Malcolm Lochhead

Born: November 13, 1948

Died: March 28, 2023

Malcolm Lochhead, who has died aged 74, was a teacher, lecturer and artist known for his ambitious and beautiful embroidery. His work includes hangings at Stirling Castle and the altar cloth in the Shrine of St Mungo’s in Glasgow Cathedral. He also designed the cushion on which the Scottish crown resides at the opening of Scottish Parliament, last used when Queen Elizabeth was lying in state in St Giles Cathedral.

He was born in 1948 to Walter and Clara Lochhead. His father was an accountant and they lived in Garrowhill in Glasgow. Malcolm was the fifth and youngest child, with three much-loved sisters and a brother. He adored his mother, but he always said he had four mothers as his older sisters effectively brought him up.

There were early signs of his artistic skills in the fact that, aged six, he made two dolls with knitted heads and beaded skirts: Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. His mother treasured them, and they were rediscovered after her death.

Malcolm was educated at Hutcheson’s Grammar School, a period which he hated, and was much happier when he left school and progressed to the Glasgow School of Art from 1966-70. There he encountered the wonderful Kathleen Whyte who influenced his love of and interest in ecclesiastical embroidery. He insisted on taking her course in embroidery and weaving, despite advisers trying to steer him to what they considered were more masculine and suitable subjects. He was the first man to take this course.

Another great and lasting influence on the youthful Malcolm was Margaret Grant, who became a lifelong friend. Malcolm always credited her with opening his eyes to many aspects of art and interior design and they remained close friends until her death aged 100 in 2021.

As a first career, Malcolm wanted to be a window dresser and he dressed windows for Campus and Jean Elder. He also designed the dresses for Lena Martell’s first shows, but his mother persuaded him to go to teacher training college. His first teaching post was at Coatbridge High School where he initially struggled with holding pupils’ attention until Maggie Grant gave him wonderful advice. She told him to put on a performance, and when he did, he became an entertaining and inspirational teacher and never looked back.

Subsequently he moved to The Queen’s College, Glasgow where he built a reputation as a superb lecturer. He instigated an annual fashion show and trade exhibitions. He also featured in the annual pantomimes, usually as the pantomime dame. He was invariably at the centre of all manner of mischief and nonsense.

After the merger with Glasgow Polytechnic in 1993, Malcolm enhanced the reputation of the new Glasgow Caledonian University by undertaking and creating high profile artistic work and by taking several recruitment trips to China and India. In time he completed a PhD thesis and achieved a professorship. When he retired, he was awarded Professor Emeritus of Design and kept a close connection with the university.

Malcolm’s “real work” involved artistic commissions, many of a textile art or of an ecclesiastical or decorative nature. He also directed large-scale embroidery projects: for example, the hangings at Stirling Castle, where he also selected all the fabrics for the curtains in the main hall. He undertook decorative work in the retail sector, including once designing the Christmas decorations for Princes Square. He was awarded the Lord Provost’s Award for the Visual Arts in 1999.

A major project was “Keeping Glasgow in Stitches” for the Year of Culture 1990 and another early work was the altar cloth in the Shrine of St Mungo’s in Glasgow Cathedral. The Bothwell banners are stunning and look like stained glass windows and other beautiful works include the Nurses Chapel in the Cathedral and the Chaplaincy at Glasgow Caledonian University. The Stirling Castle altar cloths and cloths of estate, which he designed and supervised, are a fitting memorial of his work as are the altar cloths at Durham Cathedral and York Minster.

His proudest and most emotional work was a parochet for the synagogue in Giffnock commissioned by the family of Yoni Jesner who was killed in a terrorist attack while on holiday in Israel. It is exquisitely beautiful. Other commissions have included the design and creation of the pulpit fall for St Andrew’s College, Christchurch, New Zealand and the design of the Peter Rabbit Tartan for Frederick Warne.

Queen Elizabeth unveiled his embroidered cloth of estate in the Great Hall of Stirling Castle and later the then Prince Charles unveiled an embroidered hanging in Rothesay Castle. Malcolm was commissioned to conceive and create the chairs for the Moderator of the General Assembly for the Church of Scotland.

He designed the cushion on which the Scottish crown resides at the opening of Scottish Parliament. In addition, Malcolm continued to produce elegant textile-based pictures and held several exhibitions, culminating in a fine retrospective at Glasgow Cathedral in 2018.

Malcolm died peacefully in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and is survived by his husband, Hans van der Grijp, his sister Alison, and many nephews and nieces. Malcolm and Hans had been together for 48 years. They met when Hans, who is Dutch, worked at the much-lamented John Smith’s Bookshop. They married in 2006 and have enjoyed a wonderful, loving relationship.

During a series of illnesses and stays in hospital Hans took care of Malcolm with both love and affection. Malcolm had a vast collection of friends including ex-colleagues, graduates, and neighbours. He and Hans entertained extensively and were the life and soul of any occasion. Their home is itself a work of art, full of pictures, ornaments, books, music, beautiful items, but also things that are simply kitsch and amusing; an enchanting treasure trove which exhibits both a sure sense of interior design and a sense of fun.

He was exceptionally creative, talented, intelligent, funny, kind, generous, brave, and inspirational. Malcolm will be greatly missed by all who loved him.

Jo Haythornthwaite