Scotsman Obituaries: Malcolm Lochhead, textile artist with special interest in ecclesiastical subjects

Malcolm M Lochhead, textile artist and lecturer. Born: 13 November 1948 in Glasgow. Died: 28 March 2023 in Glasgow, aged 74
Malcolm Lochhead with his November 1990 Keeping Glasgow in Stitches bannerMalcolm Lochhead with his November 1990 Keeping Glasgow in Stitches banner
Malcolm Lochhead with his November 1990 Keeping Glasgow in Stitches banner

Malcolm Lochhead was born to Walter, an accountant, and Clara Lochhead. They lived in Garrowhill, Glasgow. Malcolm was the fifth and youngest child, with three much loved sisters and a brother. He adored his mother, but he always said he had four mothers as his older sisters effectively brought him up. Early signs of his artistic skills came at six when he made two dolls with knitted heads and beaded skirts – Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. His mother treasured them, and they were rediscovered after her death.

Malcolm was educated at Hutchesons’ Grammar School and moved on to the Glasgow School of Art from 1966-70. There he encountered Kathleen Whyte, who influenced his love of and interest in ecclesiastical embroidery. He insisted on taking her course in embroidery and weaving – the first man to do so – despite advisers trying to steer him to what they considered were more masculine and suitable subjects.

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Another great and lasting influence on the young Malcolm was Margaret Grant, who became a lifelong friend. He credited her with opening his eyes to many aspects of art and interior design and they remained close friends until her death aged 100 in 2021.

Malcom working on the huge hanging in the Great Hall at Stirling CastleMalcom working on the huge hanging in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle
Malcom working on the huge hanging in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle

As a first career, Malcolm wanted to be a window dresser and he dressed windows for Campus and Jean Elder. He also designed the dresses for singing star Lena Martell’s first shows, but his mother persuaded him to go to Teacher Training College. His first post was at Coatbridge High School where he struggled with holding pupils’ attention until Maggie Grant gave him some advice. She told him to put on a performance, and when he did, he became an entertaining and inspirational teacher. He never looked back.

On moving to The Queen’s College, Glasgow, he built a reputation as a superb lecturer. He instigated an annual fashion show and trade exhibitions. He also featured in the annual pantomimes, usually as the Dame.

After the merger with Glasgow Polytechnic in 1993, Malcolm enhanced the reputation of the new Glasgow Caledonian University by creating high-profile artistic work and taking several recruitment trips to China and India. In time he completed a PhD thesis and achieved a Professorship. When he retired, he was awarded the title Professor Emeritus of Design and maintained a close connection with the University.

Malcolm’s “real work” involved artistic commissions, many of a textile art or an ecclesiastical or decorative nature. He also directed large-scale embroidery projects such as the hangings at Stirling Castle, where he also selected all the fabrics for the curtains in the main hall. One of the most touching items he designed for Stirling Castle was the altar cloth in the chapel which displays a line of silver stars, one for each of the children who died at Dunblane, and one large star for their teacher. He also undertook decorative work in the retail sector, once designing the Christmas decorations for Glasgow’s Princes Square. He was awarded the Lord Provost’s Award for the Visual Arts in 1999.

Malcolm was a fine teacher but decorative art was his true callingMalcolm was a fine teacher but decorative art was his true calling
Malcolm was a fine teacher but decorative art was his true calling

A major project was “Keeping Glasgow in Stitches” for the Year of Culture 1990 and another early work was the altar cloth in the Shrine of St Mungo’s in Glasgow Cathedral. The stunning Bothwell banners look like stained glass windows, while other beautiful works include the Nurses Chapel in the Cathedral and the Chaplaincy at Glasgow Caledonian University. The Stirling Castle altar cloths and cloths of estate, which he designed and supervised, are a fitting memorial of his work, as are the altar cloths at Durham Cathedral and York Minster.

Malcolm was most proud of an exquisite parochet for the Synagogue in Giffnock commissioned by the family of Yoni Jesner, who was killed in a terrorist attack while on holiday in Israel. Other commissions have included the design and creation of the pulpit fall for St Andrew’s College, Christchurch, New Zealand and the Peter Rabbit Tartan for publisher Frederick Warne.

Queen Elizabeth unveiled his embroidered cloth of estate in the Great Hall of Stirling Castle and Prince Charles an embroidered hanging in Rothesay Castle. Malcolm was commissioned to conceive and create the chairs for the Moderator of the General Assembly for the Church of Scotland. He designed the cushion on which the Scottish crown resides at the opening of Scottish Parliament, last used when Queen Elizabeth was lying in state in St Giles Cathedral. In addition, Malcolm continued to produce elegant textile-based pictures and held several exhibitions, culminating in a fine retrospective at Glasgow Cathedral in 2018.

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Malcolm died peacefully on 28 March in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, and is survived by his husband, Hans van der Grijp, his sister Alison, and many nephews and nieces. Malcolm and Hans had been together for 48 years. They met when Hans worked at the much-lamented John Smith’s Bookshop. They wed in 2006 and have enjoyed a wonderful, loving relationship. During a series of illnesses and stays in hospital Hans took care of him with love and affection.

Malcolm had a vast collection of friends including ex-colleagues, graduates and neighbours. He and Hans entertained extensively and were the life and soul of any occasion. Their home is itself a work of art, full of pictures, ornaments, books, music, beautiful items, but also things that are simply kitsch and amusing; an enchanting treasure trove which exhibits both a sure sense of interior design and a sense of fun.

Malcolm Lochhead was exceptionally creative, talented, intelligent, funny, kind, generous, brave, and inspirational. He will be greatly missed.


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