Garry Rennie has been immersed in the world of antiques and collectibles since he was a child. Growing up in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, his parents loved attending auctions – and he says sitting with them in the sale rooms “made a huge impression on me”.
It’s little surprise, then, that he and his wife Lynsey decided to launch their own auction house in 2013. Both had previously worked in retail, but felt there was a need for a business like theirs. Peebles Auction House, located in the picturesque country suburb of the same name 20 miles south of Edinburgh, is now a haven for anyone looking for distinctive period pieces.
Beginning as a general goods and auction space, the house still operates its fortnightly sales of everything from caravans to coins, militaria, bric-a-brac and jewellery, fur jackers, French furniture, ceramics, lamps, train sets and photographic equipment. More recently, every six to eight weeks, Peebles now offers a specialist sale of items held back from mixed lots. And on 28 November, it will host its first sale of Scottish art.
Cityscapes and coastlines
The pieces on sale are as diverse and varied in style as their creators, but according to Garry what unites them is the way they capture “what Scotland’s all about – its day-to-day life, landmarks, scenes we all know and love so well. This is a unique, fabulous country and the sale reflects the breadth and quality of our artists.”
Landscape painting: Alberto Morrocco, View of Anticoli Corrado, oil on canvas
One of these is Jack Hoggan, whose 1992 painting The Singing Butler set the record in 2004 for the highest price ever paid for a painting in Scotland. Now, Peebles is also offering an original Hoggan oil-on-board work called Boy Boating. “This was from the early stages of the artist’s career,” says Garry, “so it’s quite special, and will be highly sought after. It’s a young lad sailing his wee boat – a fantastic scene.”
Other aquatic offerings include Sophie Macpherson’s Boat, Plockton, Jack Moncur’s Small Fish Pond and pieces by the highly collectible and prolific Ken Lochhead, who worked in oils and watercolours and whose vistas, including Shoreline Boats and Aberdeen Harbour, capture well-recognisable stretches of coastline. Works by James Bowman, Allan Ramsay, Alberto Morrocco, Lady Lucinda L. Mackay and John Colquhoun are also available, as well as two paintings by E Charlton Fortune, an American artist with strong Scottish family connections.
Work of art: Jack Hoggan, Boy Boating, oil-on-board
Peebles takes pride in ensuring its wares are wrapped and shipped in a timely and professional manner, says Garry – something that’s becoming ever more important considering the global interest in pieces sold at its sales.
“We posted out to 14 countries around the world at our last sale,” he says. “All our shipping’s done in-house – a lot of the larger auction houses won’t do this themselves, as it’s a lot of work.” Customers from Europe and Asia make up a large part of their sales base, but there’s a strong local interest from Edinburgh and the Borders, Devon and Cornwall, Manchester and Birmingham.
The auction house manages to pack quite a punch despite a comparatively small team: Peebles employs 12 people but also works with local volunteers. “There’s a great breadth of ages on board,” says Garry. “Everyone from schoolkids who have excellent IT skills right up to pensioners.”
Valuable pieces: Allan Ramsay’s ‘Portrait of a Lady’, reputedly Lady Ochiltree, oil on canvas
Jewellery, particularly gold and silver, forms a large part of Peebles’ trade, and Garry is keen to expand specialist sales of such pieces. The house will soon exhibit separate militaria and oriental objets d’art auctions, and there are plans afoot to hold three sales of Scottish art per year – the next will be in April 2020.
“A lot of the more established houses have been operating for a hundred years or more,” says Garry. “And they have loyal customers, of course. We’re trying to bite into that apple now, and I hope that we can attract customers to the sheer range of what we’re offering.”