The Very Reverend Nevile Davidson Ch.St.J., D.D., D.L. (1899-1976)

In 1945, Dr Nevile Davidson, Minister of Glasgow Cathedral, wrote to the Director of Glasgow Museums, Dr Tom Honeyman, offering a painting, Still Life by David Horn, a seventeenth century Dutch artist, to the Art Gallery(1).

donor 1
Figure 1 Still Life by David Horn,© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

He had bought it in poor condition, had it cleaned, but now wished to donate it. Dr Honeyman  suggested  that the painting had some  merit and would be useful for educational purposes.  It now hangs in the  “Looking at Art” gallery in Kelvingrove Art Gallery. It is in the style of a Vanitas which possibly appealed to Dr. Davidson.

Andrew Nevile Davidson was born to James Davidson, Minister of the Free Church, Blackadder Church   of Scotland, in North Berwick and to his wife Rosina Constance nee Agnew(2)(3). He was educated at the High School, North Berwick and graduated from Edinburgh University(4). He was assistant minister at St George’s West Church, Edinburgh. In 1925, he was called to St Mary’s, Aberdeen and in 1932 he moved to St Enoch’s, Dundee. In 1935, he was appointed minister of Glasgow Cathedral from where he retired in 1967. In 1940, he volunteered as an army chaplain(5) and was sent to France with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The battalion was eventually evacuated from Cherbourg and his war service continued on the mainland. In 1942, he was persuaded to return to the Cathedral since there was greater need there.

He married(6) Margaret Helen de Carteret Martin, daughter of Colonel de Carteret Martin M.D., on 19th January, 1944. He had no children.

donor 2
Figure 2 Very Reverend Nevile Davidson, from ‘Beginnings but no Ending’

He served on various committees of the Church of Scotland, particularly as Convenor of The Committee on Church and Nation(7). He was made Chaplain to the King in 1946. This entailed visits to the Royal Family at Balmoral on many occasions. In 1962-1963, he was Moderator of the Church of Scotland. In his Moderatorial year, he travelled widely both in Scotland and abroad. In a three month tour, he visited the Scots of King’s Own Scottish Borderers in Aden. He and his wife flew from there to Kenya and then on to Australia and New Zealand. They returned to Scotland with time in Los Angeles and San Francisco. At every place he was able to preach and his account is full of memorable places and people.

He was a promoter of communication, involved in the ecumenical movement and in the founding of the Dunkeld Fellowship for Church of Scotland ministers. He established the Friends of Glasgow Cathedral.

He was the recipient of the St Mungo Prize in 1958. He was Scottish Prelate of the Most Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem.

Dr. Davidson had a great affection for the cathedral and wrote its history(8). Dr. and Mrs. Davidson tried to introduce colour and art to the cathedral which they felt had been swept away at the Reformation and were major donors to the cathedral. They gave a studio copy of a painting by Camillo Procaccini (ca 1600) The Adoration of the Shepherds and two early paintings of the cathedral. With Lord Bilsland, Dr Davidson was responsible for the project to replace the nineteenth century stained glass which used the talents of contemporary artists and took many years to complete. Dr and Mrs. Davidson gave six new windows by Harry Stammers, and four sixteenth and seventeenth century windows from Switzerland, all now in the Blacader Aisle .

He moved to Dunbar after he retired in 1967. He died suddenly in 1976. There were many tributes to him after his death, including one by Ronald Falconer(9) who wrote a personal memoire of ” a devout Christian and a hospitable man”(10) . He is buried in the Necropolis and there is a memorial window in the cathedral by Gordon Webster(11). The Archive of his papers was given by his wife to the National Library of Scotland(12).

Sources

  1. Letter in file at Glasgow museums
  2. Statutory births, Deaths and Marriages: Scotland’s People
  3. Ancestry.co.uk
  4. Obituary. Glasgow Herald:1976 December 21st
  5. Beginnings but no Ending by   A. Nevile Davidson. Edina Press
  6. Ancestry.co.uk
  7. Davidson, op. cit.
  8. Glasgow Cathedral: A Short History and Guide by A. Nevile Davidson
  9. Ibid
  10. Nevile Davidson: A personal memoir; Ronald Falconer
  11. A Walk through Glasgow Cathedral by   Very Rev William Morris: Society of Friends of Glasgow Cathedral
  12. National Library of Scotland Inventory

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