Saltire Gallerie offers a look into the past through its collection of 19th- and 20th-century Scottish artwork
By Elizabeth Poindexter | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Laurel Kilgore has lived in Scotland, Malawi, Raleigh and elsewhere, but she feels at home in Hillsborough where she lives on the banks of the Eno River. She and her husband, Sidney Kilgore, purchased the 1794 James Hogg house in December 2021. James, a native of Scotland, named the two-story home Banks of the Eno, and soon it will bear an Orange County Historical Museum heritage marker.
Its front rooms act as Laurel’s gallery with a focus on 19th- and 20th-century artwork, most of which comes from Scotland. Saltire Gallerie was named for the flag of Scotland (with its diagonal cross).
“I focus on landscapes because the theme of the art gallery for the foreseeable future is a sense of place,” Laurel says. “I feel a sense of place here in Hillsborough – where we are, this house and its history.”
Laurel’s love of art goes back decades – she holds a Ph.D. from SOAS University of London with a focus on African arts and poetry. “My study was really on that fleeting moment in dance and in the performance,” she says. “These paintings aren’t fleeting; these are with us.”
Following her graduate studies, she taught the anthropology of art at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for many years. Now stateside, Laurel can survey the art in her gallery and point to bridges, landscapes in the Scottish Highlands, or pastoral scenes and tie them to her 16 years living in Scotland. “I bought the paintings for a reason,” Laurel says. “They all kind of ring true to me in some sort of way.”
Though Banks of the Eno is in the midst of renovations, including to the foundation, to the roof and more, Saltire Gallerie is still displaying the rotating 60 pieces of art with a current focus on winter scenes. Visitors to the gallery, open Thursdays and during private appointments, can see works from some contemporary Scottish artists Jack Vettriano and John Lowrie Morrison.
Laurel says the flurry of activity at her home has kept her in North Carolina, where she is reminded of Scotland and its ties to our state every day. “Working with local tradespeople has been a delight, as some of them are as interested in preserving history as I am,” she says. “It is so rewarding being surrounded by art. It touches the soul.”