Posted on Leave a comment

LOCAL WORTHIES – Provost Don & Family

Robert Don was the provost of Elie from 1907 to 1916. He and his wife Jenny lived in spacious accommodation formed from the house at 1 Park Place, to which at first floor level had been added the rooms above what is now the bakers shop and the two shops beside it in Bank Street. Provost Don owned all four properties, the corner shop was his boot and shoemakers premises, the other three shops being rented out. He employed 8 people at his Elie and Anstruther shops.

His wife, Jenny McFarlane of St Monans, was descended from the Anstruther family of Keay, whose famous son William Keay was the captain of the tea clipper ‘Ariel’, which with eight other ships took part in the legendary Great Tea Race of 1866 from Foochow China to London. At the end of the race after 99 days at sea and 16 thousand miles, in the fastest sailing ship passage ever made, the Ariel and the Taeping arrived at the Pool of London within twenty minutes of each other. As the Taeping had a shallower draft she was able to dock first, but the Ariel was first to finish unloading her cargo. The prize was shared between Captain Keay and the master of the Taeping, Donald MacKinnon of Tiree.

Provost Don was a very active councillor, forming non profit-making companies to bring gas and electricity to Elie and Earlsferry. He was also the founder of the Elie sports club (putting, bowls, the ladies golf course and refreshments). Chairman of the Fife Liberal Party, he was a friend of Prime Minister Asquith, who stayed at 1 Park Place when campaigning in Fife.

Provost Don & Family

Back row: Bess (‘Doh’), Francis (‘Puss’), Robert, Anne (‘Puss’), Janet ( ‘Det’)

Centre row: William (brother), Provost Don, Jenny Don, Maggie (died aged 35)

Front row: Bella (died aged 23), Cathy, John (Don)

The provost and his wife had nine children. His son Robert was the captain of the Elie football team and worked for the National Bank in Elie (eventually the Royal Bank). He was promoted to the head office in Glasgow and lived in Wishaw until his death in 1957.

Three of his daughters, who were colourful characters and full of fun, were familiar to many in Elie, as late as 1976; Anne and Bess taught school in Elie and Pittenweem respectively, and Francis kept house for them. Their nicknames were given to them by the son of their sister Cathy – John Glendinning – who was partly brought up in Elie by the three sisters as Cathy and her husband lived abroad for long periods. John, a Royal Naval test pilot and diplomat, served in the British Embassy in Washington and was one of the key facilitators in introducing the Harrier jump jet to the U.S. Marine Corps. He retired a Captain and died in Denver, Colorado, in 2008

Provost Don was a most popular and respected figure and was returned as provost four times, serving up to his death in 1916. He was never the same after the death of his beloved wife Jenny, and in the newspaper report of his death was said to have died of a broken heart.

 Elie Crusaders FC

The photo above shows the Elie Crusaders Football team of 1906-07 (see ball).

Robert M. Don (Team Captain) was the son of Provost Don.


Contributed by Nigel Scott (Elie), Great Grandson of Provost Robert Don.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.