The silver vesta case shown in the image above was one of the prizes given for the competition played on the newly opened Lundin Ladies' Golf Course on Tuesday 12 June 1894. This was the not the course we know today incorporating the Standin' Stanes but the one at Sunnybraes (now part of the main Lundin Golf Club). The piece from the 22 June East of Fife Record below describes the event in some detail, as does the Fife Free Press article from 16 June further below.
The reverse of the vesta case (made by Sampson Mordan and Co of London) is shown below. It is engraved with the words 'Lundin Links Ladies Golf Club June 11 1894' (although the competition appears to have taken place the day after this). It was won by James Wilkie of Leven. James Wilkie was a master builder (like his father George Wilkie before him). Between them, father and son were responsible for many notable landmarks in the area. George was involved in the building of the original Bawbee Bridge at Leven as a young man and James was builder of Linwood Hall. James is pictured at the foot of this post with his wife Mary on the occasion of their diamond wedding in 1938 (2 July Fife Free Press). He died the following year at the age of 85.
Following last year's centenary of Armistice, we continue to pause on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day to remember the fallen, including those from Largo Parish. Below are a couple of newspaper clippings from 1946. The first, from the Leven Mail of 13 November details the Poppy Day collections carried out in the area. The second is a notice for the Remembrance Day service at Largo Parish Church from the previous week's paper in 1946.
This year marks 100 years since the first two-minute silence was observed on Armistice Day - 11th November 1919.
On this day in 1911, the Norwegian schooner 'Rap' of Stavanger was wrecked at Lundin Links during a storm (see photograph above from the Fife News Almanac 1912). The 'Rap' had been bound for Dysart from Grangemouth in ballast but before reaching the harbour there had put two crew ashore to get a pilot. Meanwhile the wind and sea rose to such an extend that neither the pilot nor the two sailors could leave shore. The Rap had to let down anchor for the night. While it held fast all through the night, on the morning of Sunday 5th November around 9 o'clock her moorings broke loose and she began to drift along the Forth.
The Dysart harbourmaster telegraphed the Buckhaven lifeboat coxswain and the Fife Free Press of 11 November reported:
"As the vessel drifted past Wemyss, Buckhaven and Methil, thousands of the inhabitants went to the beach and ran along the shore in line with the vessel to witness her running ashore. Eventually she came ashore near Largo Harbour. The rocket apparatus, under the charge of Leven Coastguards hurried to the scene and were successful in establishing communication with the vessel.
Only the Captain and the ship's boy were left aboard, and the lad, after an exciting struggle, was safely brought to land but the skipper refused to leave the ship in spite of the appeals of the Coastguards. Buckhaven lifeboat came on the scene and stood by for nearly two hours. The vessel began to make water badly but though swept for hours she held together. Later, however, she was brought ashore."
As the piece below from the same newspaper noted, the storm had been the worst in many a year. An image of the 'Rap' in full sail is shown further below.
The 'rocket apparatus' mentioned in the newspaper report above refers to when a rocket was used to fire a rope line from the shore over to a stricken boat. Once the line is caught, a pulley system can be set up to transport crew from the boat back to land. The image below shows such a system in use.
As Halloween approaches - a couple of appropriate local tales from the past....
Bats have long been associated with Halloween. They are, of course, nocturnal creatures. They leave their daytime roosts when the sun sets. Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' suggests that vampires are able to morph into bats (a small number of bat species worldwide are blood feeders). A more natural association with Halloween is related to the bat life cycle. They can swarm in the months of September to November as they look for mates and increase food intake ahead of hibernation. Below is a local bat-related story featured in the 17 March 1868 Northern Warder. On this occasion, bats were coming to the end of their hibernation period at Balcruvie Castle - now known better as Pitcruvie Castle .
Moving forward in time to the 10 November 1943 Leven Mail (below) - a war-time Halloween party provided Polish visitors with a taste of some of the Scottish traditions associated with the celebration - including a bit of a dunking in water it would seem!
The above postcard image shows the Lundin Ladies Golf Club House on the left and the Greenkeeper's House on the right. The latter was built in 1911, the year after the official opening of the course. The Club House had of course been moved to its present position in late 1909 from its original site at the main Lundin Golf Club (where it was first constructed in 1897). The image pre-dates the upheaval of the Second World War when the War Cabinet instructed that portions of golf courses had to be leased to increase food production. By special arrangement, the Ladies Club gave up more than its quota (two thirds of its area) so that the main Lundin course could remain intact. The much reduced course comprised six holes with the added feature of some grazing sheep (which both supported food production and kept the grass short at at time when there was little fuel for green keeping).
During this period the greenkeeper was Jimmie Imrie who worked for thirty years for the club from the mid 1920s. When he joined the Auxiliary Fire Service full-time in 1941, his father Robert Imrie took over green keeping, while Mrs Imrie looked after the club house and the role of starter. Robert had been manager to George Bell at Lundin Mill Farm. When Jimmie returned to post after the war, he set about the restoration of the course, including re-seeding and the re-laying out of the lost greens, tees and bunkers. As the book published for the club's centenary by Alan Elliot said of Mr Imrie:
"He was an excellent worker, conscientious and thorough. When it is realised that he put the course back from its wartime ploughing to its former state almost single-handed, it may give some idea of what he did. He worked with the minimum of equipment....a spade, a shovel, a barrow, a roller, an elderly tractor and mowers of great age: an awesome lot of effort. He achieved much in a remarkably short time after the war, and overall he provided the club with a course again when it mattered most."
The full course was officially re-opened on 22 July 1948 with the event shown below (advert from Leven Mail) which was both a competition and a green keeper's benefit (in recognition of Imrie's huge efforts). A similar event (for the both the benefit of the green keeper and for course improvements) was repeated the following few years. Jimmie Imrie left the post of green keeper in 1956 and died in 1985 aged 79. Eddie Wilson was green keeper in the late 1950s and between 1960 and 1978 Andrew Latto carried out the role.
Gunnar Mauritz Belfrage was born in Gothenberg in 1887, son of architect August Wilhelm Belfrage (1841-1909). In 1904, aged 17, he came to Scotland, where he was initially an assistant with the firm of Gjertsen and Bruce ship chandlers in Methil. In 1909 he spent some time in Germany before returning to Sweden to train as a masseur. In 1915 Gunnar returned to Scotland and worked in hospitals in and around Glasgow. During his time there he married Inez Maria Soderberg in 1919. They had three daughters while living in Glasgow - Ingrid born in 1920, then Signe in 1922 and Asta in 1923. Soon afterwards the family settled in Fife.
In 1926, Mr Belfrage was appointed German Missionary at the 'Deutsches Seemanshaus' (pictured below in its heyday and in more recent times) on Durie Street, Methil. This job was to act as a pastor to the many German-speaking seamen that would have come in and out of Methil docks - a post he remained for around a decade. The German Seaman's Mission was built in 1900 to provide religious services for the increasing number of German seamen visiting the port. The piece below from the St Andrews Citizen of 21 April describes its dedication. The first missionary appointed was a Herr Johannes Voss. The mission was suspended during the First World War and closed permanently in 1939. Gunnar Belfrage was mentioned many times in the local press during his time as missionary - an example of this from 1 February 1930 Fife Free Press is further below.
By 1936 the Belfrages had left Methil and were pursuing other interests, while based in Lundin Links, as the adverts below show. Mr Belfrage advertised his massage therapy in the Fife Free Press of 14 Nov 1936, while Mrs Belfrage was listed in the MacDonald's Directory of 1939-40 as a confectioner. They supplemented these activities with the 'Tea Gardens' at their home, Imrie Cottage on Emsdorf Street (the premises that formerly hosted Andrew Thomson's baker shop). The advert at the top of this post for the tea gardens appeared in the 10 June 1936 Dundee Evening Telegraph.
Tea Gardens were a popular concept in the early decades of the last century (and before). A couple of examples (not local) are illustrated below, where folks have basically turned their own garden into an al fresco cafe serving home-baking and drinks. In the 1930s when Lundin Links was very much still a fashionable summer resort, there would have been no shortage of potential customers for such an enterprise - especially on Emsdorf Street - a key route between the hotel and boarding houses of Lundin Links and the pier and beach at Lower Largo.
Belfrage's Tea Gardens seem to have been short-lived however as by 1940 the Belfrages had moved to 'Sandilands' on Leven Road in Lundin Links. They stayed there until the autumn of 1946 when the couple left Scotland to return to their homeland of Sweden. Inez died there in 1968 while Gunnar died in Stockholm aged 87 on 12 December 1974.
In addition to his many paintings of Largo, George Leslie Hunter also produced many sketches of the area. Lots of his sketches were recognisable scenes of the beach or still existing buildings. However, the one shown above focuses on the Pier Pavilion with little contextual background. It would have been a familiar scene at the time but now only those aware of Largo's local history would know what and where this is. The pen, ink and coloured crayon drawing is named The Pierrots, Largo and dates to 1923.
This drawing was purchased by the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow for its permanent collection, along with two others
(Fife Landscape and Largo Harbour). As the book 'Hunter Revisited' by Smith and Marriner states:
"The Pierrots is one of a series of drawings Hunter did of the open air theatre near Largo jetty. Since his days in San Francisco he had maintained an interest in the theatre, as much as anything for its colourful spectacle. The Pierrots at Lower Largo staged a popular form of vaudeville entertainment for summer visitors; often Hunter depicts scenes of the audience milling around, capturing on paper the causal seaside atmosphere."
This is the striped 1920s version of the pavilion (see photograph below). The pavilion changed in appearance a few times in the decades that it graced the pier. At the foot of this post is another Hunter sketch of a similar scene. In this one, the pink cloud suggests an evening performance as the sun sets. I wonder whether the pier could ever witness such scenes again....
George Hunter was a Scottish painter - one of the Scottish Colourists - whose work was characterised by the bold use of colour and loose brushwork. He was born on 7 August 1877 to Rothesay chemist William Hunter and his wife Jeanie Stewart. He was their fifth child. George spent the first fifteen years of his life in Rothesay, where he developed a passion for drawing from a young age. Early in 1892, two of George's older siblings died while still in their early twenties. Later that year, William, Jeanie and their three surviving children emigrated to California. They initially settled on an orange grove 50 miles east of Los Angeles, where they enjoyed the change of climate. Two or three years later they moved to the city but in 1899 all except George returned to Scotland.
George moved to San Francisco, where he began using the name 'Leslie' for the first time. There he became a member of the bohemian community of artists, writers and poets. His earnings from work as an illustrator for magazines and books paid for a visit to Paris in 1904. This trip inspired him to try his hand at oil painting. Back in San Francisco, in 1905, he compiled a portfolio of work to be exhibited the following year in what would be his first solo exhibition. However, this would never come to pass, as all of his work was destroyed by the fires that followed the 1906 earthquake in the city.
This was a disaster for Hunter and led to his return to Scotland. He settled in Glasgow later in 1906 but continued to make visits to France from time to time (except during the First World War when travel was restricted). Hunter developed a group of friends based on the east coast of Scotland, who introduced him to Fife. The county's rural architecture and colourful landscapes became an important source of inspiration to him. Ceres and Lower Largo in particular were favourite haunts. In a letter to one of those friends Hunter wrote "Fife is ever a delightful thought on my mind with its beautiful valleys and villages".
In the book 'Hunter Revisited' by Bill Smith and Jill Marriner it states:
"The little town of Lower Largo provided another favoured painting ground for Hunter. This tiny stretch of the Fife shoreline - its cottages and large, square granary block (now part of the Crusoe Hotel) backing in to the sea, its sandy shore dotted with large outcrops of rock, its jetty and small harbour at the mouth of the Keil Burn and people enjoying the sea air - provided a constant source of challenge for Hunter."
The painting above is 'Summer's Day, Lower Largo' dated 1921 which depicts a bustling beach scene. Below are a few examples of the many artworks that survive by Leslie Hunter depicting Largo (more to appear in future posts).
Above is 'Cottages and Landscape, Fife' dated 1923-24, which is in fact Drum Lodge looking east.
Above is 'Largo, Fife' (undated) showing Main Street, Lower Largo, looking east where Horne's Buildings now stand on the left and the right turn at White Cottage is off picture to the right.
Above is 'Largo Harbour' dated 1925.
Above is 'Figures on the Pier, Largo' undated.
Above is 'Mill, near Largo' dated 1924, depicting the flour mill at Lundin Mill - not far from another of his subjects, Dunkirk Cottage.
Above is 'Cottages Under a Railway Bridge' (1924) featuring the railway viaduct, cottages and the oil and cake mill.
Above is 'Boats, Lower Largo' dated 1926, looking west from close to the Orry.
So it was the early to mid years of the 1920s that Hunter frequently visited Largo. This was the same period of his life that he became increasingly associated with the other three Scottish Colourists: Samuel Peploe, Francis Cadell and John Duncan Fergusson. There were also trips to mainland Europe throughout the 1920s. In 1929, while in the French Riviera, Hunter suffered a breakdown and was brought back to Scotland by his sister to recuperate. Despite a period of recovery, his health deteriorated soon afterwards and he died in 1931 in Glasgow aged 54. Exhibitions of his work continued after his death and his art still commands huge interest today.
Ebenezer Coutts was born on February 1744 in Tillicoultry to Robert Coutts and Elizabeth Thomson. Coutts came to Largo in the 1760s and on 20 December 1769 he married Magdalene Lundin, who was the seventh child of James Lundin and Magdalene Condie. The Lundins were living in Drummochy before Ebenezer Coutts arrived there and owned the salt works and associated collieries. It may have been that Coutts initially came to Largo to work for James Lundin. However, several years after arriving in Largo, Coutts became factor to the Earl of Leven.
This was the era of the 6th Earl of Leven, David Melville, shown in the images above. Note that this was still a time when men wore coats, waistcoats, breeches, stockings and buckled shoes (and wigs for formal occasions). The 6th Earl was born in Leven in 1722 and died in 1802 in Edinburgh. Among Ebenezer's duties as his factor were to continue the overseeing the salt works at Drummochy (where he also lived), paying and overseeing other estate workers, showing lands to let, managing sales of the produce of the estate (including sea marle, flax, salt and coal) and arranging shipping out of the 'Port of Drummochy'. He would also have collected proceeds from estate sales and kept accounts . At some point Coutts also become Bailie in Drummochy (i.e. a civilian officer who administers the law at a local level). This is mentioned in the excerpt below about his wife from the 'History of the Clan Lundy, Lundie, Lundin'. The record of their marriage is also shown below.
In 1771 Ebenezer and Magdalene's first child Robert was born in Drummochy and was baptised on 30 August 3 days after his birth. He was named after his maternal grandfather Robert Condie. His uncle Robert Lundin, a 'Sailor in Drumochy', was present at the baptism (see baptism record below). Daughter Magdalene was born in 1733 (died 1819) and then Elizabeth in 1775 (died 1794).
Living at Drum Lodge from around 1799 and possibly closer to Drummochy Harbour prior to that, Ebenezer was perfectly positioned for his role as Overseer for the Drummochie salt works. The advert below from Caledonian Mercury of 21 March 1774 shows him as contact for any Master Salter of good character looking for employment. Records were kept on the character of salters due to the temptation to illicitly draw off salt during the manufacturing process in order to sell on this highly valued and taxed commodity on the black market.
The adverts below from the 19 July 1775, 3 April 1776 and 12 June 1779 Caledonian Mercury detail the trade in 'Shell-Marle' which was used as a fertiliser and was "handled with more ease and less risk then limeshells". Soil fertility was an issue at this time and shell marle was recommended for overused and depleted soil. However, its prolonged use, without stable dung also being applied, was later found to push exhausted soil beyond repair, leading to the phrase "marl makes rich fathers and poor sons".
Ebenezer was also involved in 'flax raising' as can be seen from the list below of premiums charged to those involved in this industry across Scotland (12 Dec 1785 Caledonian Mercury). He is listed fourth from the top right along with three other Largo men. Also below is the list of those charged 'horse tax' in 1797, with Ebenezer Coutts appearing seventh on the list and as having one horse.
Ebenezer Coutts lived out the remainder of his life at Drum Lodge (pictured above). By the time of his death there on 17 December 1822, aged 78, he was a widower with no surviving children. His wife Magdalene had died in 1810. His son Robert had died before that in 1803 aged just 31. Robert became Reverend Robert Coutts, and was a minister in Brechin at the time of his death. Prior to becoming a minister, he had for a spell held the chair of Mathematics at St Andrews University. Latterly, Robert had suffered from consumption and came to Largo shortly before his death to visit his father and for a change of air but passed soon afterwards. A man of notable intellect, a book of his sermons was published posthumously and he was still being talked about 70 years later when the Brechin Advertiser (28 October and 18 November 1873) printed a two-part appreciation of his life (excerpt of which is shown below).
A silhouette image of Robert appears in his book of sermons and is shown at the foot of this post. Silhouette or profile portraiture was the popular way to recreate an image of a person before the invention and widespread use of photography. Robert left behind a wife (Janet McCulloch, daughter of a Dairsie minister) and an infant son named Ebenezer. Six months after his death, his daughter Magdalene was born. Sadly his young son died in 1805, aged 3 years, at Dairsie Manse. His daughter survived into adulthood but died young, like her father, of consumption. A section from the sketch of Robert's life confirms that both root and branches of the Coutts family were now ended.
Drum Lodge is situated on the south side of Drummochy Road facing the sea. A 'category B' listed building since 1984, its listing describes it as follows:
Late 18th/early 19th century, 2 storeys and attic 3 bays with late 19th century rear wing and alterations to south front. Harled mainly with painted margins. South front ground floor alterations comprise central door in moulded and segmentally pedimented doorpiece, flanked by canted windows with balustrades. Some 12-pane glazing remains. Straight skews, end stacks, slate roof. Rear wing with gabled dormerheads.
Unsurprisingly, the origins of Drum Lodge are linked to the adjacent former salt pans at Drummochy. Salt works overseer and factor to the Earl of Leven, Ebenezer Coutts, was the building's first occupant. It was probably built in the late 1700s and its original name was 'Drummochie House' (see 1850s map below). It was suitably positioned between the salt pan house (later a joiner's workshop) to the west and the salt girnel (later known as the Net House) to the east by the harbour.
In addition to the handy location, the house's extensive view of Largo Bay would have proved useful to the first occupant Ebenezer Coutts in his wide-ranging role as factor to the Earl of Leven (more on that in the next post). Coutts died in 1822 and, for a spell after that, Cupar-born George Miller seems to have occupied the house. In 1856 'Drummochy House' was put up for sale (see advert below from 13 March Fife Herald). Note the 'well-stocked garden' and the 'Park of Land' that would later become Drum Park.
John Anthony Macrae bought the house and it soon became known as 'Drum Lodge'. Macrae was a Writer to the Signet (solicitor) based in Edinburgh. He had an interesting background - more of which another time. The house was likely used as a summer residence. Macrae had got to know Fife in his student days at St Andrews University. The imminent opening of the railway line would have been another factor in his purchase. Note also the mention of the house's outbuildings in the advert below - the gig-house, stable and barn. These 'offices' are shown in the image further below, prior to their conversion into a dwelling a few years after this black and white photo was taken in 1975.
When John Macrae died in 1868, his son Colin George Macrae (also a Writer to the Signet) took over ownership and retained it for the next three decades. As well as no doubt using the house as a summer residence, he often rented it out for long periods. Fellow Edinburgh solicitor, Fife-born David Lyell, was resident for a spell in the late 1890s. Macrae sold Drum Lodge to Andrew Peebles in 1899 - see snippet below from the Dundee Advertiser of 11 October.
Peebles had bought the property as an investment. As he was still working at the Duke of Northumberland's Albury estate, he rented Drum Lodge out. Around 1902 to 1904 the Paxton family (later of Homelands) lived at Drum Lodge. Their two middle daughters of four were born at Drum Lodge: Margaret Baird Paxton on 17 February 1902 and Isabella Carse Paxton on 22 June 1904. The Paxtons then moved to Elphinstone on Crescent Road in 1905 before purchasing Homelands in 1908. In 1908 at Drum Lodge the extensive grounds were developed, when Walter Horne erected two terraces of houses at Drum Lodge - known originally as 'Drum Lodge Park', it is now simply 'Drum Park'.
The next tenant was Mrs Isabel Anstruther Thomson, widow of Colonel John Anstruther Thomson of Charleton and Carntyne (who had died in 1904). She was at Drum Lodge through the 1910s with her daughter Rachel until her death in 1918. Proprietor Andrew Peebles had died in 1912 and so Drum Lodge ownership had passed to his widow Phoebe. She continued to own and rent out the house. Miss Rachel Anstruther Thomson was tenant until 1923 when she married Michael Willoughby Gordon-Cumming and settled in Crail.
Around 1924 William Kidd Ogilvy Shepherd purchased Drum Lodge from Phoebe Peebles. He was a solicitor based in Leven - a partner in the firm of W. & J. Ogilvy Shepherd. Among his many roles and interests, he was for many years Secretary of Lundin Golf Club. He was also a founder of Leven Rotary Club and a leading member of the Lundin Amateur Dramatic Society. When he died in 1941, aged 52, Mrs Shepherd remained at Drum Lodge. However, in 1951 the house was up for sale once again (see advert below from 4 September Dundee Courier). Note how by this time the house had been 'completely modernised' boasting such features as a 'heated towel rail'. The garden remained 'exceptionally well-stocked' and had a 'heated greenhouse'. The house began a new chapter and its story continues to this day, more than two centuries after it all began.
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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