, assisting Johan Keller , and included J P Main , Albert Hodge and Phyllis Archibald amongst his pupils.

The primary source of information about Mackinnon's contribution to Glasgow's architectural sculpture is his obituary in the Glasgow Herald, on 8th November, 1954 (Architectural Sculptor, p. 9).

This reveals his involvement as a carver on a number of important buildings in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland. His Glasgow work included:

The City Chambers, George Square (1883-8); the Victoria Infirmary, Langside Road, for which he carved its famous Puma and Heraldic Panels (1883-8); and the Atheneum Theatre, Buchanan Street, where he worked for Kellock Brown (1891-2).

He also worked on the Glasgow Infirmary Outdoor Dispensary, Church Street (University of Glasgow Pathology Deptepartment), for the architect J J Burnet (1896); the People's Palace, Glasgow Green, again with Kellock Brown (1898); Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, for which he executed its Foundation Stone, laid by the Duke of York (1897); and the Royal Technical College (now University of Strathclyde's Royal College Building), George Street, which features an extremely modest scheme of carver work in red Locharbriggs sandstone (1903-4).

Whilst working at Kelvingrove he made what is arguably his most important contribution to Scottish sculpture: as the foreman carver responsible for training and supervising the young William Reid Dick, who served his time as an apprentice under Mackinnon in Young's firm, and who later became famous for his public monuments and portraiture, and as the Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland to King George VI.

Mackinnon's work outside Glasgow includes restoration work on Paisley Abbey; the ornamental gateway, coat of arms and other carver-work at Moy Hall, near Inverness; the heraldry and figurative work at Beaufort Castle, near Inverness; and the carvings on the King Edward VII Memorial (Mercat Cross) at Perth (c. 1913).

Twice married, he lived at 324 Scotland Street in the 1890s, and died at 62 Langside Road, on 6 November 1954, at the age of 88.

He is buried in Eastwood New Cemetery, his grave marked by a monument surmounted by a praying angel, which he designed and carved in blond sandstone for the grave of his first wife, Barbara MacLeod Sutherland, who pre-deceased him by twelve years (1942).

He exhibited one work at the RGIFA , a Study in plaster (1890. Catalogue No. 1042), 1890.

The team at are grateful to Morag and Jim Mackinnon, the sculptor's grandson and his wife, for providing us with information about his family life.


  • GSA : Reports, 1890-1904;
  • GH [Obituary], Architectural Sculptor, 8 November, 1954, p. 9;
  • Billcliffe , Vol 3;
  • McEwan ;
  • Nisbet [Biography], in McKenzie (2002) , p. 490;
  • E-mail from Morag and Jim Mackinnon, 13 May 2007;
Works in our Database:
1: Glasgow Green (Calton),
The People's Palace Museum
Nine Allegorical Figures (1894-8)
Sculptors: WK Brown (figures); JH Mackinnon (decorative work);
Architect: AB McDonald; Masons: Morrison & Muir
2: Kelvingrove Park (West End),
Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum - Decorative Carving - Exterior
Scottish Counties and Artists' Names (1892-1902)
Carvers: WR Dick, JH Mackinnon, W Shirreffs (north façade); JC Young (south façade); W Vickers (east and west façades); Architects: JW Simpson & EJ Milner Allen
3: Kelvingrove Park (West End),
Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum - North entrance hall
Foundation Stone (1901)
Carver: JH Mackinnon; Designer: JW Simpson & EJ Milner Allen
4: Langside Road (Queen's Park),
Victoria Infirmary, 517 Langside Road - Main administration block
Puma and Coats of Arms (1889-90)
Carver: JH Mackinnon; Architect: J Sellars
5: Nelson Mandela Place (City Centre),
Former Athenaeum, 8 Nelson Mandela Place
Portrait Statues and Allegorical Figure Groups (1886-8)
Sculptor: J Mossman; Carver: JH Mackinnon; Architect: JJ Burnet
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