Taylor Mystery Man









(County Down)



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The well dressed gentleman pictured in the miniature shown below is assumed to be from the Taylor side of the family, since his portrait has been in the possession of family members for as long as anyone can remember. Whether he is a Taylor, a Swan, a Dickson or a Johnston, no one knows. Various experts have provided information that might eventually lead to the identity of the subject or the artist but further opinions on either would be most welcome.

Taylor miniature

The unknown Taylor ancestor

Cousin Dave wrote the following account of the research that has been undertaken so far:

"In true family tradition its provenance is vague! My understanding is that it is a painting of David Swan (possibly with a Dickson or Johnston attached). My best guess is that it is David Dickson’s uncle or maybe grandfather, his mother's maiden name was Swan. The other bit of information/misinformation, is that it was painted by Henry Raeburn, who worked out of Edinburgh in the right period and painted the Prince Regent when he visited. My Sarah worked for Christies the auctioneers before we were married so we called in some favours. They took the painting apart looking for clues and sent it to Edinburgh for a few weeks, but no definitive result. Apparently it was originally intended to be worn on a chain around a woman's neck and was later put into its frame. Neither the frame nor the painting indicate who it is or who painted it. It is good enough to be a Raeburn but not evidenced. They think the uniform is from a Volunteer Rifle Regiment (County based) circa. 1800. Please feel free to include it in your memorabilia section to see if anyone has any ideas."

Of the possible branches on the Taylor family tree, the Taylor and Adam lines based in rural Stirlingshire seem less likely to provide an answer. The Johnston, Dickson and Swan ancestors perhaps had closer links to the cultural influences of Edinburgh.

There are several likely candidates for consideration, beginning with David Dickson's family. David, born in 1806, was the great great grandfather of cousin Dave and the previous generation or two could be of the right age for the portrait. His father Matthew was a dyer in Leith with possible origins in Tynemouth. His mother Euphemia Swan was from Dunfermline, Fife, across the Firth of Forth, providing another area for research.

Then there was David's father-in-law, John Johnston, who was master of a Leith smack sailing regularly between Leith and London until he died in 1826, aged 56. The company he sailed with was originally based in Berwick and Johnston was a local name in those parts. So, as well as Midlothian, we should include Fife, Berwickshire and Northumberland when considering possible candidates amongst the Volunteer Rifle Regiments.

Taylor miniature with dimensions

The whole miniature, complete with frame


Any ideas about the identity of the sitter or the uniform he is wearing would be most welcome.


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