Aberdour and Burntisland in old picture postcards
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Aberdour and Burntisland are communities, each with its own distinctive history and appearance. They have, nevertheless, a great deal in common. For a start, they bath have an imposing-Iooking castle. While Aberdour Castle is a carefully-preserved, ancient monument, Burntisland's Rossend, though threatened with demolition, was purchased in 1975 and restored to purposeful use by alocal architectural firm. Bath communities can baast, toa, that they have an historie and architectural!y interesting kirk. Aberdour has an ancient Norman-style parish church, St. Fillan's, which was discarded and its roof removed in 1796, but, thanks to munificent gifts, was restored and rededicated in 1926. In contrast to St. Fillan's, with its typically medieval layout, Burntisland's late 16th century parish kirk was designed to faeilitate the 'preaehing of the Word'. Here the pulpit replaced the altar as the focus of attention. The fine 17th and 18th century eraft symbols and other painted panels on the sailors' loft testify to the importanee of the burgh's seafarers to both kirk and community. It was, incidentally, at a General Assernbly held at the Burntisland kirk, that James VI took the first steps th at led to the making of the new translation of the Bible - the Authorized Version.
As numerous tombstones in the kirkyard show, Aberdour too had its seafarers, who played a vital role in the life of the village. lts attraetive old harbour was onee used for shipping coal and other minerals. Until around 1870, coal-carts were a common sight as they rumbied through the streets, via Park Lane (then Coal Wynd) and Shore Raad, heading for the sailing colliers, tied up at the quay. Burntisland's
harbour is obviously much larger and was always more important. As a port, Burntisland reached its apogee in the 19th and early 20th centuries, wh en very large quantities of eoal were despatched there by rail for export to the rest of Britain and continental Europe. In 1913 over 2,400,000 tons of coal passed through the port. While its coal traffic and most of its former general trade has gone, large quanti ties of bauxite are Ianded, tor the use of the sizeable ALCAN alumina works at Burntisland. The need, at that time, tor large quantities of coal and also an abundance of water, helped to explain why the then British Aluminium Company opted for Burntisland.
Where ports exist, boat-building is an obvious associated industry. Over the years, quite a few smal! craft have been constructed at Aberdour, most recently at a smal! yard at the Ha' Craig, or Hawk Craig as it is erroneously known. Ship-building became at Burntisland, though, an important local industry. During the Second World War the vesseIs constructed at Burntisland included a number of merchant aircraft-carriers, ships that played a vital role in protecting British convoys and thus helped to defeat the German U-baat menace. It may be added that earlier , when enemy submarines began to threaten the British fleet and merchant navy during the First World War, an experimental research station was established at Ha' Craig, close by the popular Silver Sands beach. Top scientists were brought to Aberdour to help develop hydrophones for underwater dereetion purposes. Although ship-building as such came to an end at Burntisland, the yard was subsequently developed for the construction of modules and
other structures for the North Sea oil and gas industries. Consafe (Burntisland) Ltd. are the present occupiers of the fabrieation yard.
Bath Aberdour and Burntisland were ferry ports, with the latter easily the more important of the two. When Burntisland became, in 1847, the railhead for Fife for the Edinburgh and Northern Rai!way Company, that town rapidly developed into the premier ferry port on the north side of the Forth. Indeed, three years later the world's first roll-on roll-off railway ferry was established for transporting coal from Burntisland to Granton on the other side of the Forth. The ferrying of eoal aeross the Forth came to an end when the Forth Railway Bridge was completed in 1890. Passenger services continued on a greatly reduced basis until the Seeond World War. In the early 1950s, an atternpt to introduce a car and passenger ferry service, utilising converted wartime tank-landing craft, was a financial failure. In 1991 an attempt was made to restore a passengercarrying service to this historie route, but the service, while attractive to holiday-makers, failed to attract the requisite number of regular commuters.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, passengercarrying steamers, as many old postcards testify, were vital factors in the growth of the holiday trade. The people of both Burntisland and Aberdour utilised their natural advantages - good bathing beaches and an attractive and accessible location - to sell their communities as sea-bathing resorts. Bath towns were served by paddle-steamer fleets, bearing excursionists and other holiday-makers from Edinburgh's ports - Leith, Newhaven and Granton. In the
1890s, in the height of summer there were up to 9 sailings a day trom Leith to Aberdour. Later, the opening of the Forth Railway Bridge brought increased numbers of visitors from Glasgow and the industrial west, and Aberdour was placed on the railway map for the first time. lts railway station, which has won awards for floral displays, dates from that period. For Burntisland, improved railway communication with the west was welcomed as part compensation for the loss, post-1890, of most of its ferry-borne trade and traffie. Another blow that struck Burntisland at that time was the final closure, in 1893, of the Binnend Oil Works, a firm whose workforee at its peak numbered close to 1,000 (see illustration 75). The main railway line to Edinburgh and to points east and north still survives though and forms a prime asset for both communities.
Although the long-stay holidaymakers of former years are no more, both Aberdour and Burntisland see many visitors, especially day-trippers, attracted to the tourist facilities at Aberdour's Silver Sands and Burntisland's links and adjacent beach. The houses and lodgings that were once let to summer visitors, now house permanent residents, drawn to these coastal communities by the self-same amenities that made Aberdour and Burntisland favourite places of resort in the pioneering days of popular tourism.
At the Stone Pier, Aberdour
1. Countless visitors arrived at Aberdour by paddle-steamers from Leith. Here we see the Galloway Saloon Steam Packet Company's 'Lord Morton' at Aberdour Stone Pier. Converted into a hospital ship during the First World War, this steamer was scuttled in the Russian White Sea in 1919, to keep her from falling into Bolshevik hands. Notice the changing boxes on the left side of the postcard. They were removed in 1930 and new huts built.
2. As the 'Lord Morton' departs, crowds line the harbour wall to watch the annual Aberdour Regatta (the oldest in the Forth). Rowing boats, hired out by the hour, were another popular attraction. On the Ha' Craig across the harbour, we see , marked with a cross, the Temperance Hotel (now the Forth View Hotel), built beside the 'New Pier'. When tides were too low for the Stone Pier to be used, steamers headed instead for the Ha' Craig pier. The single-tunnelled steamer was one of the Galloway ships that were fitted with a folding mast and telescopic funnel, to enable them to sail under the railway bridge at Alloa.
3. Since the lease for the new pier prohibited the landing of passengers on Sundays, large rowing boats, like the one on the beach, were used to ferry passengers ashore. The building that is now the Forth View Hotel was built in 1881 as a farnily home by Leith entrepreneur, M. P. Galloway. When Galloway sold the cheerfully narned Bleak House, it was converted into a hotel. According to a 1908 advert, the Temperanee Hotel or the Hydro, as it was variously called, was 'the only House with Sea Water Baths on the Firth of Forth', Pierrots used to perforrn on the grass beside the hotel.
4. Another Galloway paddle-steamer has disembarked its passengers at the Ha' Craig pier. 'The Wood Pier', as the title on this card puts it, was built in 1866 by Donald R. MacGregor, a Leith shipowner. Excursionists, in their 'Sunday suits' and best dresses, are heading away from the pier, passing on their way a shop, selling 'lee Cream & Refreshments'. The Forth View Hotel (Jeft) is seen here from the rear.
5. When tides allowed. passengers landed at the old Stone Pier and then walked, like the Edwardian-period visitors, along the promenade. In the distance we see the cottage, which was erected in 1817 and was the first house to be built at the share. In the inter-war years, the promenade was still a place to see and to be seen. Notice that iron railings had replaced the former ramshackle wooden ones. On the grass, near where the pierrots used to play, a uniformed band is performing.
House, Aberdour, Fife.
6. Seabank House, the second oldest of the shore-facing dwellings, was built as a 'Marine Villa' (and dower-house) fot the Hendersons of Fordell. Later it became a hydra, but in May 1912, when this card was posted, it was classified as a hotel. 'H is quiet at present,' wrote the sender, 'but woe when the trippers come.' In the early 1900s, deckchairs were not yet part of the seaside scene. Someone, though, has taken a folding chair down onto the sands. This photo was evidently taken on a day when the trippers were absent.
7. In this circa 1930 photograph of the West Beach we see no fewer than 5 motor-launches: 1/- was the charge for a trip to Inchcolm. By then, toa, deckchairs were available for hire on the beach, as the board with price-list and the stack of deckchairs clearly show. The alternative name for the West Beach was the Black Sands, which possibly dates back to the time when coal was shipped from the Stone Pier. In the 1950s, regular dookers using the changing boxes, enjoyed Mrs. Wotherspoon's inimitable brand of tea. Only the foundations remain to show where the bathing boxes stood.
8. With many tourists going to and from the piers, Share Raad was a good location for a street-trader and also for pubs and eating-places. John McLauchlan's Star Hotel (now the Cedar Inn) can be seen on the far left. Kinnaird's Tea Garden (see cover picture also) stood opposite. Inside and out, and up aloft in the roof garden, this was an ornately-adorned building. Hammocks were slung from the roof inside, to house visitors seeking basic accommodation. After the First World War, when it was a Forces' canteen, it became the Institute, serving as a public hall, but also housing 'gentlemen boarders' .