Forty five years ago this summer, an ambitious 10-day event took place in Largo to mark the tercentenary of the birth of Alexander Selkirk (the Largo-born inspiration for the character Robinson Crusoe). The 11 August 1976 East Fife Mail anticipated the event with headlines such as "Days of Fun and Frolic in East Fife" and "Crusoemania Hits the Coast", while informing readers that Crusoe would be seen in Largo once again. The curtain would rise on Friday 13th August with Crusoe stepping ashore at the Pier with "attendant savages". And by 2 a.m. the next morning "the festival will have been well and truly launched at a barbecue followed by a dance" in the Crusoe Hotel.
The programme - which must have been a long time in the planning - can be seen below. After opening with a bang on the Friday evening, the Saturday saw a funfair and vintage car parade and the Sunday a Jazz Band performance and water sports event, among other things. Every day of the week there were activities of all types going on, from a magic lantern show to a Radio Forth Disco, and from a car treasure hunt to Gala Ball. Seaside favourites such as a sand castle contest and Punch and Judy shows were also included. An exhibition of Selkirk artefacts and information was on throughout in the Loomshop Gallery. The grand finale on the closing day was the memorable event of 'Flying off the Pier".
As well as events in Lower Largo, neighbouring villages Lundin Links and Upper Largo joined in the fun with goings-on there too. Tennis, squash, bowls, dramatic performances at the Montrave Hall and an 'It's a Knock Out' on the Common were highlights in Lundin Links. Meanwhile, Upper Largo put on events in the Kirk, the Simpson Institute and the Stables, as well as the traditional Law Race and a Gymkhana. Chairman of the organising committee was Don Beaton who praised the committee members and organisers from all the villages and said that the aim was to offer something for everyone.
The following week's local newspaper (18 August) reported on how events had gone so far with a front page splash and further detail on the inner pages, including the pictures below. The opening event grabbed most of the column inches. Around 2,000 onlookers watched the spectacle of a ragged "Robinson Crusoe" (a role played by John Aberdein) swimming ashore into the harbour, while a fearsome welcoming party in seaweed-covered canoes tried to impede him. The hero also scaled the wall of the Crusoe Hotel, while saving his faithful companion "Man Friday" up a rope from a "host of head-hunting Largo savages" to the delighted cheers of the huge crowd. This was the opening event of the "frenzied ten days of Crusoe carousing".
Other events at the adventurous end of the scale were the 'water jump' (trying to jump as far off the pier as possible), pillow fights on a log over the water and climbing along a rope over the harbour before trying to drop through hula hoops in the water. One of the more sedate events took place at Largo and Newburn Parish Church, where a united service themed around Alexander Selkirk was held. Extracts were read from the Kirk Session records featuring Selkirk's misdemeanours. All the local ministers (Reverends Lister, Dyer and Campbell) all took part. The final day - Sunday 22 August - saw the popular 'Flying Off the Pier' challenge bring the Crusoe 300 celebrations to a close. Roger Linton of the East of Fife Round Table can be seen in the photograph below executing his entry in the man powered flight contest. His was deemed the best attempt, winning him the Votz Zellat trophy.
Once the Crusoe 300 extravaganza had drawn to a close, the 25 August East Fife Mail concluded their three weeks of coverage with the verdict that the "marathon of fun and games" had been a "great success". There was talk of a yearly Crusoe Festival week, although it was recognised that the tercentenary had been on a scale that would be unlikely to be replicated. Two important aspects of the event were also noted - the money raised that would form a common fund for the three villages for the improvement and provision of amenities, plus the contact made with Chilean nationals on an island many thousands of miles distant. The committee chair commented: "I think Alexander Selkirk would have approved".