Mrs Maclaurin's bequest provided a considerable sum of money for the establishment of a museum or an art gallery in memory of her husband, James Henry Maclaurin, who died in December 1919. The memorial was intended to be of direct benefit to the people of Ayr, and the Provost and Magistrates of the Royal Burgh were to assist the Trustees in the development of the facility. The Maclaurin Art Gallery was the result of Mrs Maclaurin's generous gesture and, in practice, the benefit has extended far beyond the burgh.
There was an obligation on the trustees to 'apply the income from the residue of the bequest to the purchase of equipment or exhibits', a stipulation that leads to the purchasing activity between 1982 and 1997. The trust was advised by a group of curators who had a knowledge of art or close links with the community. The purchasing committee, which comprised five people, worked under the authority of this larger body and was assisted by the gallery director. The administrator or gallery director was a local authority employee with the additional responsibility for the development of visual arts throughout the district. Although the local authority was responsible for substantial museum collections, they did not appoint a museum officer during this period. The visual arts post was filled by Mike Bailey from September 1976 until his early retiral in June 1997. He was not replaced following his retiral.
The early work of the purchasing committee was directed towards the housing of the Maclaurin Collection, and the way in which it might be used. It was recognised that the gallery operated a successful policy of temporary exhibitions and the committee was anxious that this should continue. It was decided that the proposed collection should be linked into this overall policy, with occasional shows from the gallery resources balancing the wide variety of material available from the many sources that contributed to the existing programme. The committee hoped that the collection would enhance the reputation of the gallery and would be a benefit to the community.
After defining a role for the collection, the committee turned their attention to the material that might be collected. A range of options were considered, including works by local artists and historical or contemporary material of national or international status. After prolonged discussion, the committee formulated a policy which guided them to the early purchases. It was their belief that the guidelines were adventurous, but not foolhardy or profligate in the use of funds. The committee was assisted in their policy decisions by advice from the staff of the National Galleries in Scotland, the Scottish Arts Council and the Council for Museums and Galleries in Scotland, in addition to their many dealers and friends in galleries and studios throughout the British Isles.
Purchasing Committee 1980 - 1983
Mr Alexander Caldwell (Principal Teacher of Art, Ayr Academy)
Mr William Lockhart (Depute Principal Teacher of Art, Ayr Academy)
Councillor Keith Macdonald (Kyle and Carrick District Council) (Chairman)
Mr Hugh Ramsay (Senior Lecturer in Art, Craigie College of Education)
Councillor Struan Stevenson (Kyle and Carrick District Council)
Mike Bailey (Gallery Director)
In subsequent years, the purchasing committee included the artist Yvonne Hawker and Councillor Elizabeth Foulkes. Mr Hugh Ramsay assumed the chair following the retirement of Councillor Macdonald. Mr Alexander Caldwell succeeded Mr Ramsay.
In 1995 Kyle and Carrick District Council was replaced by the unitary authority, South Ayrshire Council. The gallery staff were transferred to the Education Department. Subsequent restructuring, the appointment of a Museums and Galleries Manager and an early retirement programme resulted in the suspension of the existing purchasing activities.
A new structure, with revised objectives, is now in place and the nature of the collaboration between the Trust and the local authority is significantly different from the provision prior to 1997.
Restructuring of the Curatorial body, a sound development plan and greater community involvement through Arts at Rozelle has brought fresh vigour to the Maclaurin Trust and Mrs Maclaurin's Gallery over recent months. The Trust is now purchasing once again, with the emphasis on Scottish Artists.