Works of art

Pictou man nurtures passion for stained glass

Coloured shapes move quickly across the worn, hardwood floors as they dance in the bright, dappled sunlight spilling in through the windows.

They bob and weave, moving in both straight lines and circles as the sun filters through the leaves of the giant old trees swaying in the breeze outdoors and projecting light and shadows into the windows.

The coloured shadows are as mesmerizing as the objects that create them: beautiful stained glass windows that can be found in virtually every room of the 1914-built Edwardian-style home in Pictou.

Stained glass panels hang suspended from wire like sun catchers in the widows; there are also stained glass inserts in some of the windows and there are other panels propped up against furniture, yet to find a permanent location in the house. But they will find a place in the home of Paul and Alison McCallum. You can bet on that.

Paul collects stained glass windows. It is a hobby that has turned into a passion.

Paul and Alison moved to Pictou six years ago from England. Paul’s father came from Ontario and Paul himself stayed in Vancouver for a number of years. While living across The Pond and raising their three young children, Paul and Alison read a newspaper article promoting Nova Scotia. Intrigued, Paul flew in to check it out. He eventually ended up in Pictou and knew he had come home.

“It was the house that drew me in,” he said. “I just fell in love with it.”

So they brought their three children — Emily, Edward and Samuel — to Pictou to live.

Paul is a history buff and it was this history — as much as the style — that attracted him to the home. That, and the one-and-a-half acres that came with it — a far cry from the postage-stamp sized piece of yard the family had in their home in England.

“We know we are the third owners and we want to leave it as it is, as it was originally. It has good bones,” he smiled. “We’re just the custodians, that’s what we are,” he nodded his head. “We love it.”

In England, he said, stained glass could be found everywhere. He loved it then and he loves it now.

It was this love of stained glass and the beauty and mystery it holds that caused Paul to stop in New Glasgow one day on a whim when he discovered a stained glass panel standing up against a wall inside a shop.

“I was driving down Provost Street when I saw it there,” he explained. A building owned by Paul Quinn, that formerly housed Palmer Photo and Framing as well as Seconds Unlimited, was being razed and sitting inside the structure for many years were panels of coloured glass that were old, dusty, broken and coated in thick layers of grime. But that’s not what Paul saw; he saw the beauty and charm of the pieces and he saw potential.

“I left my phone number and said I wanted to buy the windows.” He bought the whole lot — four pieces of art in all, two large and two small. “I saw the beauty and the value.”

Today, he is proud to show off one of those panels that has been cleaned up, repaired and preserved by Cranberry Stained Glass in Halifax. The pieces — one refurbished and one not — are six feet in length, the size of small doors. They are delicate, fragile and intricate in design and feature both stained glass and painted glass panels.

“In its day, it must have been awe-inspiring,” Paul beamed.

“Cranberry did an awesome job,” he praised.

Now, Paul is waiting to get the other pieces finished. “I have to sell some to restore some,” he explained. “It hurts, but …”

For now, until it sells, it will live with the other breath-taking windows — which are true pieces of art — in Paul’s home, like the piece that he brought with him from the Portsmouth Pub, England that survived two world wars. A walk through the stately Pictou home will reveal all sort of treasures — both stained glass pieces, antique furniture and other items that hold meaning for Paul and Alison.

“Stained glass is all about showing it,” Paul said. He is always willing to show his pieces or talk further about his stained glass to anyone who is interested. You can find him in Pictou.

Alison joked, “And I’m running out of windows!”

“It’s worth it,” he smiled.


Paul McCallum allows the sunlight to shine through one of the stained glass windows he is working on having restored. Collecting stained glass is a passion for the Pictou resident. (Jardine photo)

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Jackie Jardine
Jackie is a Pictou County native and proud graduate of St. Francis Xavier University. She is a writer, editor and fledgling home cook. She has been in the newspaper business for almost three decades and jokes that she started when she was in her teens! She enjoys traveling, socializing and volunteering in her community.