An English village apologise 100 years after branding Charles Rennie MacKintosh a spy

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AN English village has finally apologised to the Charles Rennie MacKintosh Society for branding the world-famous Scottish designer a spy almost 100 years ago.

MacKintosh was trying to fix a lamp in his home in the Suffolk community of Walberswick in 1914 but locals in coastal village believed he was signalling enemy ships.

Infuriated by the accusations, MacKintosh got into a tussle with police officers who mistook his Glaswegian accent for a German one.

Now a former mayor for the area has issued a formal apology to the MacKintosh society over the mix-up.

Michael Ludd, says it was all “an unfortunate end” to what was otherwise an enjoyable stay in the village..

MacKintosh was living in Suffolk because he could not make enough money at the time in Scotland.

But the designer’s long night-time walks and his wife’s travels had already aroused suspicion amongst local villagers who reported him to the military.

Mr Ladd said: “It was an unfortunate end to what was otherwise a very enjoyable and productive stay for the MacKintoshes in this area of Suffolk, and for that I can only apologise.

“We are now very proud of our association with this great architect and his wife.”

Stuart Robertson, director of the MacKintosh society, has graciously accepted the apology.

“We are delighted that he has finally been cleared of spying charges,” she said.

A biography of the artist, written by John Cairney, detailed how MacKintosh tussled with officers, who were sifting through his personal belongings.

The Quest for Charles Rennie MacKintosh reads: “The letters were from Hermann Muthesius, Joseph Olbrich and Josef Hoffmann [of the German Arts and Crafts movement] and of course they were written in German.

“MacKintosh started swearing at them in his Glaswegian accent, which they mistook for German.”

He was taken to a jail cell and kept overnight before appearing in front of the magistrate the next day.

And when he returned to court a week later he was told “never to darken our coastline again”.

But now the apology has prompted the MacKintosh Society to include Walberswick and the neighbouring community of Southwold on its MacKintosh Trail of places for his admirers to visit.

MacKintosh was born in Glasgow in 1868 before meeting his wife, Margaret MacDonald at Glasgow School of Art.

However economic hardship meant he was unable to maintain and business and so the pair embarked on an extended holiday in the Suffolk town.

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  1. The three Mackintiosh interpretation centres in the Pyrenées Orientales and the associated Mackintiosh Trail which has reproductios of all Mackintosh’s French landscapes in situ where they were painted tells the story of Mackintosh as an artist and in particular the center at Amelie-les-Bains-Palalda has a special section on his time in Walberswick and the Suffolk flower studies.
    Robin Crichton, Président. L’associuation Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

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