The History of the Collection

The Kilrenny and Anstruther Burgh Collection, registered Scottish Charity SCO 24532, is a voluntary organization which promotes the history of the East Neuk town of Anstruther.

Early Days – The nucleus of the Burgh Collection was formed by the AIA (Anstruther Improvement Association) from its Archive Collection, which in turn had its birth in the 1980 Triple Town Exhibition. This referred to the full official name of the Burgh, “The Royal Burgh of Kilrenny, Anstruther Easter & Anstruther Wester”. For this exhibition many photographs and archives of past celebrations, gatherings, societies and significant events were displayed and great public interest was aroused. At the end of the Exhibition it was felt that such a collection should be retained and enlarged. In 1981 committee member and local historian Dr Stephanie Stevenson appealed in the press for old photographs, letters and documents so that an Archive Collection could be established, with Dr Stevenson as Archivist.

First Home – The Scottish Fisheries Museum generously offered a room. The Provost’s robes, the Seals of Kilrenny and Anstruther and the 1826 Weights and Measures were displayed to the public together with archival material. A donation of £1,000 from the Dalziel Trust allowed us to furnish the room and produce four volumes of photographs collected by Dr Stevenson in which People, Burgh, Harbour and Activities were displayed.  The Burgh Room was officially opened in May 1986.

With the expansion and development of the Scottish Fisheries Museum it was realized that another home would have to be found. The AIA felt unable to undertake the responsibility of housing the collection and displaying the archives. There was a real danger that the material would have to be dispersed throughout the area.

Official Formation – After a public meeting it was decided in April 1992 that a new organization should be set up, entitled “The Kilrenny & Anstruther Burgh Collection – A Resource for the Community”. The subtitle was indicative of the hope that the Archives could be used as an educational resource, especially for the young people of the community. In recent years, we have developed our relationship with local schools, Waid Academy and Anstruther Primary School, whose pupils and staff  have worked with us on many of our exhibitions.

Making Money go a long way! – The original aims of the Burgh Collection were to safeguard archives and artefacts connected with the burghs, and to develop interest in the history of the local area, through exhibitions, publications and other activities, which now include this website and  Facebook pages. The collection has benefited in the past from donations from The AIA, and publications have been funded with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Apart from that, however, and from funds raised by stalls and coffee mornings, the Burgh Collection is entirely funded by membership subscriptions and the sale of its publications.

Second Home – For several years we occupied a small room at the top of the Murray Library.  After the restoration and redevelopment of this historic but dilapidated building to form the Murray Library Hostel and Murray Studios,  the Burgh collection had to find a new place of safety. We then 

New Home – In 2018 we were delighted to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the East Neuk Centre Trust to occupy rooms at Ladywalk. For the first time, we now have the prospect of making the archives available to visitors interested in local history or family research.   

Exhibitions – However over the years we have worked hard to take our material out to the public.  This has been most notably done in the past through exhibitions,  Our first exhibition was held in 1993 on the 150th anniversary of the Disruption and of Dr Thomas Chalmers’ place in it. Held in the Hew Scott Hall, it was a great local success, receiving some national publicity and attracting visitors to the Burgh.

Since then we have held regular exhibitions, such as celebrating the VE and VJ Days anniversaries. These included a model  of the WWII bomb that fell on Cellardyke. Displays of photographs taken by the late Mr William Flett recording people and events in the Burgh were particularly successful and popular. (In the view of his invaluable assistance to the Collection since its inception, Mr Flett was made our first honorary member of the Kilrenny and Anstruther Burgh Collection.) Other exhibitions have included a second Thomas Chalmers exhibition with lecture, a Kilrenny Stone Exhibition, Trade and Industry. Our  Memories of War, and Memories of School exhibitions were developed with the participation of  The Waid Academy and Anstruther Primary. Our most recent exhibition Images of People at Work in Anstruther and Cellardyke showcased the results of our ambitious project to photograph every trade and business in the town. It was our most successful exhibition attracting more than 400 visitors.

Books and Film – We are always happy to visit local organisations to give showings of DVD films of Anstruther donated by Joe Urban, an honorary life member, who was a pioneer of film and television in the town. Over the past two decades we have published several books, all of which are currently available, and can be found on our books page. Our most recent was From the South Seas to the North Sea, by Fiona J Mackintosh, the story of Anstruther’s Tahitian Princess, Princess Titaua. We are very pleased with the response to this book, which has sold steadily all around the world. Copies have gone to Hawaii, Tahiti, Germany, Australia and various other destinations. Titaua’s gravestone can still be found in the graveyard of Anster Kirk.

Looking to the Future – The collection has expanded since the early days and now possesses a range of old photographs, account books and items that are connected with the town. These are being catalogued to provide a clearer view of the size and form of the collection, to aid the mounting of exhibitions and to provide material for publications. We endeavour to answer queries sent to us, either from our archives or by passing on such queries to others who can help. What we can do is dependent on our small group of active members supported by project volunteers and supporters. With our new base at Ladywalk we aim to expand our activities, especially to open up to visitors. So we will be looking for more volunteers to help with archiving, assisting visitors and family researchers and new projects. If you think you can help even with a couple of hours per week please do get in touch.

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