Calling all Mathesons in the Highlands: meet your ancestors

  • 21 April 2009

The search is on for descendants of the prominent Inverness Matheson family who would like to meet their ancestors. Inverness Museum and Art Gallery has recently acquired two white marble busts of children, Mary Isabella (1855-1933) and her brother Kenneth James Matheson (1854-1920) and would like to invite any Matheson relatives to the unveiling of the busts on Thursday 30 April to see if they can spot any family similarities.

The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, helped Inverness Museum and Art Gallery acquire the busts of six-year-old Mary and seven-year-old Kenneth. The bust of Mary was acquired for £16,445 and Kenneth for £21,500, with the help of grants of £11,090 and £8,500 respectively from The Art Fund. The National Fund for Acquisitions and the Inverness Common Good Fund also supported the acquisition.

Mary and Kenneth’s father was Alexander Matheson, MP, first Baronet of Lochalsh, who owned land throughout the Highlands, including parts of Inverness. He was responsible for the redevelopment of much of the Muirtown area of Inverness, and Alexander Place, Mary Ann Court, May Court and Perceval Street are all named after family members. Kenneth Street is, of course, named after his son Kenneth.

Kenneth and Mary were Alexander Matheson’s children by his second wife, Lavinia Mary Stapleton, who tragically drowned in Loch Duich on her way to church in 1855. They were brought up by their great aunt until their father remarried in 1860.

Dated 1861, the busts are by renowned Inverness artist Alexander Munro (1825-1871), a Pre-Raphaelite sculptor who exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and was a friend of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: "Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is the natural home for these lovely sibling busts. Munro was a sensitive and graceful sculptor and The Art Fund is very pleased to have been able to help the museum acquire the Matheson busts."

Chairman of The Highland Council’s Inverness City Committee Provost Jimmy Gray said: "I am delighted that the Inverness Common Good Fund has been able to support the return of the Matheson busts to their rightful home and I am excited with the prospect of seeing if any descendents of Mary and Kenneth come forward to meet their ancestors face to face in Inverness Murseum and Art Gallery."

Both busts were previously on loan to the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery from 1994 until 2008.

If you are a relative of Mary and Kenneth and would like to attend the official unveiling of the busts then please contact Catharine Niven, curator at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery on +44(0)1463 237114 e-mail:


For images and more information, contact Marina Bradbury, 020 7225 4888

Invite to media: your reporter/photographer are invited to the unveiling of the Matheson Sculptures by Chairman of The Highland Council’s Inverness City Committee Provost Jimmy Gray at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery on Thursday 30 April at 11.30 am. Please contact Catharine Niven, curator at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery on 01463 237114 to say if you will be attending.

Notes to editors:

1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.

2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.

3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Titian’s Diana and Actaeon for the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London in February 2009 with a grant of £1 million; helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.

4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit

Lynda Duncan
Public Relations Assistant
Chief Executive's Service
The Highland Council
Glenurquhart Road Inverness IV3 5NX
Tel: 01463 702022 Fax: 01463 702025

Unless related to the business of The Highland Council, the views or opinions expressed within this email are those of the sender and do not necessarily reflect those of The Highland Council, or associated bodies, nor does this email form part of any contract unless so stated.