St Andrews in old picture postcards

St Andrews in old picture postcards

:   Eric Simpson
:   Fife
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-6668-3
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'St Andrews in old picture postcards'

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For this baak I have selected old postcards and some photographs whieh reflect different aspects of St Andrews' past from the 19th century until the 1960s. The game of golf and its vital importance to the burgh is obviously one facet that cannot be ignored. Since, however, that sport and other aspects of the visual history of the town, including the role of the tewn's pioneer photographers, have been covered by others, I have, therefore, chosen to concentrate on an aspect whieh has not always received the attention it merits - namely the tewn's wider history as an all-round tourist resort. The burgh's development in the 18th and 19th centuries as a middle-class watering place and golfing Mecca is the starting point. Then we see how the town, remarkably without losing its traditional image, was successfully transformed into a semi-popular seaside resort. Postcards, sold in large numbers by Valentine's ofDundee and other publishers, illustrate the tewn's rise to prominenee as a holiday resort and, at the same time, underline the very significant role that tourism has played in the history of this royal and ancient city: This story commences in the late 18th century with two aristocratie fashions, golf most obviously but, not less significant, a newer craze: the fad for sea bathing as a health cure for a variety of ailments bath real and imaginary: It was this new medieal fashion, the 'salt water cure', and the 'discovery', toa, of the health-giving qualities of sea air that sparked

off the rise of the seaside tourist industry.

It is evident from a document presented to the Town Council in 1784 that St Andrews was on its way to becoming a recognized seaside watering place. It contained a plea from some local notabilities, induding three medical men, for the erection of''a proper bathing-house', since the city had 'been much Resorted to, for some years past, by many Persons from the Country around for the Benefit of Sea Bathing.' There is no indication that such achanging facility was ever built. In those days, the dooking areas were segregated, rnales separated from females. Already by the early 1800s the Ladies Lake, west of the castle, was established as a ladies' bathing station. By there in 1810 a Captain jackson built marine baths supplying hot and cold seawater, thus permitting convalescents and less hardy dookers to bathe indoors and thereby avoid what one writer described as 'the disagreeables connected in a plunge on the open beach,' These 'Public Baths' also induded rooms to let for 'company frequenting St Andrews in the bathing season'. But a writer in 1822 sadly remarked that these' commodious and even elegant' baths were not a financlal success. The boom time for St Andrews had yet to come. Until the railway age St Andrews was off the beaten track. Notwithstanding its historie ruins and ancient buildings, the town was isolated also in terms of contemporary cultural fashion. Had Sir Walter Scott been a golf afi-

cionado, it would have been a different story. While Scott's magic pen sent tourists flocking to rhe Borders and to the Trossachs, it drew, in St Andrews' case, a virtual blank.

St Andrews, though, had the inestimable advantage of matchless golfing facilities and the support of a local population for whom, as Lord Cockburn observed in 1844, the game was 'not a mere pastime. but a business and a passion.'The contemporary parish dergy gave it their approval: "Ihe amusement of golf ... is the best prophylactic in preventing dyspepsia and hypochondriasis,' Although, however, sorne settlers were attracted to the town for its golf and also for its schools and University colleges, visitars who played golf were not all that numerous. At that time, probably more people came to bathe than to golf. Roger in his History of St Andrews (1849) remarked on 'the occasional visits of noblemen and persons of eminence and wealth' attracted by 'the fine golfing ground'. The bathers. on the other hand, were not just from the patrician class, but were 'people of every description' . In late years, he added, their numbers had been 'very considerably on the increase.' A decade earlier, the Revd. Dr. Grierson had remarked on the elegant new houses that were 'generally well filled during that season when invalids and hypochondriacs lave their limbs in the briny deep'. Golf unfortunately was then an unduly expensive sport. Far most visitors to the town, it had curiosity value only, the red-coated golfers ofthe social elite being regarded as one of the local sights. The turning point for the garne of golf came in the late 1840s with the replacement of the very expensive-tomake featherie golf hall with the cheaper and langer-lasting

guttie. This innovation coincided with the opening in 1847 of Leuchars railway station, which was followed in 1852 with the completion of the branch line to St Andrews. It is no coincidence that the Royal and Ancient started their new clubhouse in the following year. In time golfs popularity grew first in Scotland and then, with the golf boom of the 1880s, in England toa. Middle and upper-class golfers increasingly saw St Andrews as a desirabie place for a golfing holiday. Though some wives and daughters took up the game, golfers' families, and many non-golfers too, looked to the tewn's other attractions, particularly its facilities for sea bathing.

To meet increased demand, particularly in the holiday season, facilities for both golf and dooking were greatly extended. In the boom years ofthe late 19th and early 20th centuries, new golf courses were constructed - the New in 1895, the Iubilee ariginally for ladies and beginners two years later, and the Eden in 1914.Today there are seven courses.The seabathing enthusiasts also had their needs catered for, with St Andrews Town Council constructing tidal swimming ponds and changing facilities for males in 1902 and for warnen two years later. It taak until 1 929 befare the Town Council conceded demands that mixed bathing be permitted at its Step Rock Pool. In its heyday from the 1930s until the 1950s, the 'Steppie' was a great popular attraction, when the weather allowed. For the bairns and their watchful parents, it was a safe playground;

and far maturing teenagers and young adults, it was not just a bathing pond, but a social centre and a place where you were able to parade and pose befare members of the opposite sex.

Inevitably conflicts arose, especially when atternpts were made to widen the tewn's popular appeal by spending money on tourist-orientated projects. Same residents, not thirled to the tourist economy or with their own sectional interests, raised objections to noisy funfairs and troublesome pierrot shows. In the Edwardian period, for instance, sourees of noise pollution, according to letter writers to the St Andrews Citizen, induded [acob Primmer (an ultra-Protestant preacher) 'bawling' on the Embankment, 'hot gospellers' from Oxford with a portable organ and services for children at night when they should have been in bed, and for two months 'the nasal droning ofthe Ethiopian Serenaders ' (face- blackened pierrots) . The ancient city, such critics claimed, was being transformed 'into a sart of 3rd-rate Portobello' . The better dass of visitor, they feared, was being frightened away. Similar attitudes were expressed when flfty years later the Kinburn Caravan Park was expanded. In late [une 1953 the Citizen drew attention to the slack holiday business 'during the past few weeks'. Same in the town, it reported, blamed it on the Kinburn camping site: in catering for the caravanners 'more harm than good is done to the community.' By August, all was seemingly well and the Links were back to a more healthy state of affairs. There was 'a noticeable change in the type of visitor now in the town'. As the Citizen observed, the Iuly visitors were obviously not golfers and this had been the case for a few years past. That summer the number of Glasgow Fair visitors was estimated at around 3,000. The professional man, the Citizen dedared in 1955, was being superseded, particularly in July, by the manual worker, and the fortnightly

golfer to some extent by the short-term visitor. 'Lets of a month or langer for families,' it continued, 'are almast unheard of.' The number of day trippers arriving by bus at weekends was also on the rise. This for sorne was also a souree of concern, especially if the excursionists were of the drunk and disorderly 'paper hat and streamer' brigade. But at least there was more for the visitors to do, especially once all Sabbatarian restrictions were lift ed. The putting greens and tennis courts were now open for Sunday play and likewise Sunday golf had been accepted. For post- World War II St Andrews, there was,

as we shall show, another cause of dissension - namely, the purehase by the University of hotels for conversion to student hostels. In the same period another contentious issue was the vexed question of what to do about the Step Rock Swimming Pool. It was not until 1988 that the by then derelict Steppre was replaced by the indoor pond at the Bast Sands Leisure Centre. Other recent holiday attractions opened in St Andrews also refleet the contemporary need for bad weather facilities. They include the St Andrews Aquarium constructed on the Step Rock Bathing Pool site, the British Golf Museum, and the rebuilt AbbeyTheatre.

But it is StAndrews' atmospheric totality that is the greatest attraction of all- its historie heritage and traditions, its streets and doses, historie buildings, monuments and ruins. Ta quote the poet George Bruce:

Old tules, old customs and old men 's dreoms Obscure this town. Memories ebound.

In the mild misred air, and in the sharp air Toga ond gown walk the pier.

The past sleeps in the stones,

The author:

Eric Simpson, who is a former Head of History at Moray House Institute of Education, Edinburgh, is a part-time lecturer at St Andrews and Edinburgh Universities. He is a native ofBuckie, Banffshire, and has lived in Dalgety Bay since 1966. His books include Gaing on Holiday in Scotland's Past in Action series (National Museums of Scotland), Discovering Moray, Banff & Nairn (John Donald), The Auld Grey Ioun - Dunfermline in the time of Andrew Carneqie 1835-1919 (Carnegie Dunfermline Trust), Dalgety Bay - Heritage und Hidden History (Dalgety Bay Community Council, and the script for the video Auld Fife (Forest Edge Films). He is the author, too, of the following European Library publications, namely: Aberdour end Burntisland in old picture postcards, Buckie in old picture postcards volumes 1 and 2, Inverkeithing end Dalgety in old picture postcards volume 1 (with George Hastie) and also the following with George Robertson Dunfermline nnd Rosyth in old picture posteards volumes 1 and 2, Cowdenbecth in old picture postcards, Limekilns to Culross in old picture posteards, and Inverkeithing end Dalgety in oid picture postcards volume 2.


I am grateful to those people who loaned material and/or assisted in other ways. While it would be impossible to list every person who helped in one way or another, special thanks must go to the following individuals: Alan Brotchie, George Bruce, Gordon Christie, [ohn R. Hume, Peter Gillespie, Cilla Iackson, Susan Keracher, Mr. and Mrs. W Paul, Dr. Norman Reid, George Robertson, Owen Silver and Ianet Inglis Sykes.

Thanks are due also to the staff of the following institutions for their invaluable assistance, and with reference to the four last named bodies, for their permission also to reproduce images:

Fife Council Libraries at Cupar, Dunfermline and St Andrews; National Library of Scotland; Scottish Record Office; Royal Commis sion on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland; St Andrews Preservation Trust; the Department of Special Collections of the Library of the University of St Andrews; and the Hay Fleming Reference Library, St Andrews.

I am also greatly indebted to my wife Kathleen for proof reading and her encouragement and support.

IfI have inadvertently omitted any names from this list, please accept my apologies.

The extract from the poem by George Bruce, which is quoted in my introduction, is entitled St Andrews.june, 1946. It is from TodayTomorrow.The Colleered Poems of George Bruce 1933-2000 (Ed. Lucinda Prestige), which is published by Polygon, Edinburgh University Press.

1 'Wh ere will we spend our Holiday?' For artist

D. Small and publisher Raphael Tuck, the message is quite clear, St Andrews was definitely a good place to spend a holiday. Black's Guide to Scotland (1907), too, considered that the town as a seaside place was admirable 'having retained a great deal of its primitive simplicity.'

North Street provides a picturesque scene with St Salvator's tower on the left and the cathedral ruins in the distance. Posting this card in Dundee in 1907, the sender was evidently confident that it would be delivered promptly, since he was writing to tell his

girl friend in Perth that he would meet her next day. In the early 1900s postcards were used to convey messages that nowadays would be delivered by phone or E-mail.



2 Here we have a scene of circa 1900 date with a group of middle-class ladies and children at a section of the West Sands, which has obviously been set aside as a segregated bathing area. Unusually

no one is looking at the photographer. The tents were for changing into bathing costumes. We must presume that these ladies did not want to be photo-

graphed in their bathing suits. Bathing areas were strictly regulated. In 1838, according to a contemporary plan, there were four bathing stations close to the town: at the Baths for ladies, the Step Rock for 'gentlemen', the shore by the Bow Butts for beginners, and what later became the Ladies Pond for boys. (Photograph courtesyof St Andrews University Library.)

3 Sometime after 1838 bathing machines were introduced to St Andrews and remained a feature of the West Sands scene for many years. Such machines, where seabathers could change, were an essential feature ofthe wellregulated resort. Normally a horse, perhaps the one on the left, was employed to draw the machines into the sea, thus giving bathers

more privacy than would otherwise be possible.

As with the tewn's other dooking facilities, the operation of the machines was supervised by the Bathing Committee of St Andrews Town Council. Latterly, the machines, or coaches as they were called in St Andrews, were no longer wheeled into the sea but used ins te ad as stationary changing huts.

4- Donkeys and ponies on the beach were the bairns' delight, as we observe in this late 194-0s Valentine postcard. This like other beach enterprises needed local government sanction. We find in the 1947Town Council Minutes that H. Gray was licenced to put three ponies and two donkeys on to the West Sands. But he had to pay the Town Council f.: 1 for the privilege and a further proviso en-

sured that the animals had to be inspected by a vet. Violet and Harry Gray who came from Kirkcaldy continued to serve the public, generally on the West

Sands, for over forty years. Notice in the postcard the young assistants. These helpers were local hoys and girls, who were rewarded with small sums of cash and free rides on the donkeys.

5 Evidently quite a few of the visitors to the West Sands, as we see in this 1935 view, had arrived by car or motor bike. Parking arrangements then were much more haphazard than would be tolerated today. The cost of parking, though, roused some ire, with frequent angry letters to the newspapers. Note the milk bar on the left, an early 20th century innovation. Many visitors are

wearing long winter-style coats, no doubt a sensible precaution for such an exposed stretch of seafront. Hats or other headgear too were still de rigeur at least for the older generation.

6 From 1909 till the 1950s motor bike races, inc1uding Scottish Speed Championships, were very popular events attracting at

their peak over two thousand spectators. These events over a mile long course were held on the West Sands on Saturdays

by permis sion of the Town Council. The list of bikes reeall a long gone era when competitors rode mainly British-made

models like Norton, BSA, Matchless, Triumph and Velocette.

7 As weH as national organizations like the Scottish Auto-Cycle Union (programme illustrated here), local societies like the St Andrews and District Motor Club also organized events, with a number of local men, and on at least one occasion a lady toa, racing on the sands. Usually a number oflocal riders participated in these events. Bike No. 1, illustrated here, was a compos-

ite machine assembied by alocal rider. Motor car races were also held on the West Sands but, as a former competitor told me, the bikes were more popular as they provided more thrills and spills. But he could reeall only one fatality when a spectator was killed during a Friday night practice run. For the Saturday events the racing area was roped off.

Scottish Motor Cycle Speed Championships

(Or-g ???? l_ by an<! vnd.o< thc Open Compctltloa RuICS ot ebo Scottisb Auto· C)"CJe Unfoo).


At 3 9.U1.

Macbines ec be p~ted. at 2 p.m,


8 The Citizen reported in Iuly 19 SO that for the annual motor car races organized by the Lothian Car Club several thousand spectators lined almast the fulllength of the West

Sands.The 10-mile handicap race was won by a promising young Edinburgh driver, Ron Flockhart, in his MG car. This was one driver who did fulfill his early promise.

One car, we are told, was recorded at speeds up to 11 S miles per hom on the straights, the highest ever at St Andrews. The trophies were presented by a wellknown film star of the day,

Jean Kent. Her Favourite Husband and The Browning Version were the films she starred in that year. (Photograph: Cowie Collection courtesy of St Andrews University Library.)

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