Pictured above is Rollo Villa, an imposing three-storey house on the Temple at Lower Largo. This house dates to the early 1880s and is not dissimilar looking to its neighbour to the west, Serpentine Villa. As well as a sea view, Rollo Villa once enjoyed a great view of the railway line to the rear, with steam trains passing just feet away from the back door and garden. The photographs below, kindly shared by Ian Downie, show just how close the railway was to the back porch.
The surname Rollo first appears in Largo in the 1841 census. Sisters Mary and Isabel Rollo were living at the Temple. Mary was married to James Clark Junior, a salmon fisherman. James's mother was Margaret Selkirk. Mary and Isabel had both been born in St Andrews, in 1815 and 1821 respectively. Mary married James around 1833 and Isabel lived with them for a time, working as a hand loom weaver. Isabel later married weaver and salmon fisher David Birrell and lived at the Temple until her death in 1882.
Mary and James Clark had four sons - James, Andrew, William and John - and two daughters, Christina and Mary. Mary Clark (nee Rollo) died in 1873 and James Clark died in 1879. The following year the advert below appeared in the Fife Herald (25 November 1880) where his property was to be sold by public roup in the Crusoe Hotel. The notice describes a "row of small dwelling houses and ground adjoining, well suited for a building stance or seaside villa". It did indeed become the latter.
Ultimately James Clark's son, John Clark, a railway surfaceman, became the proprietor of the new villa built upon the site of the cottages. He named the new property Rollo Villa after his mother's maiden name. He and his wife Elizabeth Elder rented out the flatted property to summer visitors for many years. John Clark died at Rollo Villa in 1913 and the house passed on to his widowed daughter Mary Rollo Todd who had lived with him for some time and who had been married in Rollo Villa in 1890. Mary died in 1935 and the property passed on to her children Alexander and Elizabeth.
Rollo Villa remained in the ownership of the same family until very recently. In the painting above, by John Blair, the rear of Rollo Villa can be seen within a grey and stormy scene. Below are some photographs outside Rollo Villa from the mid-1960s when the Downie family resided in the upper flat and Rollo Villa was owned by David Rollo (whose mini can be seen in one of the photos). One shows Mr Downie working on the retaining wall of the front garden across the road. In the photo of the four male Downie siblings, the neighbouring properties can be seen before the extensive renovation work which makes their appearance today very different.