Basic Biographical Details

Name: Archibald Macpherson
Born: 1851
Died: 24 December 1927
Bio Notes: Archibald Macpherson was born a Roman Catholic in 1851, the son of Gavine MacPherson (sic) and Agnes Macfarlane. He was educated at 'Dr Robertson's Academy' and Edinburgh Royal High School and articled to John Paterson in 1866, remaining as assistant until 1873 and studying at the School of Design and Royal Institution. Whilst there he won a prize for a geometrical drawing of Grecian architecture in 1868-69, and made further measured drawings of abbeys in the Scottish Borders. In 1873 he moved to Robert Rowand Anderson's office as assistant, later becoming chief assistant and prospective partner, but incompatibility resulted in Macpherson returning to Paterson's practice, also as prospective partner in 1876. At that date he was living at 2 Sciennes Hill Place and the practice was based at 21 St Andrew Square. He took over the practice when Paterson died in July 1877, completing Paterson's jobs until 1879 or 1880 when he moved to 37 George Street to commence practice on his own account. At about that time he made study tours to Ireland, Normandy and northern Italy, later extending his travels to Spain and Germany.

Of Macpherson, 'EJMR' (Ebeneezer Macrae) observed that although he was a fine draughtsman,

'finished drawings were rare, details being redrawn and altered many times over, and often a set of working drawings being ruthlessly scrapped and begun again. He never grudged time spent thus, though assistants might find the practice a trying experience… He 'thought in perspective' and had a never failing sense of construction and scale. In his student days wild theories of proportion were propounded, and the subject fascinated him. He often wrote upon it, and while sanely discounting the absurdities of unbalanced theorists he studied many ancient buildings from this point of view and was satisfied that their harmonious proportions were not accidental. Ever afterwards in designing any plan elevation or section, his angle of sixty set square was freely used giving intersections of thirty and sixty degrees. This, however, was only used as a test, for few men had such a finely tuned sense of proportion as he. Probably fewer possessed his encyclopaedic knowledge of the ecclesiology of the middle ages.

'To Macpherson architecture was only a part of a general culture, for he 'saw life steadily and saw it whole'. Music was a part of his nature, and he was for many years the enthusiastic conductor of a large church choir, and he sang, and played the violin. Equally at home in Italian, Spanish and French, his range of reading was wide. In his last years Dante and Cervantes were the favourites to whom he turned for comfort. His own personal courtesy and charm of manner were in keeping with his artistic ideals.'

Macpherson's practice was never large and after his initial success at St Aloysius College, Glasgow, largely confined to the archdiocese of Edinburgh and the dioceses of St Andrews and Dunkeld and of Aberdeen. Even within these dioceses most urban priests preferred Pugin & Pugin and the showier marble work of Charles Jean Menart. His scholarly understated style appealed more to converts and to the old Catholic gentry. It was only after the First World War that he evolved an individualistic brick style for industrial congregations.

In his earlier years Macpherson lived at Braehead Cottage, Braid Road. Around 1891 the practice moved to 7 Young Street, which by 1914 had become both house and office.

Macpherson was admitted FRIBA on 3 December 1906, his proposers being Hippolyte Jean Blanc, Alexander Hunter Crawford and Robert Rowand Anderson. His nomination papers list several essays read to the Edinburgh Architectural Association, as well as illustrated papers on 'The Scottish Mansion House', 'Medieval Proportion' and 'The Scottish Sacrament Houses' which appeared in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries in 1891.

Macpherson died in his sleep on Christmas Eve 1927, leaving moveable estate of £1,968 14s 9d. He had been married and was survived by his daughter Margaret Mary Macpherson.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 82, Sciennes Hill Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate1876 *  
Item 2 of 821, St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1878c. 1880 
Item 3 of 837, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1880c. 1891 
Item 4 of 814, Viewforth Terrace, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1889  
Item 5 of 87, Young Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessc. 18911928Business address from 1891, home address also from 1914.
Item 6 of 8Springvalley, Morningside, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1903  
Item 7 of 8Braehead Cottage, Braid Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivateBefore 1906c. 1913 
Item 8 of 820, Thirlestane Road, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivatec. 1913  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3John Paterson18661870Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3John Paterson18701873Assistant 
Item 3 of 3(Sir) Robert Rowand Anderson18731876Chief AssistantInitially simply assistant

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 12John Nichol Scott1878c. 1882Apprentice 
Item 2 of 12James McLellan FairleyAfter 1881Before 1886Assistant 
Item 3 of 12William Weir18821886Apprentice 
Item 4 of 12John Nichol Scottc. 18821883Assistant 
Item 5 of 12William Weir18861888Assistant 
Item 6 of 12George Alexander PyottAfter 1889Before 1897Assistant 
Item 7 of 12James MitchellAfter 1890Before 1904Chief Assistant 
Item 8 of 12James Mitchellc. 1890c. 1895Apprentice 
Item 9 of 12Ebenezer James MacRae1 June 18991903Apprentice 
Item 10 of 12Ebenezer James MacRae1903December 1907Assistant 
Item 11 of 12William Davidsonc. 19071907Draughtsman 
Item 12 of 12James Alexander Steedman19081912Apprentice 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3(Sir) Robert Rowand Anderson3 December 1906for Fellowship
Item 2 of 3Hippolyte Jean Blanc3 December 1906for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3Alexander Hunter Crawford3 December 1906for Fellowship

RIBA Proposals

This proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 2Ebenezer James MacRaeLate 1914for Associateship
Item 2 of 2Thomas Tolmie Paterson2 December 1907for Fellowship

Buildings and Designs

This was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 391878Mission Hall, Broughton Place  EdinburghScotlandAppointed after the death of Paterson in 1877. Drew up new plans
Item 2 of 391880Our Lady Star of the Sea RC ChurchNorth Berwick East LothianScotlandGate
Item 3 of 391881Church of the Sacred Heart  EdinburghScotlandNew high altar in marble; side chapels and altars
Item 4 of 391881Duns RC Church and Presbytery HouseDuns BerwickshireScotland 
Item 5 of 391881Terraced houses, Morningside ParkMorningside EdinburghScotlandNos 24, 26
Item 6 of 391882St Aloysius CollegeGarnethill GlasgowScotlandOriginal college (residence, class rooms and halls)
Item 7 of 391884Belmont  EdinburghScotland 
Item 8 of 391885Mount ErinPetersburg VirginiaUnited States of AmericaGate lodge and stable offices
Item 9 of 391887Convent of the Sisters of Mercy  EdinburghScotlandChapel, refectory and community room wing, guest wing, and additions
Item 10 of 391888Library for Solicitors to the Supreme Courts of Scotland  EdinburghScotlandCompetition design - unplaced
Item 11 of 391889Convent of the Sisters of Mercy  EdinburghScotlandInlaid Italian walnut stalls for chapel
Item 12 of 391889St Margaret's Convent of the Ursulines of Jesus  EdinburghScotlandFirst designs for new chancel and other additions
Item 13 of 3918908 Mortonhall Road  EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 391890Church of the Sacred Heart  EdinburghScotlandWork in marble
Item 15 of 39c. 1890Montrose UP ChurchMontrose AngusScotlandPulpit
Item 16 of 391892Lawside Convent and school  DundeeScotlandConvent
Item 17 of 391893St Margaret's Convent of the Ursulines of Jesus  EdinburghScotlandNew chancel and other additions; Lady Chapel; principal altar in alabaster
Item 18 of 391894St David's RC ChurchDalkeith MidlothianScotlandColoured decoration, additions and school
Item 19 of 391896St Luke's RC ChurchMontrose AngusScotlandPulpit and other fittings in oak
Item 20 of 391900St Aloysius CollegeGarnethill GlasgowScotlandAdditions
Item 21 of 39190150 Blackfriars Street  EdinburghScotland 
Item 22 of 391902St Aloysius CollegeGarnethill GlasgowScotlandAdditions for day school
Item 23 of 391903Our Lady of Loretto and St Michael RC Church, presbytery and hallMusselburgh MidlothianScotlandRebuilding of church; alabaster altar; oak pulpit, font and stalls; proposed oak baldaquin. With Edward Purdie of Canterbury? Named as sole architect December1903
Item 24 of 391904Stalls in Convent Chapel   Scotland'Recently executed'
Item 25 of 391905St Nathalan's RC Church and PresbyteryBallater AberdeenshireScotlandGranite church; oak furniture
Item 26 of 391905St Ninian's RC ChurchRestalrig EdinburghScotland 
Item 27 of 3919066 Wester Coates Gardens  EdinburghScotland 
Item 28 of 391907Glencruitten Golf ClubhouseOban ArgyllScotland 
Item 29 of 391907(?)Queen Victoria Memorial School, Drums of the KippendavieDunblane PerthshireScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 30 of 391908Sacred Heart RC ChurchAberlour BanffshireScotland 
Item 31 of 391909Sacred Heart RC Church Hall and Priest's House  EdinburghScotland 
Item 32 of 391909St Peter's RC School  EdinburghScotland 
Item 33 of 39c. 191041 Polwarth Terrace  EdinburghScotland 
Item 34 of 391912RC ChurchAberdour FifeScotlandInterior decoration
Item 35 of 391914RC Church of the Immaculate ConceptionKelso RoxburghshireScotlandChancel rebuilt in permanent form
Item 36 of 391916RC Church of the Immaculate ConceptionKelso RoxburghshireScotlandReredos (altar retable)
Item 37 of 391925Church of the Sacred HeartGrangemouth StirlingshireScotland 
Item 38 of 39c. 1925RC Church of St Matthew, presbyteryRosewell MidlothianScotlandOriginal church
Item 39 of 391927Our Lady and St Ninian RC Church and presbyteryBannockburn StirlingshireScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this :
Item 1 of 1Johnston, W T2003Artists of Scotland Officina Publications CDROM 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4Builder6 January 1928   
Item 2 of 4RIAS Quarterly1928no25Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)Obituary
Item 3 of 4Scotsman7 December 1906   
Item 4 of 4Scotsman29 December 1927  Obituary p6

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers F v17 p144 no1168 (microfilm reel 12)