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Highland Mary: C.1016-1928

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Object information

Current Location: In storage


Highland Mary
Highland shepherdess


Production: Sampson Smith (Perhaps)




White earthenware figure moulded in three parts and lead-glazed. Painted with brown, grey, red, dark pink, blue, green and orange enamels.

A girl stands against foliage and beside a low grey wall. She holds a wreath in her left arm, which rests on the back of a lamb standing on the wall, and with her right hand she gathers flowers into her apron. The figure is sparsely coloured. She wears: a green hat, wound with a green scarf which falls to her shoulder; a tartan wrap draped over her left shoulder and right forearm; and a dress with buttoned bodice, puff sleeves and a full pleated skirt decorated with finely painted flower decorations in pink and green. Her brown hair falls to her shoulders. The plain oval base is pointed to one end and has an incised line across the top front; the top of the base is moulded into a pattern. The underside is concave and glazed. The back is curved, but largely unmoulded, with vertical lines made in the clay and a vent hole 27.5cm from the bottom.


History note: Mr Green, Magdalene Street, Cambridge (who purchased it from ‘a gentleman in Yorkshire’). Bought on 20 February 1913, for 15/- (fifteen shillings), by Dr Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge.

Legal notes

Dr J.W.L. Glaisher Bequest

Measurements and weight

Depth: 10 cm
Depth: 4 in
Height: 39 cm
Height: 15.375 in
Width: 15.8 cm
Width: 6.25 in

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1928) by Glaisher, J. W. L., Dr


19th Century, Mid#
Production date: circa AD 1870


Mary Campbell (c.1768-86), also known as ‘Highland Mary’, was the subject of some of the finest poems of the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-96). It is said that he invited her to accompany him to Jamaica as his wife, in 1886, but she died later that year. His poem ‘Highland Mary’, 1792 includes the words: ‘O my sweet Highland Mary/ How sweetly bloom'd the gay, green birk/ How rich the hawthorn's blossom/ As underneath their fragrant shade/ I clasp'd her to my bosom!’. It is likely that this figure was made as a pair for a figure of Burns, who was a popular subject for Victorian Staffordshire figures – respected, perhaps, both for the tender emotions expressed by his poems andfor his humble origins as the labourer son of a tenant farmer. Several other pairs and figure groups of Burns and Highland Mary exist.

Pugh and others have attributed a number of large figures, dated around 1873-1881, to the Sampson Smith factory, on the basis of their size and resemblance to a 17 in mould for Dwight Lyman Moody found at the factory in 1948. This figure of Highland Mary shares most of the features identified: it is a ‘monumental’ 15 3/8 inch figure, supported by a low wall; it is a simple three part moulding, with flat back; and it has a plain oval base. Thus, it is possibly a Sampson Smith figure, made in the 1870s.

Rackham (1935) lists this figure as of a type made chiefly by Sampson Smith at Longton, a factory listed in contemporary directories as a ‘manufacturer of figures in great variety’, which began around 1851 and continued to make figures in quantity into the early part of the twentieth century. A spill vase group of Burns and Mary and a figure of Burns standing on a pedestal have been found with the Sampson Smith mark, and the dates 1851 and 1882 respectively, marked on the base.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Materials used in production

brown, grey, red, dark pink, blue, green and orange Enamels
White earthenware

Techniques used in production

Press-moulding : White earthenware figure moulded in three parts and lead-glazed. Painted with brown, grey, red, dark pink, blue, green and orange enamels. The base is concave and glazed. The back is curved, but largely unmoulded, with vertical lines made in the clay and a vent hole 27.5cm from the bottom.

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: Rectangular paper label

  • Text: ‘No. 3621 Large Staffs figure of a girl with wreath and lamb b. in Cambridge Feb 20 1913 (Came from Yorkshire).’
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Handwritten in black script
  • Type: Label

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.1016-1928
Primary reference Number: 71144
Old object number: 3621
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Highland Mary" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-05-18 15:05:08

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{{cite web|url= |title=Highland Mary |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-05-18 15:05:08|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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