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A Chronicle of Earlsferry Town Hall

Designed and researched by Carol Birrell and Alan Provan

Earlsferry Town Hall, present day
Earlsferry High Street looking west c 1900

The Ferry Hall is on the south-side in the middle of the High Street, it has always been at the centre of the Royal Burgh.

Dundee Perth and Cupar Advertiser 1860

Legend has it that on this site stood the tollbooth/jail and Macduff’s cross. The large stone cross was given to the village by Macduff as thanks for helping him flee to safety from the murderous Macbeth.

The first mention we have seen about the Town Hall is a reference saying it was thought to have been built in 1662. It was on two floors and the ground floor had been used as the town jail. The old spire was built in 1772 and the present spire with a new clock and bell replaced it in 1864.

Fife Herald 23-5-1872, part 1 of 3
Fife Herald 23-5-1872, part 2 of 3
Fife Herald 23-5-1872, part 3 of 3

In June 1872 the town council; despite fierce local opposition decided on a new building to replace the ‘dilapidated’ old one.

East Fife Record 31-5-1872, part 1 of 3
East Fife Record 31-5-1872, part 2 of 3
East Fife Record 31-5-1872, part 3 of 3
East Fife Record 21-6-1872

Fund raising Bazaars were well supported. Local architect John Currie drew up the plans and work was completed by August 1873 having cost around £600.

Fife Herald 21-7-1873, part 1 of 2
Fife Herald 21-7-1873, part 2 of 2

The new hall was used by many; it could hold 700 people, and for 6 various activities and amusements.

East Fife Journal 19-1-1900
Leven Advertiser & Wemyss Gazette
East Fife Record 23-11-1883
East Fife Record 23-11-1883
East Fife Record 28-2-1896
East Fife Record 9-3-1894
East Fife Record 18-8-1876
East Fife Record 5-8-1887
Fife Journal 3-8-1876
East Fife Record 20-7-1894

A new clock costing £75 was added in 1900 to Elie’s envy.

East Fife Record 1-6-1900
East Fife Record 13-7-1900

In 1920 the Elie and Earlsferry Cinematograph Company was formed and silent films were shown.

WW1 War Memorial

A War Memorial was installed inside the Hall in 1922 dedicated to the men of Earlsferry who had died in the Great War.

First Talking Film

Talking pictures were introduced in 1931. Perhaps a victim of its own success, by April 1926 the town council decided that ‘‘time had dealt hardily with it and it was now rickety’’ so they started fundraising.

Story of the Steeple and the Cross.
”Little Bell and Muckle Bell”
After lengthy consideration of the pros and cons, Earlsferry Town Council have decided on an improvement to the existing Town Hall, an improvement which will be hailed with acclimation by visitors and locals alike.
The edifice is not without interest and importance. Unlike Earlsferry itself the Town Hall is not ”past living memory.” It is a comparatively modern structure, having been erected in 1872.
The late Mrs Waddell, wife of the then Town Clerk, was instrumental in raising funds for the new Town Hall, which was to take the place of what one writer described as ”a ricketty building,” and it may well have deserved such an approbation.
The under part of the old Town House was a Tollbooth or jail and the upper portion consisted of a Council Room, where many wordy wars were fought.
Above the doorway is a finely carved stone showing the seal of the ancient and Royal Burgh, round which is well preserved lettering, bearing the legend of its old time burghal glories.
The civic heads of 1872 wisely left standing the old steeple, which had looked down on the inhabitants of the ferry for so many centuries. Time had dealt hardily with it however, and at that time it was repaired to look more in keeping with ”the modern building”
A Clock
The introduction of a clock changed it, we are told, almost past recognition. The age of the steeple is lost in the mists of antiquity, but it is impregnated with history and romance.
Once upon a time it contained two bells, ”a little and a muckle.” According to old writers, the ”little bell” bore the date 1091, and was torn from its place in the steeple and sold to an iron merchant for ”an old song.”
How much richer would ”the ferry” have been today had sentiment intervened and preventing our civic fathers from perpetrating such an outrage.
The ”muckle bell” is still in use, and continues to ”toll the knell of parting day” for Earlsferry is one of the few burghs in Scotland that observes the old custom of ringing the curfew. The Cross is associated in thought with the old steeple and Tollbooth. It is supposed to have been placed by the wynd near by the Hall. This wynd is called Cross Wynd.

Dundee Evening Telegraph 1926
Dundee Evening Telegraph 14-4-1926
Dundee Courier 8-9-1926
Dundee Courier 15-7-1926
Dundee Courier 26/11/1926

The improvements and extensions were completed in Nov. 1927 at a cost of £1010.

In June 1943 a plaque was fixed to the front of the building by the Polish Paratroops as thanks for the hospitality Elie and Earlsferry had shown them while they were training at Shell Bay.

In 1929 the Town Councils of Elie and Earlsferry amalgamated and meetings were held in the new council chambers. Electric lighting was installed in 1938.

Dundee Courier 2-6-1951

On the 1st June 1951 the local MP Mr J Henderson Stewart unveiled a memorial tablet for James Braid which the Town Council had commissioned and fixed to the front wall. Around late 1970s was the next upgrade, when the toilets and a storage room were added to the south-west of the building.
Although the cinema ceased early 1960s, for several decades the hall continued to be a popular venue for many local groups, including Elie and Earlsferry Improvements Association, 15 Elie Play Group and 16 Andromeda Youth Club.

Sleeping Beauty, Christmas Pantomime 1993
Jack and the Beanstalk, Christmas Pantomime, 1 of 2
Jack and the Beanstalk, Christmas Pantomime, 2 of 2
Cinderella, Christmas Pantomime 2008
Aladdin, Christmas Pantomime 2010
Elie Play Group December 1982
Senior Members of Andromeda Youth Club 1977

Dance classes were popular for over 100 years as were many lectures and exhibitions.

Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian 7-5-1927
E. E. H. S. 2010 Exhibition, 1 of 2
E. E. H. S. 2010 Exhibition, 2 of 2

In 1975 local Town Councils were done away with and the Elie and Royal Burgh of Earlsferry Community Council took over. They continued to meet monthly in the hall until 2012 when they moved their monthly meetings to the Sailing Club.

Members of the Elie and Earlsferry Community Council early 1990s

Recently a group of local people formed the Earlsferry Town Hall Ltd and they have applied for a community buyout of the hall to revitalise the building and bring it back to the centre of village life.

2 thoughts on “A Chronicle of Earlsferry Town Hall

  1. Thank you for a most interesting post. All my childhood summer holidays each July were spent in Links View Cottage, Earlsferry. I recall visiting the town hall as a cinema at least once, the film in question being the John Wayne western “Rio Bravo”. The film was released in 1959 so I’m guessing I would have seen it 1959/60. If it was 1959 this was really early for the town hall to get a major cinema release.
    The film has remained one of my top 10 favourite and most-loved movies, thanks to this holiday treat.

  2. Very much enjoyed reading this well researched article. I remember seeing films in the Town Hall when on holiday. I think that “Going my way” was one of them. I was also interested in seeing the name Muriel Bromley. Her parents owned Links View cottage and we often visited them there. The Bromleys were distant cousins of my Father. Well done on the production of this Historic article

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