A topic covered before, but worth revisiting, is the intricately designed house by James Campbell Walker shown above. It is Bourtree Brae House on Crescent Road in Lundin Links. It is now fairly well disguised with its large extension to the right and porch around the front door, however, many of the original features still remain. Lots of information about the building of this house is included in the 1868 book entitled "Villa and Cottage Architecture: Select Examples of Country and Suburban Residences Recently Erected" published by Blackie & Son. Below are the relevant pages from the book. It's fascinating detail on what was one of the few houses built under the stalled Standard Life development scheme of the late 1850s.
This wonderful painting by James Riddel R.S.W. (1857-1928), entitled "Auld Reekie from Largo", features the view from an elevated position close to Largo Station looking down over the roof of the Railway Inn to the Net House (surrounded by drying fishing nets) and beyond to Edinburgh. It's an unusual perspective of a familiar place, so to help with interpretation of the painting there is an annotated sketch of the same view below.
The features numbered above are:
1. The Net House 2. Demolished House (see below) 3. Largo Harbour
4. Railway Inn 5. Station Wynd House 6. Bridgend House
The 'demolished house' is the dark coloured one to the left of centre in the background of the George Washington Wilson photograph below. Remains of the old wall can still be seen but the site is now used for sitting and enjoying the view (see present day image below).
Returning to the Riddel painting....it featured in the reprint of a book 'Traditions of Edinburgh' by Robert Chambers (published in 1868). Within this book is a reference to the origins of the name 'Auld Reekie', as follows:
"This highly appropriate popular sobriquet cannot be traced beyond the reign of Charles II. Tradition assigns the following as the origin of the phrase : An old gentleman in Fife, designated Durham of Largo, was in the habit, at the period mentioned, of regulating the time of evening worship by the appearance of the smoke of Edinburgh, which he could easily see, through the clear summer twilight, from his own door. When he observed the smoke increase in density, in consequence of the good folk of the city preparing their supper, he would call all the family into the house, saying : 'It's time now, bairns, to tak' the beuks, and gang to our beds, for yonder's Auld Reekie, I see, putting on her nicht-cap!'"
The previous post touched upon the early history of the village of New Gilston. The above 1930s view of the village shows the Post Office on the right foreground looking west. The Post Office was at the centre of a tragic incident back in 1953. On Saturday 22 August that year a Gloster Meteor aircraft, which had taken off from RAF Leuchars only ninety seconds before, crashed into the Post Office in the early morning around 6 am. The pilot was instantly killed. He was 21-year-old Flying Officer David Ernest Rock (born in Lichfield, Staffordshire in 1932). Amazingly, no one on the ground was seriously hurt.
The jet which crashed had been flying with a second plane and both had begun to descend from 2000 feet, thinking they were over the sea. In fact they were over the highest village in Fife. The lead aircraft saw ground and pulled up striking some trees and eventually returned to base. The second jet struck the upper storey of the Post Office building and broke up. Occupants of the building, Mr and Mrs Andrew Laing Ramage, had been asleep on the ground floor at the time.
Wreckage was strewn about the village, the blast broke several windows, live ammunition was scattered about, the school roof was damaged and a neighbouring cottage had its chimney knocked off the roof. Andrew Ramage described how he and his wife Christina initially thought that their house had been struck by lightning. When the roof collapsed they were immediately covered in plaster and could not speak for the dust in their mouths. First they tried to get out of the door that led to the shop but found that it was blocked with rubble. Instead they made for the front door but could not get past the flames, so finally they smashed a window in order to get outside, with help from lime quarry worker Alexander Barclay. Their only injuries were cuts from the broken window glass. The only possessions they had left were the night clothes they were wearing.
All but one of the local phone lines was taken down by the accident. The school house line was still intact and was used to call the fire brigade. Engines came from St Andrews, Cupar, Methil and from R.A.F. Leuchars. Mrs Christian Randall, who lived at the school house with her two children took in the Ramages and they three are shown in the photograph below. Firemen recovered very little from the site - only some charred bank notes, some blackened coins and an intact case of 12 bottles of whisky.
On the Monday, Mr and Mrs Ramage moved into a nearby cottage and their friends and neighbours rallied around to provide them with clothes, furniture and bedding. Their shop delivery van survived and was out delivering newspapers as usual the day after the crash - driven by a friend. The image further below shows the destroyed Post Office and workers clearing the crash site. Mr and Mrs Ramage took some time off to recover from their ordeal (which had come only months after they had lost their only son in a motor accident at Teasses Toll). The Post Office eventually moved to the other end of the village, where it was run by a Mrs Winton.
Sources: Dundee Courier 24 August; Fife Herald 26 August; St Andrews Citizen 29 August; Aberdeen Evening Express 22 August
The 1920s painting above is "Cottages at Largo" by the Scottish colourist George Leslie Hunter. It is owned by Perth and Kinross Council and resides at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Although the title is vague, it clearly features 'Dunkirk Cottages' in Mill Wynd, Lundin Links. The recent photograph above of the same view shows that, a century on, the structure of the main building has not really altered. However, the buildings to the right in the painting have now gone. They were part of 'Paradise Place', which was demolished in the 1960s.
Dunkirk Cottages (also known as Dunkirk Place or simply Dunkirk) date back to 1720 and would originally have had a thatched roof. It can be seen below from a different angle, with 'Paradise' to the left). George Leslie Hunter captured many similar scenes of cottages in Fife, as he spent a significant period of his later life in the county. He was also a prolific painter of Lower Largo (the pier, beach, viaduct, etc). He died in Glasgow in 1931.
The photograph above shows the house originally built as the U.P. Manse on Woodlands Road in Lundin Links. This substantial house, built from local stone, dates back to 1851 when it replaced the old manse at 21-23 Main Street in Lower Largo. The Fife Herald of 9 October that year reported on the laying of its foundation stone (see below). The newspaper piece also provides some context to the new build. The congregation had experienced a difficult spell "during a protracted vacancy" and now were grateful to have Reverend Thomas Sommerville in post. Sommerville had come to Largo from Bankfoot in Perthshire. In addition to the provision of a new manse, in November of 1851 the "ladies connected with the United Presbyterian Church...presented the Rev. Mr Sommerville with a very handsome pulpit gown and cassock, together with a few volumes of books...in testimony of their respect and esteem for him as their pastor" (13 Nov Fife Herald). Moreover, in May of the following year the same paper reported that the U.P. congregation had "lately considerably improved the interior of their place of worship, by re-seating it in a more comfortable and commodious manner".
The mid 1850s map below (with the manse right in the centre) shows that when first built, the house had generous grounds. At that time, the only other buildings on Woodlands Road were those at the far west on the north side. There was no development on the south side of the street. The railway line was not in situ at the time of the manse's completion but it would not have been long before the Sommerville family witnessed the construction of the line from their windows.
Once the railway opened, Woodlands Road (then referred to by locals as 'Back Braes') was used as a short cut to get to Largo Station, walking over the viaduct. The railway fully and officially opened on 11 August 1857. By this time Rev. Sommerville was already in poor health and on 1 September that year he died aged 48 at the manse. Tragically, his youngest son was less than a month old at the time of his death. He and his wife also had several other young children. His widow, Isabella Fyfe, must have been able to remain in residence at the manse for some time after her husband's death, as on 14 March 1858, her seven month son also died there.
In the meantime, the congregation appointed a newly qualified young minister - Rev. David Hay - who did not live in the manse. However, within a year Rev. Hay had died from tuberculosis - passing away in St Andrews at the age of 27 on 9 April 1859. The young people of the church arranged for a large marble tombstone to be erected at his resting place in St Andrews Burying Ground. Later that year (on 29 October) the Fife Herald noted that the congregation of around 180 had "been supplied with a succession of preachers" but were "without a settled minister". However, that was all about to change.
Late in 1859, David Malloch was called to Largo from a position in Greenock. On 13 March 1860 he was "ordained to the pastoral charge" of the U.P. congregation. The 22 March Fife Herald noted that he was the ninth minister of the church, noting that although "one laboured among them 22 years, and another 38 years, the pastorate of many of them was short and some of them only a few months". David Malloch remained in post and in residence at the manse (with wife Christina and their children) until his death in 1896 and during his tenure the new 1871 church building replaced the old church.
Early in 1897, Rev. George R. Atkinson succeeded Rev. Malloch and remained in post until 1919 (during which spell the church became a United Free Church). From 1919 until 1925 Rev. George A. Charlton was minister and resident of the manse. He was followed by Rev. J. Stewart Rough (1926-1932), Rev. David A. Dick (1933-1947), Rev. John Graham (1948-1956), Rev. George Watt (1956-1963), Rev. Angus H. Haddow (1963-71), Rev Thomas J. Dyer (1972-1979) and Rev. James Mackenzie (1979-1987). Upon the retirement of Rev. Mackenzie, the house was sold by the Church of Scotland, ending its long period serving as a manse.
The building at the right in the above photograph is 'Craigiebank' or 'Craigie Bank' in Lower Largo. The name is taken from the Craigie family that lived on the site during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Craigies were predominantly hand loom weavers and the plot that Craigie Bank was built upon was probably used as a bleaching green. The last of the family was weaver Janet Craigie, who died unmarried in 1881 at the age of 85. The informant of her death was neighbour and master joiner Andrew Blyth Masterton. The son of weaver George Masterton, by the age of 20 Andrew was a carpenter. It seems likely that Andrew Masterton was involved in the construction of Craigie Bank. He was its first owner and the Mastertons owned the property and others nearby for many decades.
Having married Margaret Thomson of Perthsire, Andrew Masterton's first child, Catherine, was born at 'Marine Villa' (the house immediately east of Craigie Bank) in 1873. By June of 1877, Craigie Bank was advertised for let (see 29 June Scotsman above), as was Marine Villa. So it would appear likely that Craigie Bank was built between 1873 and 1877.
In 1881 Andrew Masterton (then described as 'master joiner employing 2 men and 4 boys') was living at Craigie Bank with his wife Margaret and daughter Catherine. Ten years later the three were still recorded as living at Craigie Bank but Andrew was now noted as a 'retired joiner', aged 50. In the 1885 valuation roll Andrew was listed as proprietor of ten properties in Largo Parish - including the Belmont Hotel (perhaps he was involved in building that) and Westhall on Station Road in Lundin Links.
By 1901, all three plus Catherine's husband John Clayton and their infant daughter were at neighbouring 'Craigie Cottage', while Craigie Bank was unoccupied. At this time Andrew was described as 'formerly builder'. By 1911, Catherine and her family had moved to Fort WIlliam but parents Andrew and Margaret were still at 'Craigie Cottage'. Andrew died in 1913 and his widow became proprietor of his properties. In 1920 a number of the houses were advertised for sale (see below from 20 March Scotsman), including Craigie Bank.
Some time between 1885 and 1891, Craigie Bank became known as 'West Craigiebank' and 'East Craigiebank' (or Craigiebank No.1 and Craigiebank No.2). Perhaps the east side added as an extension to an original symmetrical house. It certainly looks like a possibility from the image below. Note also that the cottage listed as number 3 for sale above is 'The Anchorage' (the low house to the left of Craigiebank) which was let to Rev. Pulford of the Baptist Church for many years.
Johnston Wright Swan was born in 1859 in Edinburgh - the son of Janet Wright and George Swan (baker and refreshment room owner). In the 1881 the family were at 'John Knox Coffee House' on Canongate (Royal Mile). A few years beforehand the establishment had caused some controversy when it was reported that "a vandal of a coffee-house keeper who has taken a portion of the house facing the Tron Church has, in glaring black letters on a white ground, painted "John Knox's Coffee House." (The Graphic, 19 Aug 1876).
Aged 21 by the time of the 1881 census, Johnston - the eldest in the family - was a pastry baker at his father's bakehouse, while 15-year-old brother George was a junior baker there. Following the death of George senior, early in 1887 at Sugar House Close off the Royal Mile, Johnston and George junior took over the family business interests between them. Johnston married Mary Brown Wright later the same year, in Dumfries. In 1891, the pair and their two daughters (Janet and Mary) were living in East Adam Street.
By 1901, Johnston was described as a 'cook and confectioner' at the 'University Hotel' on Chambers Street. The entries above from the 1902 Post Office Directory show the brothers' various establishments in the capital. Throughout this period, over many years, Johnston was competing in prestigious bakery competitions including the "Scottish section" of the annual "Bakers' and Confectioners' Exhibition" at the Agricultural Hall in London. An example of the many newspaper accounts of Swan's success is shown below (from 9 Sept 1909 Scotsman).
The 1911 census found the family living in Priorwood House - a Georgian country house in Lasswade, while running multiple business premises in Edinburgh. In 1913 daughter Mary Wright Swan married Hugh Percival (Inspector of the Poor in Largo) and they lived at East Rose Villa in Lundin Links. Once their daughter was firmly settled in Lundin Links and the once the Swans had sold a number of their business interests in Edinburgh, Johnston and Mary Swan also moved to the village.
They ran the Victoria Boarding House in Lundin Links from circa 1923. At that time it incorporated a bake house. Then around 1928 they purchased Bellville on Emsdorf Street and soon set up the shop in the front of this house. It would seem that the bakery element of their Lundin Links business interests shifted from Victoria Road to Emsdorf Street and the boarding house was styled more as a hotel. The hospitality at Swan's Victoria Hotel must have been quite something - with a baker/confectioner/cook/restaurateur at the helm. And his talents did not end there, for Mr Swan was also a musician. The article below from the 4 Feb 1928 Courier tells of him entertaining as a one-man band!
The advert below advertises the Emsdorf Street bakers and highlights Mr Swan's fine baking pedigree of more than forty gold and silver medals and cups, as well as giving special mention to the wedding cakes for which he won so many of these prizes. There must be folks out there whose forebears celebrated their marriage with a Swan's cake - how wonderful it would be to see a photograph of one! How fortunate the people of 1920s Lundin Links were to have a baker in the village so experienced in 'fancy cakes'.
By 1935 Mr and Mrs Swan had moved back to Edinburgh and he had presumably retired. Johnston Wright Swan died on 2 Dec 1943 at Spring Gardens, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh at the age of 84. The registration of his death shows the informant as Hugh Percival - his son-in-law and also the registrar of Largo Parish (then residing at Crawford Cottage in Lundin Links).
Many thanks to Bleu Ciel Photography for these stunning aerial views. The above image looks across Lundin Links and Largo, looking towards Largo Law and Kincraig Point. While not a 'vintage' view, seeing the villages in a wider context is thought-provoking. The focus of the main developed area is around the water feature of the Keil Burn and the harbour where it flows into the sea. Wooded areas follow the routes of the Hatton and Keil Burns and the trees of 'Fir Park' really stand out in the centre.
In the foreground above, the westward expansion of Lundin Links fans out from the historic core of Lundin Mill. Meanwhile, the image below features the old heart of Drummochy on the left and Lower Largo on the right. The more modern housing, including Station Park, appears beyond the viaduct and trees, while the newest housing (still under ongoing construction) Of Selkirk Grove can just be seen to the right of that. Upper Largo can be picked out in both images, on the southern slopes of Largo Law. All three villages have grown and developed significantly over the decades. What development might follow in the years to come?
Bleu Ciel Photography - click here to visit page
This sketch appeared in the Dundee Evening Telegraph on 5 May 1903. However, I suspect the sketch was done perhaps around a decade before that date, as there is no development on the south side of Crescent Road. It likely dates to a similar era to the photograph in an earlier post - click here.
The article that accompanies the sketch describes how the "Leven and Lundin Links are held on lease by the three local clubs - Innerleven, Thistle, and Lundin - the proprietors being Sir John Gilmour, Bart. of Lundin and Montrave, and Mr R.M. Christie of Durie. The three clubs have equal right to the privileges of the course, and a Committee of two from each Club constitute the Board of Management, with the indefatigable worker on behalf of Thistle, Mr J.T. Ireland as Secretary."
The piece goes on to describe each hole on the course, as it was then, by name and in some detail (a topic for a future post). A visitor could buy a monthly ticket for 6s. The course record was 74 - held by David Kinnell. Memberships were 200 for Innerleven, 500 for Lundin and 650 for Thistle (1350 total). It's also noted that "a two-inch waterpipe runs the whole length of the course, and the greens are not allowed to starve for want of refreshing moisture. Three men are constantly employed on the links."
The houses shown in the background of the image are accurately drawn. From left to right these are: 'Fir Park'/'Braddan' (now 5-7 Crescent Road); 'Elphinstone'; 'Melville Cottage' (now Old Calabar); School and Schoolhouse; 'Bayview Cottage' (now Oldfield) and 'Murree Lodge' (now Glenairlie - No.23). Interestingly, the latter house looks quite different today. The sketch shows a much smaller, symmetrical home. Since then Glenairlie has been significantly extended to the left. The stretch of Crescent Road shown dates back to the years immediately following the opening of the railway (and the stalled attempt to expand the village by then owners Standard Life Assurance Company). These houses were once referred to locally as "The Cottages".
The open ground upon which the golfers are practising would soon be developed - with a road constructed alongside the new house named 'Norvil' (see here for a later image of the same area). The 'fashionable' nature of the village and the building of proper services and infrastructure meant that the expansion of Lundin Links really took off in the years that followed.
The splendidly-dressed group shown above (in the early 1900s) look all set for the beach, with their dog, model boats and buckets and spades. The group are standing outside what was then known as '1 Seaview'. This house is now 57 Main Street in Lower Largo. It's well-known nowadays for its ornate gates and porch, plus its distinctive garden sculpture 'Malagan' (added a decade ago). 'Seaview' originally comprised the row of terraced houses between the White Cottage corner and Bass House (see image below). These houses predate the former shops on the opposite side of the street by a couple of decades at least. In the early 1860s the owner of Seaview was retired gamekeeper Thomas Henderson.
Although the house has changed paint colour, had a few artistic additions and lost its metal railings, it can still be identified by the window layout and the pattern of stonework on the frontage. Who the beach goers in the old image are is unclear but it would seem likely that they were summer visitors rather than residents, given that they had this photograph made into a postcard and posted this copy off to Wales.
This blog is about the history of the villages of Lundin Links, Lower Largo and Upper Largo in Fife, Scotland. Comments and contributions from readers are very welcome!
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