This wonderful piece of pottery is a Qilin, a mythical Chinese creature. It has a single horn a bit like a unicorn, Scotland’s own mythical beast. It looks quite fierce, with a snarling dragon head set on the body of a deer, covered in fish-like scales. But like the unicorn, the Qilin has a kind nature, and is seen as a symbol of luck and prosperity in Chinese culture. It is said to be so gentle that it leaves no footprints behind when it walks – it can even walk on water! Like all forces of good, it protects against evil. It is not hard to imagine flames shooting from that gaping, fanged grimace!
Despite its exotic appearance, our Qilin is a local beast. It was made in around 1890 at a pottery on the Dunmore Estate near Airth by Peter Gardner (1835-1902). The Dunmore Pottery had been around since the late 18th century making bricks, tiles and domestic pots using clay dug from the land. Things changed when Gardner took over after the death of his father in 1866. He began to import fine china clays and started to experiment with different shapes, glazes and finishes.
His work soon became very popular – and very collectible. Queen Victorian was a patron and her son, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) visited the pottery while staying on the Estate. We are lucky to have 30 pieces of Dunmore Pottery in our collection.