Malcolm Allan's Art of the Owl swoops in to Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

By Ben Miller | 28 August 2012
An image of a traditional brown schoolboy cap with an image of an owl stitched into it
Exhibition Preview: The art of the Owl, Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Stirling, until September 21 2012

Malcolm Allan, a retired university rare books librarian, began acquiring owls when he was 15. As this show testifies, he never stopped.

Inspired by his school badge at Manchester Grammar School, where a woven owl urged pupils to “Dare to be Wise”, Allan has spent decades pursuing the folklore, stories and literature of his beloved birds.

He's collected 4,150 owl-themed pieces ranging from fine art to ornaments and soft toys, as well as 500 books and “several thousand” greeting cards, all annotated in beautiful calligraphy across seven catalogues.

An image of an old advert illustration showing an owl holding a sign for a bleach purifier
All types of owl are represented in the show, as well as literature and illustrations
“I like sharing my passion for owls, and welcome this public show of a small part of my collection,” says the historian, who is also an accomplished church organ tinkler and author on the life of John Macfarlane, the man who set up the first free library in Stirling and two major museums in Allan’s native Bridge of Allan.

Duplicate pieces from the collection are on sale to help fund conservation of the Stirling Smith. For the next month, it’s a place where Allan wants children to try and spot owls hidden in every case of the building.

  • Open 10.30am-5pm (2pm-5pm Sunday, closed Monday). Admission free.
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