Friday, 4 December 2015

Down Memory Lane: Clothing by Miss Bushnell

If a child of the ‘20s and ‘30s could stand side by side with his or her counterpart of the 21st century, there would be ONE article of clothing of which he or she was extremely envious. Until the Second World War – and for some time afterwards – pre-school and primary school age children of both sexes had bare knees all year long, through wind, rain, snow; whatever the weather chose to throw at us!

Boys were kept in short trousers until the age of 14, I believe, as a written edict which I suspect school staff found an easy way of “keeping youngsters from getting above themselves”! For girls there was no obligatory age at which they might cover up their knees, but I have a photograph of me and fellow class-mates at school at the age of seven, wearing long woollen stockings, whereas a photo taken about two years earlier outside Kinburn House (then not a Museum, but a very nice Tearoom, with waitresses in pinafore) obviously taken in winter, shows my baby sister cosy in her push-chair, my Grandmother wrapped up in her fur coat and me in a warm coat and a new pair of gaiters (just like adult ones). These were made of brushed woollen material and had about twenty buttons at the side of each leg. These buttons could only be fastened by using a buttonhook (quite a skill).

Between the top of the gaiters and the hem of my coat are my very bare knees. To look at it just makes me cold!

Miss Bushnell with her baby sister, Kinburn House, St Andrews c1930
How thoughtless it was on the part of adults! And not only because of the cold. Children will run – and they did so even in days gone by. Children will fall – for a multitude of reasons, with knees continually suffering: bruised, skinned, patched-up! Sometimes tiny fragments of gravel, stones and earth penetrated the lacerated skin and the Doctor was called out to administer the wonderful Peroxide of Hydrogen to the battered knee: this had the effect of an impressive FIZZ by which the ‘foreign body’ miraculously came to the surface, and in the process distracted the young patient’s attention and dried the tears!

Dungarees, romper suits, trousers of all sorts: what a wonderful difference they have made to children’s’ lives.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Museum store discovery - pre-reformation decorative wooden panel

While re-organising the museum store, the Curator stumbled upon this interesting carved panel tucked away behind a large piece of furniture. The wood was quite soft and part of the panel was a bit mouldy - this was gently removed and the panel was moved to a damp free area of the store!

Further research uncovered that the panel is from around the late 15th century and most likely from a local chapel or the Parish Church. The panel was at one time installed at 141 South Street before being salvaged by William M. Jack, local architect, restorer and trustee of the St Andrews Preservation Trust, when he restored the property some decades ago. Quite a find indeed!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Curator's choice: War-time wooden shoes

Our current summer exhibition, Furs, feathers, frills & florals: four decades of fashion, 1919-1959, looks at the development of fashion trends during a period shaped by economic instability and war. These wooden shoes, made in around 1943, are an excellent example of how industry got creative to solve a problem: the rationing of shoes due to rubber and leather shortages.

Red/burgundy suede and rubber wooden shoes (early 1940s)
This fantastic film shows the wooden shoes being made.

As you can see, small pieces of leather were added to these robust shoes to make them more comfortable and quiet. The donor of these shoes informed us that she wore these almost everyday until 1952 as they were so comfy!

Wooden shoes were also coupon free so you could save your coupons for other essential items of clothing. This became increasingly important towards the end of the war when the coupon allocation was reduced.

These wooden shoes, alongside other items of war-time clothing, are on display in the museum until 4th October 2015.

Monday, 13 July 2015

From our Photographic collection.....Merryweather Steam Fire Engine

By Museum Volunteer Pat Harvey.

This is a photograph of the Merryweather Steam Fire Engine which arrived in St Andrews in 1901. It was given to the town by Major Donald Lindsay Carnegie who lived in Playfair Terrace and died in 1911. A demonstration of the new Pump was held at the Bruce Embankment on the 1st of June 1901. Dignitaries such as Dean of Guild Linskill, Fire Brigade Convenor, Provost Ritchie Welch and Major Carnegie were part of a very large crowd.

The steam Fire Engine was horse-drawn. The two black horses, stabled at the Wm. Johnston’s Livery Stables in Market Street, were also used at funerals. The firemen had to sit or stand on the machine and had to sit or stand on the machine and had to hang on. When the horses were speeding to a fire, accidents could happen and men were injured.

At a fire, steam was used to make the pump work. A remarkably heavy pressure of water was produced. It had to be fed with the coal and there always had to be water in the boiler. On one occasion the Town Council decided to kill two birds with one stone by giving a fire fighting demonstration at the Bruce Embankment, at the same time spraying the recently constructed putting green with salt water pumped from the burn to kill the worms on the green!

The fire engine was kept in the Fire Station at the back of Holy Trinity Church (now public conveniences). It served St Andrews and East Fife until 1920.

This fire engine seems very primitive to us today, but it was a big improvement on what had gone before. Originally fire had been fought with fire bucket. In 1834 St Andrews Town Council bought an 8 Man Manual Pump, second hand. It had to be man handled to a fire. It had no means of using horsepower. In 1864 money was raised to buy a new fire engine. It was an 8 Man Manual Pump, but with improvements- water tank canvas instead of heavy wood, drawn by horses, equipment included four 6ft ladders and it had a plentiful supply of buckets.

When the Merryweather Fire Engine was made redundant in 1921, it was put in the Town Stone in Abbey Court. It was damaged when on loan to students for the Charities Procession in 1949. The boiler fire was lit, without water and the steam pipes were damaged. Later it was moved to the Fire Service workshop at Methie where it was brought back to its former glory.

It went on show at various events and was the centre piece at a Vintage Vehicle rally at Craigtoun Park in 1991.

I understand that at a later date Fife Fire and Rescue Service gave it to Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service Museum in Greenock, on permanent loan. While in their care, they were transporting it to an event when it fell off the vehicle which was carrying it and was smashed, falling on one of its big wheels. Ian Grant, Wheelwright and Carpenter, Pitscottie, made a new wheel for it and restores the engine as far as possible.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

From our Photographic Collection... St Andrews Railway Station

By Museum Volunteer Pat Harvey

Sometimes people ask –
“Where was the Railway Station in St Andrews?”
                                                                                 © GM Cowie St Andrews from the Links c1960s

In 1850 the St Andrews Railway Company was formed and a railway line was laid from the Leuchars Junction to Junction to St Andrews. In 1852 the Goods Station was built outside St Andrews near where the Old Course Hotel is now. All kinds of goods, including coal, came in at this station and were delivered to various locations in the town, in the early days at home and cart. The Station Master’s house was nearby, now the Jigger Inn. There was an iron bridge over the railway lines and I remember when we were pupils at Madras College we could use this bridge to cross over the lines when going to the playing fields at Station Park.

The Passenger Station was built in 1887. It was situated in the hollow between Kinburn Park and the Bus Station (see above photograph). This area is now a carpark which leads down to the Petheram Bridge Car Park. It was a great step forward when the passenger station was built. The tourist industry flourished. People could reach St Andrews more easily and hotels, restaurants, shops etc. all benefited. In the 1920s/30s Johnston’s house drawn cabs met incoming trains. The station would always be busy with students, golfers, holiday makers, St Leonard’s girls, folk going to Dundee etc., or group to Leuchars Junction to catch a train to travel further afield.

When coming back from Dundee, I remember getting off the train at Leuchars and the St Andrews train would be sitting in a siding waiting to take passengers to St Andrews.

 1887 was also the year when the railway line was laid from St Andrews round the coast to Anstruther, with stations at Mount Melville, Stravithie, Boarhills, Kingsbarns and Crail. It was in use until the Beeching cuts in 1965. I was never on this line, but I believe it was quite picturesque.

 The last train left St Andrews at 10.30pm on Saturday 4th January 1969. It returned from Leuchars to St Andrews at 11.07pm. The driver was Jock Speed. I understand that the communication cord was pulled several times! The passengers sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and the gates were closed for the last time.

 However this was not the end for the old railway station. In July 1969 St Andrews Town Council bought the station and tracks from British Rail. The St Andrews Youth Development Committee, who would open The Cosmos Youth Centre in 1971, managed to get a lease on the station from the Town Council, rent fee, for use by the Ichthus Youth Club. It then became home to the youth club for the next two years. This was a very successful time for the club. As well as all the usual activities of a youth club- discos, darts, snooker, table-tennis etc., - they made maximum use of the station. A summer fete was held which included pony rides on the platform and clock golf on the tracks. This is another story in itself, and was one of the tops in the Research Groups exhibition held recently in the museum.


Friday, 6 March 2015

Steam cleaning 1920s Wedding Dress

With preparations for our summer fashion exhibition well underway, we spent a morning last week preparing a beautiful 1920s wedding dress back to its former glory. The dress had been recently donated to the museum but unfortunately it had been packed away for years with other costumes, left in an attic. When the dress arrived at the museum it was extremely creased and crumpled, having been untouched for so long.
We aired it out and let it hang for a week, in the hope that gravity would take its toll and some of the creases would just fall out naturally. However this didn’t have the desired effect and so we decided to try steam cleaning it, using a hand held clothes steamer. As we are a small organisation we don’t have any external funding to employ professional costume conservators; in this instance we relied on the much appreciated help of volunteers.

We tested a small area of the dress first and, satisfied that steaming wasn’t going to damage the material, we went ahead with the rest of the garment. Soon, to our excitement, the creases began to disappear and the true beauty of the dress was revealed. The wedding dress has lots of different layers to it, in a variety of materials, so we found that starting from the underskirt and working our way outwards was the best technique.
The delicate velvet flowers on the front of the dress got a steam too and turned out beautifully. The dress will be on display this summer in our exhibition “Furs, feathers, frills & florals: four decades of fashion 1919-1959” alongside many other beautiful pieces.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Displaying Costume - some hints & tips

Museum curator, Sam Bannerman, recently went on a trip to London and Bath to research costume displays in preparation for our summer exhibition Furs, feathers, frills and florals: four decades of fashion, 1919-1959. The trip was funded by the Art Fund’s Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant Programme.

Here, Sam shares some hints and tips for displaying costume. These hints and tips came about through visiting different costume displays and through discussions with Rosemary Harden of the Fashion Museum in Bath and Georgina Ripley of National Museums Scotland.
We invite feedback and would love to hear your own experiences of working with costume.

1. Tie in with visitors expectations.
An important point that Rosemary Harden highlighted is that you need to remember who your exhibition is for; an obvious point that is often overlooked once you get into the finer details of planning any exhibition.
Our exhibition will mainly be seen by tourists, many of whom will know that St Andrews is ‘the home of golf’. I was apprehensive about displaying a pair of plus 4s (golf trousers!) for various reasons, however Rosemary pointed out that our audience will expect them. As well as giving our audience what they expect, we can reel them in and then tell them something new with our other pieces.

This point particularly hit home the day after meeting with Rosemary. I was standing in the V&A’s Wedding Dresses: 1775-2014 exhibition and the majority of visitors were watching a film of royal weddings despite there being an array of stunning wedding dresses to ogle. Of course they were watching the film! This is exactly the kind of thing they expect and want to see when visiting London.
2. Ensure that you have the skills and materials to create the display. If not, scale it back.
This is a really important point. At the early stages of planning this exhibition, I had big, big ambitions that, if attempted, would have been too difficult with the resources available. Conduct an audit not only of the physical materials that you have, but also the skills that you and your team have.

3. Try not to over-crowd cases.
Presentation is vital. The display should not be over-crowded as this will detract from the costume. There’s a clear different between a creative, active display and a cluttered one. Take these two shop displays as an example:
Image taken from

Planning a costume exhibition is similar to window dressing – you are trying to attract people to your display. The first image appears crowded and somewhat uninteresting because the mannequins are static; they are in the same pose, at the same height, looking in the same direction. The second image has the same number of mannequins, however there is action. They are also interesting due to the variety of poses and different heights.
                         4. Make a scene!

Backdrops can really help tell the story of the costume being displayed. Take this display of post-WW2 Dior at the V&A. To emphasise the elegance of Dior's ‘New Look’, a decorative gold mirror has been mounted behind the costume. It is simple, yet it adds a touch of class in keeping with the style of costume.

 5. Create a colour spectrum.
Rosemary highlighted this point to me and afterwards I could not stop noticing it! Colour co-ordination is easier on the eye - it helps visitors to flit from costume to costume. Here’s an example from the V&A:

1930s display. As well as keeping to a colour spectrum, notice how the plain and print styles complement each other and have been laid out plain-print-plain-print. Print-print-plain-plain would result in the prints clashing with the plain outfits looking too similar if side by side. There’s an intentional flow using colour and pattern, height, and careful positioning of mannequins.

Here is an example from the Fashion Museum in Bath:

Dior display. Green, pink and cream make up this colour spectrum, with the dress in the centre incorporating the green from the dress on the left and the cream from the dress on the right
With special thanks to the Art Fund, Rosemary Harden (Fashion Museum, Bath) and Georgina Ripley (National Museums Scotland).

Monday, 16 February 2015

New Trainee

We are currently hosting a new Trainee, Francesca Purvis, who is undertaking her SVQ in Museums Practice with us. The traineeship lasts a year and consists of a selection of modules that Francesca will complete through various work experience within the museum. It is a great time for her to be joining the museum as there are lots of exciting projects taking place in the forthcoming months. It may only be her second week in but already Francesca has experienced the unique occurrences that come with working in the museum! Whilst flicking through and old Fife Almanac from 1926, her attention was caught by a familiar name, McFarland (her mother’s maiden name.) Sure enough, the article detailed her Great Grandfather’s appointment as the new Minister of Balmerino Church and few details about his life works along with a picture!

 On further investigation she managed to find another article detailing his untimely death 11 years later, with a lovely accompanying piece giving a glimpse into his personality. What a small world!