Two large and handsomely framed portraits of Dr. Coultate were, on Saturday, unveiled in the Mechanics Institution, in which place one of them will ermain, while the other will hang in the Council Chamber. The portraits, which have been taken by Mr. Sydney Hodges, of London, are (the canvas) fifty inches long and forty wide, and as works of art, are superior productions. In addition to the portraits, Dr. Coultate was the recipient in the evening of a service of silver plate comprising two entrée of vegetable dishes, plain beaded pattern. The covers are made with moveable handles, so the can be used as extra dishes. One revolving soup tureen bacon or chop dishes to match the entrée dishes, which bear the monogram “W.M.C.” One 12-inch salver, with saw pierced band and braided edge to match dishes, also with the inscription engraved in the centre. The weight of the total number of pieces in the service was over 210 ounces.
There was a large company there to witness the ceremony, the only persons on the platform besides the Mayor being Alderman Scott, Councillor Thompson and Dr. Brumwell who spoke at length in select terms and eulogy on the character and work of Dr. Coultate. He believed everyone of them would appreciate his sterling character, his strong love of justice and hatred of everything that was mean and false, and he (the speaker) felt that he was justified in saying that he had set an example which all younger members of the Town Council and all who aspired to public life might be proud to follow. Ever since the first thoughts were entertained respecting the Mechanics Institution the Doctor was one of the first who gave his countenance and assistance to the matter. In fact, his name, on account of his character and usefulness, had become a household word in Burnley. He was everywhere known and respected, and trusted; and when the first idea of commencing a subscription for the purpose of presenting some testimonial to the town was begun, it was thought that they should present only one portrait to the Mechanics Institution, but as the idea was received with such enthusiasm the committee felt obliged to extend their operations, and the result was that they had also a portrait for the Council Chamber. The only difficulty that they had in the whole affair had been the selection of an artist to take the portrait. After several pilgrimages they then heard of and decided on Mr. Sydney Hedges, who has gained a good reputation in London as being one of the best portrait takers, and he (the speaker) had great pleasure in exhibiting to them his work.
Dr Brumwell then, amidst applause, unveiled the portraits, and addressing the Mayor, expressed the pleasure he felt on behalf of the subscribers in presenting one portrait of Dr. Coultate to the Corporation. (Applause).
The Mayor, on behalf of the Corporation, after expressing the great pleasure he felt in receiving the production, remarked that although they had no gallery or museum in which to place it, he had no doubt that it would be very much prized as it rested on the walls of the Council Chamber, where it would be an adornment to the room. Such a work of art, he thought, might be the nucleus around which other works of art might in future gather and be committed to their custody. As custodians he was sure they would treasure the portrait, not only as a work of art – in which, such conspicuous ability was manifested – but it would be prized because it was the portrait of a gentleman who had rendered long and valuable services to the town. He had been an Alderman of the borough since its incorporation (1861), and for many years previous he was one of the most active Commissioners. He had been described as the father of the Town Council for the support which he had given to public matters for so long a period, and for the tact and ability which he had brought to bear on all the departments where he had to work, whether as the chairman of the Gas Committee, vice-chairman of the Improvement Committee, or the other offices in each and all of which he excelled. He was not only worthy of the tribute which the subscribers had paid to him, but he was also to all younger men in the Council an example worthy of imitation. (Applause).
Dr. Brumwell then remarked: It is now my pleasing duty to present this portrait on behalf of the subscribers to the trustees of the Mechanics’ Institution, and I am sure they will prize it. I know no one who can speak better in receiving it than Mr. Scott. (Applause).
Alderman Scott, on arising, said that it was a great gratification to him to take part in the present demonstration of respect to his old and valued friend, Dr. Coultate. He felt it deeply, and was sure that all the honour they could confer upon him was well deserved. (Hear, hear.) He could quite agree with everything which had been said by Dr. Brumwell with reference to the character of Dr. Coultate, whom he not only esteemed but loved. With regard to getting up of the testimonial it was understood that no member of the committee should solicit a single contribution, that it should be a spontaneous and voluntary one; and such it had been with the exception of Mr. Foden having apprised some distant friends who had forwarded contributions. None of them could thoroughly understand the aptitude and ability of Dr. Coultate in conferences with reference to public affairs. Mr. Scott then described his early associations with the Dr.’s career in connection with the Town Council and the Mechanics’ Institution up to the present time, concluding an interesting speech as follows: I have great pleasure in accepting this portrait on behalf of the directors and members of this institution, and feel sure every member and every director will regard it as a priceless treasure, and as an heirloom belonging to the institution. I feel that one and all will be anxious that the gentleman who has been so useful in this town and neighbourhood might be long spared to us – (applause); and I trust that every member will indulge the hope for years to come that he will have the privilege of comparing the portrait with the original. (Hear, hear and applause.) I feel quite sure that the great mass of the population of Burnley will be anxious that Dr. Coultate should be able to continue his labours for years to come. (Applause.)
(Be it noted that just over 12 months from this celebration that sadly, Dr. William M Coultate died from a heart attack)
Mr. Foden then read the inscription on the plates at the foot of the portraits, as follows:-
(For the Council Chamber) – “Alderman William Miller Coultate, F.R.C.S., J.P. Presented by his fellow-townsmen in recognition of his distinguished and beneficial services to the Vorough of Burnley, January 1881” (For the Institution) – “Alderman William Miller Coultate, F.R.C.S., J.P., chairman of the trustees of the Burnley Mechanics Institution of his distinguished services. January 1881.” The inscription on the silver plate service was very similarly worded. This concluded the unveiling, the portraits and service being curiously inspected as the select company retired.
So what became of these heirlooms? These significant artefacts from Burnley’s history?