Blast from the Past – Beveridge Park Kirkcaldy Postcards –

Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy is a lovely park which was designed and built in Victorian times. They usually involve a lot of land and land being so expensive nowadays they’re a thing of the past, but apparently if you live near one it makes your home much more desirable. We used to live a two minute walk from this one so whenever I came across old postcards of Beveridge Park I snapped them up for my album. This blogpost will probably only be of interest to Langtouners – natives of Kirkcaldy in Fife, or people who know and love the park.

Beveridge Park Gates, Kirkcaldy

The postcard below is of the long gone bandstand, it’s such a shame that most of these elegant bandstands were ripped down, mainly in the 1960s and 70s I think. Possibly some were demolished during the World War 2 scavenge for metal for the war effort.

Beveridge Park bandstand

The next postcard is of what we have always called the duck pond, but I see that it is described as ‘the lake’ on the postcard, it hasn’t changed much.

Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy

The following one shows the original layout of the formal part of the park.

Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy

This last postcard is the only one which has actually been postally used and it bears a postmark – May 12 08. So it’s 110 years old. The bottom part of the photo looks very different nowadays because there are enormous trees there now.

Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy, Fife

Mauchline ware

After yesterday’s blogpost about Clark’s and Coats artificial silk thread, I was surprised that some people didn’t realise that those very successful companies had begun in Paisley in the west of Scotland. Paton’s and Baldwin’s wool and Anchor embroidery thread also hailed from Scotland, but I’m not sure if those companies became well know outside Britain. Like so many other things the manufacturing seems to have been moved abroad in recent years to cut costs.

Anyway, I used to collect Mauchline Ware, another Scottish invention, if you can call it that. Originally they were mainly small boxes made from good quality boxwood. These were produced for tourists so they have a huge variety of places printed on them, many castles of course and big houses, sometimes a view of a whole town or a bridge. With the coming of trains and the consequent opening up of the country, people were able to travel around as they never had before and they wanted to take a souvenir home as a reminder of their travels.

Mauchline Ware Collection

The manufacturers often decorated their wares with tartan paper, the boxes have several layers of varnish on them to protect them. When ferns became wildly popular in Victorian times they were used to decorate the goods. Of course Victoria and Albert started the craze for all things tartan and when Albert died Victoria went into mourning forever more and I think that is when Mauchline ware began to appear in black.

Originally made in the small Ayrshire town of Mauchline in the 1820s, other places in that area got in on the action, but the last of Mauchline ware was made in 1933. By then they had expanded their repertoire and made all sorts as you can see. Sewing things were popular – pin cushions, needle cases, thimble cases and crochet hook cylinders. Glove stretchers, egg cups, money boxes, napkin rings, glove boxes, watch stands, rulers, page turners, whisky glass cases – you name it and they made it.

As so many sewing related articles were made adverts for Clark’s thread and similar things began to be inserted inside the boxes, as you can see from the photo below.

Mauchline Ware Sewing Related

A huge fire at the last Mauchline ware manufacturers in 1936 put an end to the production, but so much of it was made that it’s easy to find at any antiques fair and sometimes charity shops.

They also put foreign tourist spots on their wares – such as Bunker Hill and the Champs-Élysées and sent them abroad for sale in America and France. Germany nicked the idea and made similar objects but these are easy to recognise as the quality is so poor compared with Mauchline ware. The German wood is pine and much rougher looking and the scenes depicted aren’t nearly so well defined.

You can see more images of Mauchline Ware here.


North Cascade and Tower, Empire Exhibition 1938
Tower of Empire

I suppose that everyone in the UK anyway has heard of The Great Exhibition of 1851 which took place in the Crystal Palace in London. Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert had a lot to do with it, in fact just about everything which I’ve ever seen which was bought as a memento of that Exhibition has been made in Germany so I think that it was a cunning wheeze on his part to boost manufacturing back in his own country, he was a manipulative chap. I wonder what the English people of the day thought of that? I think that Exhibitions/Festivals/World’s Fairs were held to help boost the economies of the places they took place, I’m not sure if they were ever successful in that though. They certainly seem to have fallen out of favour now as the last such event in Britain was of course the Festival of Britain in 1951 and that was held partly to celebrate 100 years since The Great Exhibition.

In between those two events we had Empire Exhibitions, one in 1924, the Wembley Empire Exhibition and one in 1938 which was the Glasgow Empire Exhibition. It was that one which kicked off Jack’s interest in such things because the focal point of it was the Tower of Empire, a wonderful Art Deco structure postcards of which you can see above and to the right. Sadly it didn’t have much of a lifetime because the following year at the beginning of World War 2 it was taken down. An urban myth said it was thought it would be too much of an easy aim and signpost for enemy bombers but in reality, in wartime no one had time or money for its upkeep.

The great thing about the Empire Exhibitions was they were a chance for all the countries of the Empire to showcase their wares and culture. All of the countries had their own Pavilions so you could go and get a flavour of places on the other side of the world without having to do the travelling.

I’ve become a bit of an inadvertent expert on Exhibitions due to Jack’s interest in them and I must admit that I love the old postcards, especially if they have actually been used and posted. It’s great to get a glimpse into people’s lives and what they were doing all those years ago, apart from being at the Exhibition. The post card below is of the Scottish Avenue at the 1938 Empire Exhibition. There were two Scottish Pavilions! As you can see.

Scottish Avenue, Empire Exhibition 1938

It was a big marketing opportunity and all sorts of tourist tat was made but over the years they take on an aura of nostalgia and become collectables like the tin below which presumably had toffees in it.

Tin Sovenir of Empire Exhibition 1938

I plan to show more old postcards and memorabilia from this and other Exhibitions in the near future in my Blast from the Past category. The Great Exhibition, Empire Exhibition 1924 (and 1925!) the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition, 1939-40, and the Festival of Britain plus more such as the North East Coast Exhibition, held in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1929 and other Glasgow and Edinburgh Exhibitions. Oh, and the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908, the Chicago World’s Fair (A Century of Progress) 1933, The New York World’s Fair 1939 and 40, The Great Lakes Exposition, The Texas Centennial Exposition and so on.

I hope you’re going to be interested!

In the meantime here’s a very Art Deco bowl made by Carlton Ware and sold only at Treron’s Department store in Glasgow in 1938.

Carlton Ware Dish, Empire Exhibition 1938

Fry’s Chocolate Box

You know that phrase ‘it looks chocolate boxy’ – people usually say it when they mean that something is too pretty or twee. Anyway, during the packing which is still going on here, prior to the ‘flitting’ on Friday, I came across this old chocolate box from around about the 1930s I think.

I found it in Great Aunt Jenny’s house after she died and we had to help to clear it out as she had no children. She had obviously thought it was too pretty to chuck out and used to keep some of her sewing threads in it.

It’s a 1lb box and it says on the side that it was made by J S Fry and Sons Ltd, Somerdale, Bristol, England.

I had no idea that they made chocolate in Bristol, I had always just assumed that all the chocolate in Britain was made in the York and Birmingham areas.

During the house packing I’ve realised that we have at least four generations of ‘stuff’ in our house, and that includes the books, we’ve lost count of the number of boxes of books which we’ve packed up, some of them were Granny Deighton’s school prizes but a lot more were Grandad Deighton’s, and even Great Grandad Besford’s books (which have his name inside in beautiful copperplate script) are being humphed to our new place. I just can’t get rid of them although I’ll never read them as the print is teeny.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting some photos of some of the period features of the house which has been our home for the past 26 years, just so that we can remind ourselves of what the place was like.

Ingliston Purchases

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had bought some 1930s pottery at the Ingliston antiques fair – stuff which I need like a hole in the head, especially as we have too much to pack up already. Anyway, by popular demand – here’s a photo of the things which I just couldn’t resist. If you hate them, just say as I do – each to their own!

I think I’m going to use the Sanderson fabric (Jubilee) in the background to re-cover an old screen which I have, eventually.

Townend, near Grasmere

It seems a long time since we were at the Lake District, in fact it was Easter but I haven’t got around to writing about it all. This is Townend which is an English National Trust property in the Lake District. It was quite a scary drive there, very twisty turny narrow road and at that time of the year there was still a lot of snow at the edge of the road, making it even narrower.

Townend House

As you can see, there are lots of books in this old farmhouse.
Townend, Lake District

In fact I believe there are about 1331 books in the collection. Sadly you can’t get near enough to them to see the titles. Have a look here if you want to see what there is in the house.

Townend, Lake District

I had to take a photo of the family samplers as I’m into that sort of thing and it’s nice to see them hanging where they were actually embroidered.

Embroidery samplers

And the photo below is of the adjacent farm, as you can see it’s still very much a working farm, set in lovely countryside, a great area for hill-walkers.

Lake District farm

Scottish Pottery and Robert Burns

I can hardly believe that it’s that time of the year again – Burns Night that is. I’ll spare you the sight of my dinner this year, we’ll be having the less traditional vegetarian haggis, neeps (turnip) and tatties tonight. Not because we’re vegetarian but because it’s tastier than the offal/awful! version.

I thought it would be nicer to let you see some very old Scottish pottery, the sort which would have been recognised by Robert Burns when he was around and imbibing a fair quantity of whisky, which he seems to have been quite fond of.

toddy bowls 1

As you can see, it’s fairly chunky stuff, the large bowls are called toddy bowls and they measure about 10 inches across the top of them so they can hold a lot of toddy in them. Toddy is of course a mixture of whisky, sugar and hot water, for me it’s the only possible way of enjoying whisky, but I haven’t had it since I was a child when my dad used to make it for me if I had a bad cold or toothache.

I took this photo to try to show you that they are also decorated inside. The jugs are actually two different designs but they’re quite similar as you can see. One design is for wine and it has vine leaves on it, whilst the beer jug is decorated with hop leaves and flowers. The pottery is at least 150 years old but this sort of pottery was made for a long time, it could be a lot older, and the bowls would originally have been sold in pairs, people used to have one at each end of a long table or sideboard. The small two handled pewter drinking vessel is a quaich, the ‘ch’ pronounced the same as in the word ‘loch’. It’s a reproduction one.

Scottish pottery toddy bowls 2

The top left hand toddy bowl has very large pine cones in it which make the bowl seem really small. My favourite bowl is the bottom left hand one, I love the design but it has been in the family since it was new which makes it more precious to me.

Have a listen if you want to hear David Rintoul reciting the Burns poem: –

Scotch Drink

Well, are you any the wiser? Burns didn’t write many short poems, I know that because I looked for one when I had to choose one to memorise for reciting at a Burns competition when I was at primary school. The town’s Burns Society held a competition every year and all schoolchildren had to take part in it. I ended up reciting this one.

“John Anderson my jo, John”
By Robert Burns

John Anderson my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw,
but blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither,
And monie a cantie day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo!

I didn’t win. Jack did win though, but he was in a different year from me and he recited To A Mouse. What did he win ? I hear you ask. A volume of the complete works of Robert Burns of course – he still has it.

Sentimental Jewellery

Georgian sentimental brooches/pins

Unfortunately I haven’t mastered photographing things that flash back at you but I thought you might be interested in seeing some old hair jewellery which I’ve inadvertently collected over the years. I say inadvertently because I never set out to collect stuff, I bought one because it was pretty, historical and of course a bargain. Then at some point I repeat the experience and this is the upshot.

If you read classic literature you’ll have read about such things and although in Victorian times mourning jewellery was very popular because of Victoria’s penchant for remaining in deep mourning for her Albert, people also used hair as love tokens, which is what these teeny brooches were originally.

They are only about half an inch or an inch at most in length and they would have been used for attaching a piece of lace to a neckline which is why they’re often called lace pins, or sometimes women used them for attaching ribbons to bonnets. If you look carefully you can just see some of the hair which is woven into a design and placed underneath the glass front. The metal frame is probably just a cheap version of gold but it looks like the real thing and you can tell the early Georgian ones by the length of the pin, they always protrude quite a bit over the end of the brooch frame. Sometimes they have inscriptions on the back and dates, presumably celebrating a wedding or engagement.

I love them because they’re so wee and perfect and part of history, although I’ll never know the story behind any of them I know that the hair inside was snipped off in a moment of high romance and I hope that things didn’t go downhill after that!

As you can see I’ve pinned these ones to a piece of padded velvet and put it into a frame which had no glass. It’s an easy way of displaying brooches or just keeping them out of harm’s way as things tend to get damaged when they are all jumbled up together in jewellery boxes.

Next time I’ll show you some Victorian mourning jewellery which like most things from that era is built on a larger scale, and the hair is twisted into very ornate patterns. I’ll have to practice with my camera first.

Mind you hair jewellery does tend to freak some people out, I have no idea why that should be because it seems that a large proportion of women are walking about with other women’s hair attached to their skull – now that would freak ME out!

Christmas card writing

I couldn’t put it off any longer so I just had to get on with writing the Christmas cards or else I would have been drummed out of society! It’s not so much the cards that take the time but all the wee letters that I have to include to the people that I owe letters to. I know some people do those Round Robin things but I really don’t like receiving those myself so I wouldn’t send them. Anyway, now I just have to get to the post office early tomorrow and send them off.

I thought you might like to see these original Christmas cards from the 1950s. They turned up in the store room of a local print works which was closing down, so they are unused.

I toyed with the idea of sending them to people but then decided that as they aren’t glossy and glitzy like modern cards they probably wouldn’t be appreciated. So they’ve been added to my collection of old postcards, and things that other people probably wouldn’t give house room, but I find interesting. Anyway, I think they have olde worlde charm.

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to reading this book. I have seen the film and I really enjoyed it. I read The Wyoming Stories and liked those so when I saw The Shipping News at the library book sale the other week, I just had to buy it.

Am I glad! I really loved this book. It’s one of those ones that you don’t really want to come to an end. As the book was first published in 1993, everybody else has probably read it by now, and will know the storyline from the film anyway. But if you’ve only seen the film then I advise you to read the book.

The only thing that I didn’t like about it was the amount of fish that people seemed to eat in Newfoundland. I suppose it is inevitable that the diet would be heavy on fish, but COD CHEEKS, really – it made me feel quite sick at the thought. I’m really not keen on fish. The other thing was that Quoyle chucked a hair brooch which had washed up on the beach back into the sea. He was revolted by it. I have a collection of hair brooches!

I’m wondering if anyone can answer this question for me.

Chapter 14 is called Wavey. It begins:

In Wyoming they name girls Skye. In Newfoundland it’s Wavey.

I understand the Wavey bit of it. But why are girls in Wyoming called Skye?

Is it because the skies in Wyoming are really BIG and they just stick an ‘e’ on the end for some reason – or what?

In Scotland Skye has become quite a popular name for a girl but that is because parents, for some reason have decided that it is a good idea to name their daughter after the Isle of Skye.

When I was young people called their dogs Skye, especially if it was a West Highland terrier (Westie) – or ankle biter as they are known in our family.

Anyway, that’s me going way off at a tangent again.

As I said, I loved the book and the film. It’s definitely one for re-reading. Although Kevin Spacey looks nothing like the description of Quoyle in the book, I think he was really good in the part.

The Shipping News won The Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The Irish Times International Prize and
The National Book Award.