While researching the history of South Feus, one name that cropped up frequently in the early history of the street was Hogg. Alexander Hogg (1807-1870) was a village blacksmith for many years. He was the ninth of thirteen children of Alexander Hogg (manufacturer associated with the linen trade) and his wife Elizabeth Grieve. Alexander the blacksmith lived and ran his business at the west end of South Feus and round the corner next to the hotel (see 1854 map below where his blacksmith shop is circled). This was an ideal location for such a business - right on the main routes to St Andrews and the East Neuk from Leven and close to Largo House.
With the horse being the essential means of transport, the blacksmith was a key village craftsman. Aside from the manufacture of horse shoes, the blacksmith's forge would produce a wide range of implements for domestic, agricultural and other use. Many blacksmiths were also wheelwrights. Blacksmith's shops often descended from father to son but this was not the case with Alexander Hogg. His eldest and only surviving son, Alexander, had an alternative career in mind. So after Alexander senior's death in 1870, the family premises passed on to his daughter and son-in-law and were repurposed into a joiner's workshop.
Alexander's middle daughter of three (Elizabeth Hogg) married Peter Broomfield the joiner. Elizabeth had left Largo to become a domestic servant (cook) in Edinburgh's New Town and likely met the Midlothian-born joiner during her time there. The pair relocated to Largo and began the joinery enterprise in Kirkton - the legacy of which continues to this day (there is still a joiner's workshop on the site (see image further below)).
So, what path did Alexander Wallace Hogg take? His career choice led to success but took him away from Largo. However, he never forgot his roots. By the time of the 1851 census, aged 16, Alexander was working as a grocer's assistant in Newburgh. From there he went on to serve an apprenticeship with a grocer’s firm in Perth. Later, he was then engaged by the firm of ‘Messrs John Beattie & Co.’ sugar brokers of Glasgow. In 1856 he married Agnes Turnbull and in 1858, he formed a partnership with John Myles to trade as commission and produce brokers. At the time of the 1861 census Alexander was a 'sugar merchant' living in Hospital Street, Govan, and he had two sons, the eldest also named Alexander Wallace Hogg. When John Myles died in 1867 at the young age of 33, the business partnership was dissolved (see notice below from the Dundee Courier of 30 August 1867).
By 1871, the family had grown to six sons and one daughter and they were now living at Elgin Villas in Shawlands and had three domestic servants. Two years earlier, Alexander had created a new firm in the name of ‘Alexander Hogg & Co,’ based at 60 Virginia Street, Glasgow. This firm would become recognised as one the of the most extensive in its dealing in British and foreign refined sugars. In 1872, Alexander Hogg acquired the Dellingburn Sugar Refinery in Greenock and the business was conducted under the firm of ‘Hogg, Wallace & Co.'. The family home in Shawlands was named 'Largo Villa' in recognition of Alexander's birthplace. Now number 1331 Pollockshaws Road, the house as it is today is shown below.
Greenock at the time had a number of sugar refineries. Along with shipbuilding and wool manufacturing, sugar refining was a significant employer in the town. Greenock is the birthplace Abram Lyle of Tate and Lyle - which became the most successful of the refineries. Alexander Hogg's firm was successful too and in 1880 he was able to purchase a beautiful marine summer residence known as Ardenlee set in four acres near Dunoon (see advertisement from 28 April 1880 Glasgow Herald). Just like another 'Largo Villa' owned by a native of Largo, this building later became a care home. In the census of 1881, only the youngest child, Agnew, was at home with Alexander and Agnes at Largo Villa, along with three domestic servants. The older children were all staying at Ardenlee with an aunt and other servants.
Over the years, Alexander hadn't forgotten his family in Largo and the place of his birth remained important to him. In 1872, he presented the congregation of Largo St David's Church (then the United Presbyterian Church) with a bell to hang in the small belfry atop the south gable, upon completion of the new church. In 1879, upon the death of Thomas Hogg of Lundin Mill, he had paid back the amount that the Largo Parochial Board had spent on the care of his late uncle (see piece below from 13 March Fife Herald).
In 1883, and aged just 49, Alexander Hogg died at Largo Villa. Having made the decision to forgo the life of a blacksmith, he succeeded in big business on the other side of the country but didn't live to see old age, as his father had done. On the day of Alexander's funeral, the Greenock Sugar Exchange was closed. Such a mark of respect had never before been paid to a member of the exchange. He had been held in high esteem for his 'probity, urbanity and considerateness'.
The sugar broking business continued to thrive under the management of son and namesake Alexander Wallace Hogg junior. In 1886, Greenock's James Watt Dock opened, providing shipping and shipbuilding facilities including a large warehouse (known as the Sugar Shed - pictured below in recent times) which was used for both imported raw sugar, and refined sugar ready for delivery. By the end of the 19th century, around 400 ships a year were transporting sugar from Caribbean holdings to Greenock for processing and there were 14 sugar refineries.
The younger Alexander Hogg lived at Largo Villa with his widowed mother, and they continued to use Ardenlee in the summer months. In 1889 Alexander was sued for breech of promise by Miss Annie G. Macfarlane. In 1887, he had asked her parents consent to his marrying her and had given her two diamond rings. However, many months later he had broken off the engagement, allegedly damaging her reputation. The newspaper reports of the time tell us something about the lifestyle that Alexander junior led:
"He is very wealthy, and has two pleasure yachts, one of them being about 60 tons; keeps carriages and coachmen; and owns several prize horses."
In the end, the pursuer accepted £1,000 plus expenses to settle the case. On 12 January 1895 Agnes Hogg died aged 66. Soon afterwards, in 1898, aged 42, Alexander junior migrated to Australia, where he remained for the rest of his life. he died in Sydney in 1909. In more than one sense, he ended up a very long way from his grandfather's blacksmith's shop in Largo.