1922 – 2015
Jessie Moira Beaty (neé Munro) was born in 1922 in Prestwick, Ayrshire. She attended Hutcheson’s grammar school and won a scholarship to the Glasgow School of Art, where she enrolled as a student in 1939 alongside fellow painters Joan Eardley and Margot Sandeman. In late 1941 Moira was invited to apply to the Foreign Office and from 1942 –45 she began her war service at Bletchley Park as a cryptographer working directly on the breaking of Enigma codes.Moira demonstrated an ability to identify patterns and hand codes within this machine code in what turned out to be an important message, for which she received the thanks of the Lordships of the Admiralty for her fine work. She then immediately joined the cryptographers breaking the daily codes of Abwehr traffic across Western Europe. She was the only woman in the group of mathematicians, musicians, linguists and scientists.
During this period, she continued to create artwork and worked with a group of artists within the organisation, undertaking drawing classes and exhibitions. When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, Moira moved to the films division of the Ministry of Information in London, working for its director, Jack Beddington, before returning to Glasgow in 1947 to resume studies at the School of Art. There she met Stuart Beaty, a sculptor whom she married in 1952.Following the birth of her daughter Ann many of her paintings were of young children, her garden flowers, the rural community and the rolling Border landscape. Asked about her subject matter she replied, “I just paint my life.”
After teacher training at Jordanhill College, Moira taught part-time in various local schools and exhibited her art widely during the 50s and 60s, including at the Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Glasgow Institute and the Scottish Society of Women Artists, to which she was elected as a professional member in 1974. From 1979 onwards she developed fruitful relations with the Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh, the Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries, and local galleries in Castle Douglas and Kirkcudbright.
Moira and Stuart Beaty’s was often exhibited through The Open Eye Gallery in Edinburgh and this also made possible a group show at the Collins Gallery in Glasgow, the Riverside, Stonehaven and ‘Four Scottish Painters’ in the Cadogan Gallery, London.
In 1990 the couple moved to Barnbarroch, Dumfries & Galloway and from 1997 Gracefield Arts Centre became an important focus. Moira submitted to the selected open exhibition ‘Art Now’ from which ‘The Thaw’ was purchased for the Permanent Collection, and her work has been shown in further selected group exhibitions and the Gracefield stand at the Glasgow Art Fair and Affordable Art Fair, London. In 2001 Gracefield held a major retrospective exhibition entitled ‘Full Circle’ of both Moira and Stuart Beaty’s work which toured to the Hawick Museum and Art Gallery.
After Stuart died in 2004, Moira moved to the Stirlingshire village of Balfron to be near her daughter, Ann. There she continued to paint, and to solve crosswords and Sudoku puzzles with great determination. She became a regular at local weekly life drawing classes, where she put the younger members to shame with her energy. Her final year was a triumph, as she had a sell-out retrospective exhibition in the Harbour Gallery in Kirkcudbright and was represented in the town’s major summer exhibition, entitled Glasgow Girls 1920-60, which she opened.