Kirkcaldy’s Heritage in Fifty Objects

This blogpost is very parochial, being about the history and heritage of Kirkcaldy in Fife, a nearby town.

To mark the 50th birthday of Kirkcaldy’s Civic Society they have decided to choose 50 objects that relate to the town and its history/heritage, hoping to stimulate memories in readers which might lead to more information being gathered, information which might otherwise have been lost. You can see some of the ‘objects’ here, so far only 16 have been written about, but I know that the Spanish Civil War memorial just off Forth Avenue will be featuring in the list at some point in the future. That memorial has been on my mind somewhat recently as I’ve just finished reading Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit and obviously George Orwell was influenced by his experiences in that war. You can read Jack’s old blogpost about the memorial here.

I only have a few Kirkcaldy objects in my own varied collection of ‘stuff’. Actually I have quite a few old postcards of Beveridge Park, some of which you can see here. Below is another one which sadly is postally unused, but is of interest to me anyway because of the clothes.

Waiting for the Boats in Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy

The Mauchline money box below has an image of St Brycedale Free Church, Kirkcaldy. This church is still in use but is now called St Bryce Kirk. In the past the politician Gordon Brown’s father was the minister of this church.

Mauchline Ware Box, Kirkcaldy Subject

A walk in Balbirnie, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Path, Fife, Scotland

Just for a change – and a bit more exercise – one morning last week we walked the long way back home after picking up The Guardian from the shop. It was a quieter walk than usual. Join me for a wee ‘daunder’.

Balbirnie Path, Fife, Scotland

I think the photo below is of a Russian Vine or ‘mile a minute’ which is its common name, it does grow incredibly fast.
Russian vine, Balbirnie Park, FifePlant 1

We chose the path that leads past the old stable block which has been converted into flats, the building looks quite smart at the moment I think – both halves of it.

Balbirnie Stable block ,Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Stable block , Fife, Scotland

Taking a steep path we could look down on some of the trees, it was a really hot day – by our standards, so it wasn’t a comfy climb.

Balbirnie trees, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Trees, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Trees, Fife, Scotland

As we drew closer to Balbirnie House Hotel we could hear a piper doing his thing, but surprisingly there was no red carpet so presumably there was no wedding, maybe he was just practising.

Balbirnie House piper, Fife, Scotland

Today we heard a piper and Jack spotted him standing underneath trees at the back of the hotel, sort of surreptitiously. I had to laugh as there’s just no way you can play the bagpipes by stealth!

Armchair travelling – St Monans, Fife

One hot afternoon last week we went for a drive along to the East Neuk of Fife, starting at the village of St Monans. Below is a photo of St Monans kirk with some beach explorers in the foreground. If you look closely you should be able to see the ancient sea worn steps that lead up to the church. Presumably in years past some people did sail there to the church service. For many it would have been a lot easier than tackling roads which would have amounted to little more than tracks.

St Monans Kirk, Fife, Scotland

The teazles and geraniums right above the beach were looking great. It’s surprising how much salty atmosphere some plants can put up with.

St Monans flowers , Fife, East Neuk

St Monans flowers , East Neuk, Fife

It was a sparkling day, too hot for us at around 70F, but I still didn’t fancy my chances in the Firth of Forth/North Sea, far too cold without a wet suit on.

St Monans, coast, Firth of Forth, Fife

Further along the coastal path you reach a windmill which was used in the salt making industry which went on by the edge of the water, there are only indentations left in the grass now, all the buildings having been washed away by the sea years ago I suppose.

St Monans Windmill, Fife, East Neuk

There is a rather primitive outdoor swimming pool in the photo below. It has been cleared out recently by some local people as the council had stopped maintaining it, so I was pleased to see that it was actually being used by a brave soul. The straight edge is the swimming pool edge, it’s much longer than the usual length of a swimming pool. I would drown before I reached the far end of it as I’m not a great swimmer!

St Monans rocks and pool , Fife

The rocks above the beach are interesting looking, to me anyway. I need a geologist.

St Monans rocks, Firth of Forth, Fife

St Monans rocks, Fife

As the school holidays have already begun in Scotland there were lots of people about so I didn’t take any photos of the old fishing village of St Monans but if you want to see some images look here.

The only photo I took at the nearby village of Elie was of the ancient doorway below. It’s a pity that the stonework is so worn as I think the carving would have been interesting.

Doorway Elie, Fife

Firth of Forth at Aberdour, Fife

Earlier in the week we drove to the very historic wee coastal village of Aberdour, just for a change of scenery. If you look carefully at the photo below you’ll see there are stone steps which have been cut into the rock years ago, but they have almost been worn away by the daily batterings from the Firth of Forth on its way to the North Sea.

Aberdour Rocks, Fife

I was standing on the beach at Aberdour when I took these photos and if you click to enlarge you will be able to see Arthur’s Seat, the Salisbury Crags and the smaller lump of rock to the right is Edinburgh Castle. In reality you can see it fairly clearly from the Fife side of the Forth.

Firth of Forth, Edinburgh

The large building at the far end of the photo below is a hotel, well it used to be but it may not be now. There were actually a couple of women swimming in the sea, I think they must have had wet suits on though as it’s absolutely freezing and it wouldn’t take long for hypothermia to set in. There weren’t many people around though so it all felt very safe.

Firth of Forth, Aberdour beach, Fife

I should have taken a photo of the houses at the edge of the beach but I didn’t, however you can see them in the background of the photo below of Jack and our friend who had never been to Aberdour before. There are some lovely houses there but they would be very expensive as Aberdour is an easy train journey from Edinburgh.

Maureen & Jack

But Maureen thought that this quaint wee house below on the town’s High Street would just do her fine! Do you ever pick out a favourite house when you visit a new place?

Quaint house, Aberdour, Fife

There are lots of images of Aberdour here.

Seals at Seafield, Firth of Forth, Kirkcaldy, Fife

One lovely afternoon last week we drove to the beach at Seafield, part of the Fife Coastal Walk. This cormorant was drying its wings in the sun. The concrete blocks are the remains of some of the World War 2 defences which thankfully were never tested, but you can understand that people would be worried about a Nazi invasion back then.

cormorant , Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Firth of Forth, Fife

red rocks, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife, Firth of Forth

red rocks, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Firth of Forth

If you click on the photo below you should be able to see the seals that were basking on the rocks. They blend in very well and I didn’t even realise they were there until I heard them mooing.

seals, Firth of Forth, Kirkcaldy, Seafield

There are lots of them on the rocks in the photo below. When we walked past them about ten minutes later some of them were still sticking to their little patch of rock, despite it almost being covered by the rising tide.

seals , Firth of Forth, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife

I don’t know how people walking on the coastal path could disturb seals, anyway obviously it isn’t a good thing to do as it uses up a lot of their energy if they are frightened off their rocks before they’re ready to swim again.

Do not disturb seals, Seafield, Kirkcaldy

Seals, Seafield, Firth of Forth, Fife

Seals, Firth of Forth, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife

It seems that you’re never very far from a ruin of some sort in Scotland and the one in the photo below is what is left of Seafield Tower which has been ravaged by the North Sea over the years. It’s in a very poor state now, it was built around 1542.

Seafield Tower, Kirkcaldy, Fife

After our wee walk we were too hot to do anything else, such as go to the shops or around the park, but it was nice to have a change of scenery.

Fife Folk Museum – Ceres

Last summer we visited the Fife Folk Museum in Ceres for the first time, it’s a hop and a skip from where we live and it seems that we all tend to overlook those nearby places. I had been under the impression that I had already blogged about it, but it seems that blogpost didn’t get further than inside my head! It’s just a wee museum but is still worth a visit. I presume that most of the exhibits have been donated by locals.

Interior

Interior, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

Cottage Room

Cottage Room, (Kitchen off,) Fife Folk Museum

Cottage Kitchen. I really like those lipped boards that women used for rolling out their pastry, it would have kept all the flour and mess to a small area instead of it flying all over my worktops.

Cottage Kitchen, Fife Folk Museum

Horse Tack

Horse Tack, Fife Folk Museum

Toys
Toys, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

Doll’s House, Pram and Dolls. I must admit I fancied that doll’s house, not for playing with, just to admire it.

Dol's House, Pram and Dolls, Fife Folk Museum

Baby Carriages

Baby Carriages, Fife Folk Museum, Ceres

The Corn Dolly Coronation Coach and horses was made by a local, it has survived really well. Obviously when we were there in the summer the popular cafe wasn’t open, due to Covid restrictions but I have seen it packed with people in the past when we visited the village so maybe we’ll go there sometime when/if everything is back to normal.

Corn Dolly Coronation Coach Fife Folk Museum

Balbirnie Woodland, Fife, Scotland

No matter how lovely a place is, if you walk in it every day it tends to get a wee bit boring, so yesterday we decided to walk through the Balbirnie Woodland for The Guardian, rather than skirting it as we usually do. I decided to take some photos. There’s a burn/stream in the photo below but it has been so dry recently and it’s so low, it’s difficult to spot.

Back Burn, Balbirnie, Fife

Back Burn , Balbirnie, Fife, Scotland

Back Burn, Balbirnie, Fife, Scotland

If you look between the rhododendrons below you should be able to see a cute wee bridge.

Back burn + bridge, Balbirnie, Fife

It was a lovely and unusually calm day, I’m not so keen to walk through so many trees when it’s windy as there are always branches being blown down, or even whole trees!

Back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

Back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

I spotted some people riding horses in the distance and managed to snap them, they were comfortably far away. I’m not so happy when they are just right on your toes and you have to turn aside to let them past. They can be very nervous.

horses, Balbirnie woodland, Fife

Back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

It’s all quite a contrast to the shaved turf of the golf course which we passed on the way into town. It’s a pity that these places are so artificial and steeped in chemicals to ‘improve’ the grass, but there are some great trees on the course, so it’s not all bad.

Balbirnie fairway, Fife, golf course

Balbirnie fairway, Fife, golf course

I hope you enjoyed our walk on the wilder side of Balbirnie estate. It was a bit longer than usual, but a nice change.

Springtime walk – daffodils

Daffodils , Balbirnie

Over the past week my morning walk for the newspaper has been brighter and sunnier than usual. It’s the daffodils that are doing it. The poor things have been taking a wee bit of a battering from the wind, but they’re tougher than they look.

Daffodils, Balbirnie

These ones are at Balbirnie, a place that has become a lot busier since lockdown!

Daffodils , Balbirnie

The Gates of Eden by Annie S. Swan

The Gates of Eden by Annie S. Swan was first published in 1893. This book is seen as her most successful one I believe and it was an interesting read for me as almost all of the action takes place within a couple of miles of my home. Unusually the author didn’t change the names of any of the villages involved in the tale. The main setting is a hamlet called Star which Annie S. Swan had moved to when her husband got employment there as a teacher in the wee school. They only lived there for two years, it must have been a bit of a culture shock for them as they would have been used to Edinburgh and Star was really at the back of beyond comparatively.

The story begins with the death of a young woman who has just given birth to twins, both boys. Before she died she asked her husband to make the eldest boy – Alexander (Sandy) a minister when he grew up and he was determined to keep his promise. The result was that Sandy was put above his younger brother James who was destined to help his father on the farm and was very much overlooked by everyone. Nobody seemed to realise or care that James was also talented and had dreams of his own, farming was drudgery to him, he wanted to be a writer. When Sandy left to go to St Andrews University James was deeply unhappy, especially as Sandy had always just taken for granted that he deserved the best things in life.

As you would expect Sandy had grown into a really self-centred snob with money and status being his god, which isn’t great for someone who is going to become a church minister, but James who has spent his time reading widely such people as John Stuart Mill, has turned into a really thoughtful, decent and compassionate human being. Still his father doesn’t appreciate James and it’s their Aunt Susan who has cared for the twins since their birth who eventually sees James’s worth.

This is a book very much of its time with a Christian slant but not overly preachy. The lessons are many – stick in and hard work will pay off, everyone deserves a second chance, don’t be a miser or proud and materialistic – forgive.

Locally Annie S. Swan is a bit of a heroine here for putting such small places in Fife on the map back then, but in truth, if you read her memoir as I have she was quite disdainful about the two years she and her husband lived in the area, but as she said – at least she got two books out of it.

There is a lot of Scots dialogue in this book, I can only surmise that back then readers were less easily put off by that, now many readers would find it too difficult or annoying to read. Interestingly despite the fact that there’s much mention in the book of the broad Fife speech it actually isn’t a Fife dialect, so perhaps the author couldn’t cope with that herself.

Inverkeithing, Fife

Way back in February 2020 when there was talk on the news of an imminent lockdown we drove to Inverkeithing for a bit of a rake around at an antiques/secondhand shop which is housed in an old cinema.

After that we decided to have a bit of a walk around the historic parts of the town, knowing that it would be quite some time before we were able to stray from home again, mind you I never thought it would be more than a year! You can read about the history of the town here.

The two photos below are of Fordell’s Lodging.

Old Building Inverkeithing

Old Building, Inverkeithing

It’s thought that the town dates from as far back as Roman times in AD 83, but the first church was built around AD 400. There was a Franciscan friary which would have been used as an overnight stopping off place for pilgrims on their way to St Andrews. There are quite a lot of ancient buildings still standing in the town. Sadly one very interesting looking building is standing empty and unused, but another one has been converted into flats which should stop it from deteriorating.

The photo below is of St Peter’s Kirk.

Inverkeithing Church

Marriage lintels are a tradition in Scotland, especially in the east, with the initials of the bride and groom being carved into the lintel with the date of the wedding in the middle. This one is on Thomsoun’s House, 1617, it’s a bit fancier than most of them.

A Marriage Lintel, Inverkeithing