Tag Archives: Phase 1 success

‘Betrothal of Mary’

Post 43 Betrothal of Mary, Stachan window, SMC
‘Betrothal of Mary’ window by Douglas Strachan

One of the most beautiful windows in St Mary’s Chapel depicts the ‘Betrothal of Mary’. The Jewish customs of two thousand years ago may seem rigid compared with what we are used to in the West today. These customs meant that the engagement was probably arranged by the parents, maybe without Mary or Joseph being consulted. There would need to be a contract, part of which would be the ‘bride price’ to be paid by the groom’s family. The contract was implemented immediately and was binding on the couple. In effect they were considered married, but what we think of as a wedding ceremony would not occur for a considerable time, sometimes up to a year, later. During their betrothal, the couple would have little contact with each other, in order to test their commitment to each other. When Mary and Joseph became engaged is not known. In their case the events of this ‘pre-consummation’ phase of their marriage certainly tested them, following Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus. The Bible tells us that Joseph was minded to break off the relationship, but was dissuaded by the Angel Gabriel.

The window was created by the Aberdeen artist Douglas Strachan in 1899 when still in his twenties. He studied at Robert Gordon’s College and Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen before working as an illustrator on newspapers in the north of England. He was persuaded to try designing stained glass. This window in St Mary’s Chapel is his very first commission (there is a later example of his work upstairs in the former East Kirk). He was prolific in his work with stained glass all over the United Kingdom and some overseas. By 1908 he had moved to live in Edinburgh from where he worked for the rest of his life. The University of his home city awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in 1923. His largest commission was for the windows of the Scottish National War Memorial in Edinburgh Castle. He died at his home in Midlothian in 1950 at the age of 75 and is buried in the Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh. The window was restored as part of the Mither Kirk Project in 2010 following some damage due to vandalism.

The Flight to Egypt window

Post 2 Flight to Egypt window before repair, SMC North AislePost 2 Flight to Egypt Window, SMC North Aisle

How many Christmas cards have you had this year featuring the ‘three wise men’? The story of these enigmatic visitors, in St Matthew’s Gospel, is familiar. However, what follows straight afterwards in the gospel account is not mentioned so often. The story is shown in one of the windows in St Mary’s Chapel. The left hand scene is of an angel telling Joseph, shown with his carpenter’s tools, to escape with Jesus and Mary to Egypt. The right hand window shows the family in Egypt, complete with hieroglyphs in the background. Meanwhile, back in the neighbourhood of Bethlehem, Herod was slaughtering all the young boys to ensure they could not be a threat to his power.


The window was donated by Margaret Cooper, the widow of Dr Cooper who was minister of the church in 1898, the last time St Mary’s Chapel was restored. It was designed and installed by Marjorie Kemp in 1950. Unfortunately it suffered vandalism. Part of Phase 1 of the Mither Kirk Project was to repair all the glass. In this case, that was quite a challenge. One of the photographs shows the ‘window’ as it was before the work – the right hand light consisted of some bits of broken glass in a black plastic bag! The other photograph shows the window as it now is, fully restored to its original beauty.


It is a sobering to think of our world today. How many are killed so that they are not a threat? How many families have been refugees this Christmas?