The shop in the centre of the above image is Robert Hannan Melville's business as a plumber, tinsmith and gasfitter. Born in East Lothian around 1835, Robert followed in the footsteps of his father Samuel Melville who was also a tinsmith and plumber. Samuel had been based for many years at the Shorehead in Leven but was working in Largo by around 1860. Following his father's death in 1863, Robert took over the business. Below is an early example of either father or son's work - a miner's head lamp, stamped 'Melville Largo'.
Robert's wife Agnes Oatman, who he had married in 1860, died in 1864, two days after the birth of their daughter Agnes. Robert remained at their home on Kirkton of Largo's Main Street, which was known as Melville Cottage. In 1871 Robert was living with his three daughters, Catherine, Isabella and Agnes and a domestic servant. He was described as a 'master plumber employing one man and one boy'. He remarried in 1874 to Margaret McDonald. In 1881, the household was recorded as Robert (plumber employing 1 man and 3 boys), Margaret and 17-year-old Isabella, who was a pupil teacher. Eldest daughter Catherine was working as a nurse in Glasgow at the time, while youngest daughter Agnes was working in Edinburgh as a domestic servant.
In 1885, 21-year-old Agnes Melville married Peter Blackhall, a journeyman plumber, in Upper Largo. The following year, their daughter Agnes Oatman Blackhall was born. Tragically, history repeated itself, with the baby's mother Agnes dying days later. Young Agnes was raised by her grandparents Robert and Margaret Melville. At the time of the 1891 census, 4-year-old Agnes Blackhall was living at Melville Cottage with Robert and Margaret.
Among the buildings that Robert Melville provided plumbing services for were: restoration work at Largo Parish Church, a new farm steading at Pratis Farm, Emsdorf Street's Bellville, work on G.S. Rodger's Upper Largo shop and many of the new villas built in the locality. Often he competed for work with another Kirkton plumber, Alexander Wilson.
By 1901, the household at Melville Cottage comprised just 66-year-old Robert and 14-year-old Agnes, know going by the name Agnes Melville. Margaret Melville had passed away in 1898. Young Agnes was described as 'Assistant Shop Keeper (China)'. Alexander Allan ran a neighbouring china shop. Agnes (or Aggie) became a keen collector of postcards around this time. A selection of those she received during her late teens are shown below.
In 1911, Robert's eldest daughter Catherine (a maternity nurse) was living with him and he was listed as a 'plumber and gas fitter'. Granddaughter Agnes was by now in Glasgow, working as a hospital nurse and back to using the surname Blackhall. Robert Melville died on 15 November 1916, aged 82. Eldest daughter Catherine became owner of Melville Cottage and the other buildings that belonged to her father. Second daughter, Isabella, was married to Leven postmaster Alexander Hunter. Agnes Blackhall (the 'Miss Melville' of the postcards below) died in 1958, unmarried, having devoted her life to her nursing career.