The Burgh Collection, registered Scottish Charity SCO 24532, is a voluntary organization which promotes the history of the East Neuk town of Anstruther.
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.
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. These are currently being digitized. 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.
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 our recent exhibitions.
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 a regular newsletter. 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.
The collection is currently housed in a room in the Ladywalk Office of Fife Council. Previously we had occupied a small room in the Murray Library, but following the restoration and redevelopment of this historic building, the Burgh collection had to find a new place of safety. The Murray Library was gifted to the town in 1908 by one of its philanthropic sons, David Murray, who had became a successful merchant in 19th Century Australia. Also redeveloped were other landmark buildings such as the Hew Scott Hall, West Anstruther Town Hall and West Anstruther Kirk, which are now known as The Dreel Halls. They are available for bookings. Whilst these developments offer exciting possibilities to the town, they have left the future physical location of the collection in some doubt, hence the importance we attach to developing our website.
With a small active membership the Burgh Collection is working on the consolidation and organization of its archives and attempting to widen public access to it. This has been most notably done in the past through exhibitions, as we have no facilities of our own for mounting displays or allowing public access to the collection. 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 atomic bomb explosion and 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 and Memories of War, the latter with participation by The Waid Academy and Anstruther Primary. Our most recent exhibition was Memories of School in 2010, also with participation from the two schools, which was also our contribution to the year of Celebrating Fife.
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.
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 very small group of active members. Currently, the collection has approximately subscribing 20 members, with a committee meeting regularly on a monthly basis. In practice, however, our weekly sessions of working on the collection can only be attended by a handful of willing members. One of these is currently working in Russia, and helps out during leave trips home. We welcome new members, not only local members who would like to become involved in the workings of the collection, but also those from farther away who would like to support the Collection and its aims and receive our updates and regular newsletter.