Welcome to our Peter Anson page which celebrates Peter’s life in the north east of Scotland.
(22 August 1889 - 10 July 1975)
Peter Anson was born in Southsea, Portsmouth 22nd August 1889; his English born father Charles Eustace Anson (1859 to 1940) later Rear-Admiral, and his Scottish born mother Maria Evelyn Ross (c1863 to 1905) gave him the name Frederick Charles Anson, which he changed it to Peter in 1924 after the Apostle Peter the fisherman.
His mother was a descendent of Hercules Ross (1745 to 1816) who was a good friend of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, so good a friend that Hercules’ son was named Horatio and Lord Nelson was his God-father. Four generations of Anson’s took the name Horatio after Admiral Lord Nelson.
Hercules Ross built Rossie Castle, near Montrose c1795. (The castle was demolished c1957).
To understand about Peter’s life in the north east of Scotland we need to first be aware of his educational background. Peter attended the Architectural Association (AA) School in London from 1908 to 1910. Here he learnt skills in drawing to compliment his natural talents. Peter however gave up his studies at the AA after two years of a three year course to become a monk at Caldey Island, Tenby, Wales. However poor health prevented him taking his catholic vows 19th October 1914.
For the next twenty-two years Peter was a ‘Restless Spirit’ and travelled all over Britain and Europe.
In 1921 he co-founded the Apostleship of the Sea, and acted as the Honorary Organising Secretary.
In 1929 he worked for the Universe weekly Catholic newspaper and travelled to hundred’s of towns all over Europe drawing the churches for publication in the paper, in all he drew over 800 churches, all published in the paper from 1929 to 1936.
In 1936 Peter was a founder member of the Society of Marine Artists, which in 1966 became the Royal Society of Marine Artists. It was also 1936 (May) that he moved to Portsoy in Banffshire, on the Moray Firth coast. Peter however had spent time here in the 1920’s. December 1936 he moved to Braeheads, Banff, which overlooked Banff Harbour and Banff Bay across to Macduff. He stayed at Braeheads for two years before moving to 2 Low Shore in Macduff.
Harbour Head, 2 Low Shore MacDuff.
2 Low Shore was a small fisherman’s cottage, and was affectionately known as ‘Harbour Head’ it was Peter’s home for fourteen years. Note: After the house was demolished it became the site of the Harbour Cafe
In this wee fisherman’s cottage Peter created a small chapel in the attic, which was the only Catholic place of worship in the town. Peter’s home and chapel was an ‘open House’ to all sea-farer’s who visited the port and to anyone else who knew him, including the younger generation of Macduff who Peter taught to draw, and paint, and basic skills of the sea, such as knots, net-making and sailing.
The sailing took part in a small 15 foot sailing boat Peter bought for £2, he had it officially registered as BF75 and it was named ‘Stella Maris’ which means Star of the Sea. The ‘Stella Maris’ sank in 1952, and also in 1952 Peter sold Harbour Head and moved to the south of England.
Peter is thought to have regretted moving from Macduff and selling Harbour Head, and seven months later he returned to Macduff and lived in another fisherman’s cottage also in Low Shore not far from Harbour Head. Peter stayed in Macduff until 1958 when he moved to Ramsgate Abbey.
In 1960 he moved to Montrose and lived with a friend of his called Jack Smith who was a writer and a lay-preacher. In 1961 they both moved to Ferryden.
In 1966 Peter was honoured by Pope Paul VI, who made him a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory’. This honour was awarded as a tribute to Peter’s prolific literary and scholarly achievements. During his life peter wrote 47 books and illustrated four others. Peter is said to have drawn around 1,000 water-colour paintings. Peter lived in Ferryden until 8th July 1967 when he took the position as the first curator of the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. January 1968 Peter gave up the curator’s position and moved back to Ferryden. At the age of 80 in 1970 Peter returned to Caldey Island, he stayed there for four years before moving in 1974 to what was to become his final resting place Nunraw Abbey, East Lothian.
Peter died 10thJuly 1975 in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Edinburgh. He was buried in Nunraw Abbey alongside the other monks in a private cemetery specifically for monks.
In 1973 Peter donated four hundred of his paintings to Buckie Town Council, these were specifically donated for display in the new Maritime Museum in Buckie Town House, and in 1979 the Abbot of Nunraw Abbey gave Moray Council another 430 of Peter’s paintings on loan.
That’s 830 paintings; however I had a recent visit to the Peter Anson Gallery in Buckie Library (Created in 1994) and saw none of them. Sadly all that could be seen of Peter’s work was digital copies on the computer !
Scots Fisher Folk published in 1953
Fisher Folk Lore published in 1965.
Arbroath Harbour by Peter Anson 1974.
To find out more about Peter Anson’s life in the north east of Scotland – read our book
Back to the Sea
An introduction to Peter Frederick Anson and his life on the east coast of Scotland.
by Stanley Bruce and Tina Harris
Published 26th June 2009
Read about Peter Ansons Sculpture (opens in a new window)