This set of four poignant colour photographs show Largo Station mid-demolition back around 1970/71 (can anyone put a precise date on this?). Many thanks to Russell McLaren for kindly sharing these images, which were taken by his father. The family lived overlooking the station and were regular users of the train service. The photographs are taken from Station Park looking towards the sea, with the original 1857 station building in the foreground (partially demolished) and the later 1894 building on the far platform. Prior to demolition, the buildings had been stripped of valuable materials such as the roof tiles. Having closed in 1965 (the final passenger service running on 5 September) the station had sat derelict for a few years. By 1968 discussions had begun on converting the Largo Station site into a car park, with a view to reducing congestion on Main Street. This eventually came to fruition and the car park remains in use to this day.
Below are a couple of images of Largo Station while still in use. Operational for more than a century, the station was once know for its well-kept gardens and attentive station masters - a great facility for locals and the start and end point of many a day trip and holiday. If you have memories or images of the station - please do get in touch. In the next post - details of the demolition of Lundin Links station.
Image above by Stuart Sellar (12 June 1960) - Sent to user by author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19047496
A little photomontage today of Christmas event adverts from back in time. The advert for 'The Law' dates to 1975, while the 'Crusoe Hotel' and 'Admiral's Bell' ads date to 1982. The latter features a rare photograph of the interior of the Admiral's Bell - shown in larger scale below. As with the previous set of adverts, the prices are very appealing!
I adore this photograph, which was kindly shared by a reader of the blog. It features a smiling young girl, barefoot on the pier, enjoying a Largo summer in the late 1940s. Two very well-dressed ladies and a boy are sitting on the side of the pier. There are another eight or so people in the background - many of them ready for a dip in the sea. The tide is in and there is a rubber ring balancing on the wall.
The Crusoe Hotel, which would probably have been full of visitors, has its upper windows open to let in the sea air. I would love to be able to step into this scene and explore the village at that time. If that were possible, then I'm sure I'd be just as happy as the girl in the picture!
Back in 1982, there was a great choice of local places to go for your Christmas meal or party. Here is a selection of adverts that featured in the East Fife Mail in the run-up to the festive season that year. Nice prices too! Did you partake in any of these? More seasonal adverts to follow....
The previous post bid a fond farewell to the retort house of the Largo Gas Works, which was demolished this week. This follow-up looks firstly at the long-gone neighbour to the retort house - the gas holder. It will also touch on some of the uses made of the former retort house once it ceased its original function. The above postcard view shows the cylindrical gas holder sitting to the left of the retort house and above the caravan site. These gas holders were a common sight around the country in the past. The drawing below, produced by John Band, shows how the style of holder found at Largo worked. To see this as a PDF please click here.
The gas holder disappeared from the landscape in the early 1960s, while the retort house lingered for much longer because other uses were found for it. Its original tall chimney was reduced in height early on but the chimney stump can be seen in many images of the building. One of the well-known functions of the building was that it housed the air raid siren on its roof. The 18 November 1939 Fife Free Press recorded the installation of the siren, although plans to site it on the 'chimney stalk' must have changed at the last minute, as it was actually put on the opposite end of the roof (as pictured below - see images before and after the air raid siren was added). The siren was activated via the telephone line of Jean Philp at nearby Mill Cottage. After the war ended, the siren was still sounded regularly for many years to check it was still in working order.
The various uses of the gas works buildings and grounds over the years included fish curing, undertaken by the Melville family. The site was also used by motor hirer John Hay to store his buses. Clunie and Melville the slaters and plasterers also had premises here. Caravans parks have been located on both sides of the retort house over the years. Another well-remembered use of the main building was to garage Douglas Miller's vintage vehicles. The gas showroom and office was converted into a house (named Friday Cottage) around 1965.
The chimney stalk was possibly taken down after damage in the hurricane strength winds of early 1968 as it appears in some late 1960s photographs but is gone by the early 1970s.
Anyway, the site has served the community well over many decades in a range of guises and now it moves on to the next chapter in its history. Five new houses are due to be built here.
If you have a memory of the gas works site and its various uses - please comment.
Note that comments are now easier to make due to removal of the need to prove you are not a robot!
This week saw the demolition of a Largo landmark - the Largo Gas Works retort house. Many were fond of this industrial building, while others found it an eyesore. But over the century and more that it was there, in its prominent elevated position above the harbour and viaduct, it caught the eye of locals and visitors alike. In order to mark the end of its existence, this post will look in detail at the site, its history and the internal workings of the building. The annotated site drawing below and the floor plan and section drawings further below have been created by John Band.
As the first drawing below states, the site for the gas works was selected due to its proximity to the railway station and to the buildings that it was going to supply. The works began operation on 20 April 1909. Remarkably, they only operated as originally intended for approximately 16 years, as around 1925 the Largo operation went into liquidation and was absorbed into its Kennoway-based sister company. The inset advert from the 24 May 1926 Dundee Courier gives notice of the pipe laying work to enable gas to be supplied from Kennoway to Largo.
To see the above site drawing as a PDF, please click here.
If you have ever wondered what originally went on within the retort house and what the process of producing gas involved, then the document below will provide the answers. In order to appreciate the detail within floor plan and section drawings, please open this as a PDF. The Largo operation was typical of small gasworks of the time.
Below is a photograph showing the gas works (partly obscured behind the viaduct) during its short period of operation. This image is pre-1914 as the old wooden footbridge is shown and the existing road bridge is not. The chimney of the retort house is visible in the distance, overlapping with the chimney of the oil and cake (formerly flax spinning) mill which is slightly closer to the camera. Note also the gas lamp visible on Drummochy Road in front of the house to the left of the picture. There is another on the pier.
In the next post there will be some follow-up on the gas works site, including detail on the gas holder that once stood alongside the retort house, the changing uses of the retort house building over the years and the important role that the building played during World War Two - accompanied by some more photos.
With thanks to John Band for the detailed research and content.
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 above excerpt from an 1866 map features the 'Oil Mill Lands' of Largo, including the three key components of the mill featured in the three previous posts. From left to right the three mill buildings hugging the east side of the Keil Burn just as it curves down towards the viaduct are the gasworks/forge; the main mill building (including water wheel house); and the former heckle house building where oil refining took place.
The map gives a good indication of the extent of the oil mill lands and an idea of how important the enterprise must have been to the local area. A significant proportion of the local working population would have been employed there during its years of operation. And periods of closure - temporary or permanent - must have had a big impact on individuals relying on the work. In addition, secondary employment would have been brought about by the mill. A list of suppliers and contractors to the mill has been created by John Band and can be viewed as a PDF by clicking here.
Some of these suppliers were local to Largo Parish. For example, the cleaning of the dam, which was required on an annual basis, was sometimes undertaken by James Anderson. James was born in Largo circa 1808 and at the time of the 1861 census was living in Kirkton of Largo with his wife Ann. His occupation was 'labourer' and his immediate neighbours included a shoemaker, a joiner, a blacksmith and a saddler. As a labourer, James must have undertaken a range of jobs but maintaining the cleanliness of the mill dam must have been a particularly strenuous and mucky job, involving the removal of leaves and other debris and dealing with the build up of deposits.
Brothers John and Alexander Mitchell of Lundin Mill, undertook alterations to the mill buildings. The men - born 1801 and 1807 respectively - were stone masons by trade and were among the six children of Allan Mitchell and Agnes Crawford. Both had daughters employed by another important Largo industry - David Gillies's net factory. Another local stone mason that had worked on the mill building was Alexander Tivendale. His daughters were linen weavers.
Archibald Bremner is recorded as having undertaken joinery work connected to repairs to the mill. In the 1861 census he is noted as a 'carpenter employing 5 men and 3 boys'. Born in Ross and Cromarty, the son of a millwright, Bremner married Elizabeth Orford in Kingskettle in 1851 before moving to Largo shortly afterwards. His daughter, Margaret, was born in 1854 and went on to set up and run the Lundin Links Post Office for many years. Archibald died in 1870, aged only 43.
Samuel Melville was a tinsmith and plumber, born in Haddington, East Lothian. Based for many years at the Shorehead in Leven, at the time of the 1861 census he was noted as employing 4 men and 4 apprentices. He died at his Shorehead home in 1863 - see below from the 30 May Dunfermline Saturday Press.
Finally - for now - the 'cake bag supplier' noted in the list of contractors as 'E. Birrell', could well have been Elizabeth Birrell. She was a linen weaver in Lundin Mill in the 1861 census but a worker in the oil mill in Largo by 1871. Could this unmarried lady have used her weaving skills to make cake bags to supplement her income?
The above image features the bed of the Keil Burn just north of the viaduct at Lower Largo. In the centre, behind the boat, is one of the oldest parts of the Largo Mill complex. Situated to the left of the main mill, this smaller structure once contained a gasworks, forge and cooperage. Following on from Part 1 and Part 2, this third part in a series looking at the mill, turns the spotlight on this building.
Shown below is a floor plan and a section of this structure as it would have been around 1860. The drawings are fully annotated and linked to a description of the process of gas manufacture. To open a PDF document version of the image below, please click here.
The second detailed illustrated document below shows the same building in the top left hand corner - shown in section and in relation to the mill dam and sluice. A plan and further details are also provided on the dam, sluice, tunnel, etc. To open and view this document as a PDF, please click here.
Clearly an operation such as Largo Mill would not only employ a significant number of local people, but would also provide work for local contractors in a variety of ways (note for example the need for regular cleaning of the dam mentioned in the above). The next post in the series will acknowledge some of the local suppliers connected to the mill a century and a half ago.
With thanks to John Band for the thorough research and detailed documentation.
The previous post opened a series taking an in-depth look at the former mill close to the harbour at Lower Largo. This post continues the tour of the site. By the time the above photo was captured in the 1930s - by Cowie the photographer - the building was in a ruinous state. However, its condition allows us a glimpse at the interior of the mill. Note in particular how the water wheel house can be clearly seen on the right hand side of the main building. A plan and section of the water wheel house, as it would have been around 1861, are shown in the detailed drawing below, created by John Band. A PDF version of the annotated drawing can be opened by clicking here.
Looking back at the image at the top of this post, further to the right of the water wheel house, and closer to the foreground, is the former heckle house building. In the spinning mill days, the heckle house was where the first process in the preparation of flax was carried out. However, once the mill had been converted for oil and cake production, this particular building was used to accommodate the oil refining process. The drawing below provides a comprehensive, illustrated explanation of what went on within this part of the mill complex. A PDF of this is available by clicking here. Two further photographs below, show the building in varying states of repair.
In the next post - a look at the building to the left of the main mill - a particularly old part of the site.
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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