A few months ago I was contacted by someone who had come across the hand-painted buttons shown in the image above while going through family belongings. They are mounted on a piece of card upon which is written:
Largo, Fife. Miss Lyons. Heatherlie, Lundin Links.
A date on the back states 1923 and to the side is written: H.T. Lyons, Largo W.R.I.
With a bit of detective work, some information about the origins of these artistic buttons has been put together. Firstly, the house named Heatherlie still exists (with the same name) on Crescent Road. Heatherlie is in the centre in the photo below, behind the lamp post (with Aldersyde to its right). Secondly, the creator of the buttons was Helen Thomson Lyons, who lived at Heatherlie at the time with her parents Daniel Lyons (who was originally from New York, USA) and Janet (nee Thomson). Helen Lyons would have been aged about 18 when she made these buttons. Both she and her mother were very active in the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (W.R.I.) in the 1920s and were members of the Largo branch.
The S.W.R.I. was (and still is) about sharing and developing skills, including handicrafts. Many competitions took place at different geographical levels, covering all manner of categories. Clearly, in 1923 there was a category at one event for button making and the young Helen Lyons entered as a member of Largo W.R.I. How these have managed to survive in such good condition almost a century later and still neatly mounted on their competition label is unclear but they provide a small insight into the care that went into just a single entry in a single category at just one of the thousands of events that must have taken place during this era. Below is an example from the newspaper archives (15 July 1924 Leven Advertiser) showing that Helen was active in the W.R.I. at the time.
Helen went on to become a nurse and to marry a Dr George Bradbury in 1930. He was from Tunstall in Yorkshire and they settled in England, including time in Sheffield. Below is another example of the ingenuity of the W.R.I. members in the sphere of handicrafts. From the 1931 Fife News Almanac, this feature showcases the Fife W.R.I. turning their hands to upholstery. Long-time leader of the Largo W.R.I., Evelyn Baxter is in the photograph below along with other Largo members, Miss Syme and Miss Burns. The Largo W.R.I. reached their centenary in 2018.