Scotland. Although by no means free from faults, these ceiling-pictures by Runciman are important in the history of British art, and remain in fairly good preservation at the present day. They were extolled by his contemporaries, a glowing description of them being printed and issued at Edinburgh in 1773. Runciman was also employed to paint a ceiling over the altar in the church in Cowgate, Edinburgh, now St. Patrick's catholic chapel, the subject being ‘The Ascension.’ But this has less merit than the ‘Ossian’ paintings. Runciman obtained several commissions from Clerk and other art patrons in Edinburgh, painting such subjects as ‘The Prodigal Son,’ ‘Andromeda,’ ‘Nausicaa and Ulysses,’ ‘Agrippina with the Ashes of Germanicus,’ and ‘Sigismunda weeping over the Heart of Tancred.’ He also etched some free transcriptions of his own works, which are valued by collectors. But his health was seriously impaired by the labours of painting the ceilings at Penicuik. On 21 Oct. 1785 he dropped down dead in the street near his lodgings in West Nicholson Street, Edinburgh. He hardly realised the promise of his earlier career.
John Runciman (1744–1768), younger brother of the above, also practised painting. He accompanied his brother to Rome, but died at Naples in 1768, before returning to England. His talents as a painter were perhaps superior to those of his brother, the quality of his art being more refined and delicate. Of the few works which he lived to complete, one, ‘Belshazzar's Feast,’ is at Penicuik, and ‘The Flight into Egypt’ and ‘King Lear in the Storm’ are in the Scottish National Gallery.
A portrait of Alexander Runciman, together with John Brown, a fellow-artist, executed by the two artists conjointly in 1784, is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery at Edinburgh, where there is also a portrait of John Runciman, painted by himself in 1767. Another portrait of John Runciman was acquired by W. Scott Elliot, esq., of Langholm, N.B.
A monument to the two brothers was erected by the Scottish Academy in the Canongate Church at Edinburgh.
[Cunningham's Lives of British Painters, &c.; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Chambers's Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen; Knowles's Life of Fuseli; Catalogues of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Scottish National Gallery, and Edinburgh Loan Exhibition, 1884; Notes on the paintings at Penicuik House by the late J. M. Gray; information from James L. Caw, esq.]
RUNCIMAN, JAMES (1852–1891), journalist, son of a coastguardsman, was born at Cresswell, a village near Morpeth in Northumberland, in August 1852. He was educated at Ellington school, and then for two years (1863–5) in the naval school at Greenwich, Kent, becoming afterwards a pupil-teacher at North Shields ragged school. After an interval spent at the British and Foreign School Society's Training College for Teachers in the Borough Road (now at Isleworth), he entered the service of the London School Board, acting as master successively of schools at Hale Street, Deptford, at South Street, Greenwich, and at Blackheath Hill. While still a schoolmaster he read for himself at night, and attempted journalism. He soon wrote regularly for the ‘Teacher,’ the ‘Schoolmaster,’ and ‘Vanity Fair;’ of the last paper he became sub-editor in 1874. In January 1874 he matriculated at the university of London, and passed the first bachelor of science examination in 1876. About 1880, while continuing his school-work, he was sub-editor of ‘London,’ a clever but short-lived little newspaper, edited by Mr. W. E. Henley.
Subsequently he confined himself solely to the profession of journalism. As a writer on social or ethical topics, he proved himself equally vigorous and versatile, but his best literary work described the life of the fishermen of the North Sea, with whom he spent many of his vacations. An admirable series of seafaring sketches, which he contributed to the ‘St. James's Gazette,’ was reprinted in 1883 as ‘The Romance of the Coast.’ Of his ‘Dream of the North Sea,’ 1889, a vivid account of the fishermen's perils, the queen accepted the dedication. He died prematurely, of overwork, at Tyneside, Minerva Road, Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, on 6 July 1891.
Besides the works already mentioned he wrote:
- ‘Grace Balmaign's Sweetheart,’ 1885.
- ‘Skippers and Shellbacks,’ 1885.
- ‘School Board Idylls,’ 1885.
- ‘Schools and Scholars,’ 1887.
- ‘The Chequers, being the Natural History of a Public House set forth in a Loafer's Diary,’ 1888.
- ‘Joints in our Social Armour,’ 1890; reprinted as ‘The Ethics of Drink and Social Questions, or Joints in our Social Armour,’ 1892.
- ‘Side-Lights, with Memoir by Grant Allen, and Introduction by W. T. Stead; edited by J. F. Runciman,’ 1893.
[Mr. Grant Allen's Memoir in ‘Side Lights,’ 1893; Schoolmaster, 11 July 1891, pp. 44–5; Illustr. London News, 18 July 1891, p. 71, with portrait; Pall Mall Gazette, 9 July 1891, p. 6.]