The previous post covered the life of Largo-born Alexander Ballingall, who spent most of his working life as an acclaimed artist in Edinburgh. Alexander and his elder brother engraver William Ballingall were well-known for their artistic accomplishments. However, these were not the only creative members of the family. John Ballingall their younger brother was also an accomplished painter, although art was not his main occupation. John worked in Largo as a cork cutter. The above artwork entitled "Entering Port" is an example of his work. It features Largo Harbour and Pier and several fishing boats. Like his brother Alexander, John frequently opted to portray marine and fishing scenes.
John was born in 1859, the ninth of the ten children of weaver and amateur astronomer William Ballingall senior and his wife Jane (Jean) Wilson. While the majority of his siblings moved away to Edinburgh for work, John remained in Lower Largo. At the time of the 1881 census, John was a journeyman cork cutter (perhaps having learned the trade from one of the other local cork cutters in Largo such as Edward Johnston or John Edmonson Miller) and the only of the siblings living at home with his parents. As a cork cutter, he likely had close ties with both the fishing community and the net factory.
In 1883, John married Annie McIntosh in Edinburgh and she joined him in Largo. The first of their eight children, William, was born the following year but he sadly died aged just two and a half. By the time of the 1891 census, there were four children in the household and John's occupation was described as 'cork manufacturer'. At this time, the family were living in part of Goodsir House.
Although John had probably always painted, it was during the 1890s that John's artwork received more attention. Several of his known paintings date to this decade - for example the work "Sailing Boats at Moonrise" above is clearly dated 1894.
It was also in 1894 that John featured in the newspapers when a message in a bottle he had set off on the sea at Largo on 22 November 1893 washed up five weeks later in Norway. Mid-November 1893 had brought the worst storms for many a year to the east coast and loss of life had been great (well over 200 persons). John had reflected upon the disaster with his young sons and had decided to send off a letter, along with his card and instructions for the finder. He was also moved to offer a watercolour painting with proceeds donated to the Lifeboat Institution, who had saved many lives during the storm. Full details are below, from the 20 January 1894 St Andrews Citizen. Note that the bottle has been corked and wrapped in cork.
John's role as an artist must have flourished, as the notice below from the 7 January 1897 Leven Advertiser below tells of the exciting news that he had moved to "new and commodious premises opposite the U.P. Church" where there was a large exhibition room for his oil and water-colour paintings. This premises was at Forthview Place in the part which would later become the Leven Reform Co-operative Society shop. In 1898 he also had a seascape displayed at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.
However, on 25 August 1899, John was admitted to the Fife and Kinross District Asylum in Springfield with melancholia. This was the first bout of an illness from which he would never recover. At the time of the 1901 census, John was still a patient there. His wife and seven children were still living at Forthview along with a lodger but in 1902 the house and shop were sold to David Watson and shortly afterwards the Leven Reform Co-operative Society took up the shop lease. John was still in the same asylum in 1911, while Annie had relocated to Bridge House in Lundin Links and was working as a boarding house keeper. John died in Springfield at the asylum in 1919. His death notice is below, stating that the funeral party would arrive at Largo crossroads at 2 o'clock. Annie died in 1929. If you know more about John Ballingall or have further images of his work, please get in touch. Another of his seascapes, "Fishing Boats by Moonlight", is shown below.