A PAIR of slippers seems an unlikely starting point for a touching love story.

Like all good tales, however, this one – which while short-lived, nevertheless spanned two continents - has happiness and heartbreak in equal measure.

Agnes D’Arcy Bannatyne Jarvie bought these delicately embroidered ‘Chinese-style’ shoes in Shanghai in 1866 – just before tragedy struck, and she had to return home to Scotland a young widow, her life in tatters.

The slippers are now in Glasgow Museums’ European Costumes and Textiles collection.

Curator Rebecca Quinton has been researching some of the fascinating items stored in the city’s collections, uncovering the intriguing stories of their makers and wearers.

In an occasional series for Times Past, we are sharing some of her Tales From the Wardrobe.

“The slippers are made of red and cream silk and ruched dark red ribbon, with a leather sole, and an embroidered flower, possibly a chrysanthemum, at the toe,” says Rebecca.

Glasgow Times: The slippers are made of silk and leather. Pic: Glasgow Museums

“Not much is known about Agnes, although there are some details available about her early life in Scotland and London.”

Agnes D’Arcy Bannatyne was born in 1835, the second eldest daughter of Andrew Bannatyne, writer, and Margaret Millar.

(Incidentally, her grandfather was Dugald Bannatyne, a prominent citizen of Glasgow in the early part of the 19th century.

Glasgow Times: Chinese slippers. Pic: Glasgow Museums

He was a stocking weaver who was influential in the development of George Square around 1800.

He formed, along with Robert Smith Jr and John Thomson, the Glasgow Building Company. By 1804 the Square had buildings on each side which were being described as ‘elegant, particularly on the north side.’)

Glasgow Times: Mrs Agnes D'Arcy Jarvie by John Graham-Gilbert Pic: Glasgow Museums

At the age of 16, Agnes and her older sister Elizabeth, 17, were scholars at a private school run by Elizabeth Farendon in Marleybone, London.

By 1861, Agnes was back in Glasgow and living with her brother Andrew in their parents’ home at 4 Park Circus.

Agnes married Robert Jarvie, an East India merchant on April 30, 1863.

(Elizabeth had married Robert’s brother John three years earlier.)

Robert was a partner in the firm of Jarvie, Thornburn and Co, in Shanghai, China and the London and China Telegraph reported that Mr and Mrs Robert Jarvie were due to travel out to Hong Kong via Bombay on a P&O steamer leaving Marseilles on November 5 that same year.

Sadly, Jarvie, Thornburn and Co. went bankrupt in 1866 and Robert died midway through the proceedings in Shanghai. Agnes did not remarry and returned home to Scotland.

By 1911, she was boarding at the Queen’s Hotel, Penzance, with her brother William.

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She died on February 6, 1923, and was buried alongside her husband, Robert, and ‘dear friend and devoted maid’ Frances Mary Collins at the Glasgow Necropolis.

Portraits of both Agnes and Elizabeth, which were painted by John Graham Gilbert, are now in Glasgow Museums’ collection.

It is impossible to know what she is wearing on her feet in this portrait, but hopefully it was these beautiful slippers – after all, if one has to sit for hours having one’s portrait painted, one might as well be comfortable….

Look out for more Tales from the Wardrobe in Times Past soon.