Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, Fife

On a lovely blue sky day in mid August we were in Dunfermline doing mundane but necessary domestic stuff, but when our wandering took us down to that dip and turn in the High Street which leads to the grand entrance gates of the Pittencrieff Park, we decided it was too nice a day to walk past them. I didn’t have my camera with me so the photo below is from the Wiki page.

Pittencrieff Park gates

So I was only able to take some photos using my phone, which isn’t great but better than nothing. As I recall – it was the day that Fife schools began again after the six weeks summer holidays and as ever Jack was particularly happy that day as he is now retired from teaching! Below is a photo taken from the park of the botanical glasshouses with Dunfermline Abbey and the Palace ruins in the background.

Dunfermline Palace and garden from Pittencreiff Park

The hanging plants looked luscious and I wish I could get mine to look half as good. I think I need to do a lot more plant feeding than I have been doing.

Pittencreiff Park gardens, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

arch Pittencreiff Park, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Through the archway are some of the formal gardens.

Arch Pittencrieff Park,  Dunfermline

formal gardens, Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, Fife

apath through Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline

From part of the park you can get a good view of Dunfermline Palace ruins.

Dunfermline Palace and Abbey

There’s a very good website here called The Castles of Scotland and there’s lots of information on the abbey and palace if you’re interested.

If you look carefully at the photo below you will see more or less right in the middle of it the three white looking sort of pyramid shapes which are the cable supports of the new bridge over the River Forth, the Queensferry Crossing.

Queensferry Crossing  Bridge

If you happen to be in Dunfermline it’s definitely worth having a wander around their unusually central Pittencrieff Park. The land for it was gifted to the town by Andrew Carnegie, the town’s most famous son and if there was ever going to be a patron saint of libraries it should be him as he financed so many of them.

Library Closures in the UK

You might know that in Fife there has been a campaign to keep libraries open, sixteen of them were singled out for the axe. The campaign has failed as although the closures have been postponed it’s only for a short time. One library might have a future but it is all very much pie in the sky at the moment with councillors suggesting that the library could move to a nearby high school. That’s a suggestion that seems to pop up frequently but I can’t see how that can work as schools are not the sort of places that should be open to random people walking off the street into them. The library access could end up being a honey pot for weirdos intent on getting a hold of youngsters for nefarious purposes.

Anyway, it’s a problem over the whole country and not only in the UK. You can read about the occupation of the Carnegie Library in Lambeth here.

Apparently the coucil in Lambeth plan to change the library building into a gym, with a few shelves of books in it, but there will be no librarians on the premises. The books are obviously just a sop to local readers and will be of very little use. Some readers have occupied the building. According to the BBC 350 libraries have closed recently in the UK and 8,000 library jobs have been lost. Andrew Carnegie will be birling in his grave, so if you’re in the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown – that’s what the funny noise is! Honestly, that’s where he is buried, he was in the US when he died, so no Skibo Castle resting place for him. It’s such a pity that he didn’t stipulate that the buildings he donated for libraries must not be used for any other purposes – or maybe he did and they are just ignoring his wishes.

The libraries in Fife are trying all sorts to generate some income, selling bits and pieces, including coffee. But what sort of person thinks that the profit from libraries can be counted in monetary values? Surely the gains are far more important than filthy lucre.

There’s a Friends of Carnegie Library Facebook page which you can see here if you’re interested in seeing how the campaign and library occupation is going.

It enrages me that people who read are always seen as being of no importance compared with others. Why is it seen as being necessary to have a gym in the area? We all know what happens in gyms – some people join in enthusiastically for a few weeks and then never darken the door again. It’s simpler to get fit on your own, just eat less and move more – walk.

I noticed that in the Glenrothes area of Fife the council workers are busy building cycle paths, no doubt at great expense, I’d really like to know how much it’s all costing. I just wish that the library users in Fife had as much get up and go – or should I say sit down and stay – as the readers in Lambeth have.

Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace in Dunfermline

You know what it’s like – you never seem to get around to visiting the tourist hotspots on your doorstep, which is why it has taken us 35 years or so to get around to visiting the wee cottage that Andrew Carnegie was born in. He was of course famous for having made lots of money and using a lot of it to build libraries, often in deprived areas. He was a huge believer in people educating themselves out of poverty through books.

Andrew Carnegie's Birthplace

Above is a photo of his birthplace, two families lived in this wee building. It’s a weaver’s cottage and the loom always took up the whole of the ground floor.

Carnegie Loom

Students from the local college have rebuilt an old loom on the ground floor, just as it would have been in Carnegie’s day as his father was a weaver.

Carnegie Bed Recess

There are two bed recesses in the room upstairs which the Carnegie family lived in. The box beds are built into the alcoves in the wall. It’s a teeny space, cute looking but imagine what it would be like having a family in such a small space, not much privacy that’s for sure.

Carnegie Bed Recess

Carnegie Room

The other side of the room has the kitchen table and a desk in it, all the living and sleeping and eating done in one room. There’s an old sink at the bottom of the stairs and it has been painted black as you can see below. I doubt if it would have looked like this when it was in use, I think it would have just been plain stone. There’s a tap at the left hand side. This would have been regarded as a modern convenience by Carnegie’s family, I’m sure it wasn’t there when he lived in the cottage as it was one of Andrew’s jobs to get the water from a well.

Andrew Carnegie Sink

Below is a photo of the plaque attached to the wall of the cottage. It’s a stone’s throw from the very first Carnegie library, he was keen to show the folks back home how well he had done for himself. Carnegie spent a lot of time in Scotland over the years and he bought Skibo Castle which remained in the Carnegie family until 1982.

Andrew Carnegie Birthplace

The Carnegie family had a hard life and when things got even worse they contemplated leaving Scotland and going to America in search of a better life. Encouraged by relatives who were already there they left Dunfermline in 1847, Andrew wasn’t keen to go apparently and life was even harder when they got to America, especially as his father died not long after they settled there. But Carnegie made the best of it and although nowadays it’s fashionable to call people like him ‘robber barons’ it’s not something I would agree with.

He had a brilliant business mind and at least he did something useful with his money. Some people have said it was pure vanity which made him give so much money away, building libraries all over the place. I just wish there had been more like him in the past, and nowadays it seems to have been left to Bill and Melinda Gates to be philanthropic.

I learned a lot whilst at the cottage, a large extension has been added on to the cottage to house a museum which tells his story. He was at the battle of Bull Run the first battle of the American Civil War, as an observer. Later on though he was able to pay an Irishman to take his place when he was called up. I think Carnegie paid him $960 to take his place, a huge amount of money then, I don’t know if that chap survived the war though.

It was an interesting afternoon out and if you’re in Dunfermline it’s definitely worth a visit – and it’s free!

Andrew Carnegie, philanthropist

The first library that I worked in was built with money donated by Andrew Carnegie who was born in this teeny wee cottage in Dunfermline, Fife which is about 12 miles from where I live. This was originally two cottages, I think he was born in the right hand one.

Andrew Carnegie's birhplace

He made shed-loads of money in America, mainly from steel originally. As he thought that education was so important he set about providing libraries so that poor people could get their hands on books and improve themselves if they had a mind to.

Naturally, the very first place that he wanted to splash his cash was his home town. (Look how well I’m doing folks.)

So Dunfermline has the very first Carnegie Library and I visited it for the first time during the Easter holidays. Actually, it’s a really lovely building, especially inside, much nicer than the one that I worked in.

I wasn’t supposed to be borrowing any books as I have so many in my TBR pile at the moment, but I ended up borrowing the Daphne du Maurier – Rule Britannia and requesting Susan Hill’s – Howards End is on the Landing. There’s a waiting list, I’m fourth on it. I’ll definitely have to set aside more reading time.