History of the Collection

About us

The Kilrenny and Anstruther Burgh Collection, Fife

The Kilrenny and Anstruther Burgh Collection, registered Scottish Charity SCO 24532, is a voluntary organization which promotes the history of the former Royal Burghs of Anstruther Easter, Anstruther Wester and Kilrenny (which includes Cellardyke) in Fife, Scotland.

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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. Following on from this, in 1981 local historian Dr Stephanie Stevenson appealed in the press for old photographs, letters and documents so that an archive collection could be established.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum generously offered a room, in which 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. The Burgh Room was officially opened in May 1986. However, with the expansion and development of the Scottish Fisheries Museum it was realized that it was time to move on.

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”. 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.

New home

In 2018 we were delighted to secure rooms within the East Neuk Centre at Ladywalk, Anstruther. For the first time, we were able to make the archives available to visitors interested in local history or family research. We also have space to display selected items from our Collection. These include the Dux Boards from Cellardyke School (below); a grandfather clock made by David Lumsden (whose 1911 book Reminiscences of Kilrenny we have in our library) to school desks and teaching materials from the 1950s and 60s.

Four wooden plaques painted with the names of dux medal winners for girls and boys from 1920 to 1958

Exhibitions and activities

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 page. Our first exhibition was held in 1993 on the 150th anniversary of the Disruption and of Dr Thomas Chalmers’ place in it. The Memories of War, and Memories of School exhibitions were developed with the participation of The Waid Academy and Anstruther Primary. Our 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. This was our most successful exhibition to date, attracting more than 400 visitors.

Images of People at Work in Anstruther and Cellardyke

Prominent activities include an event, with specially commissioned music, to coincide with our publication of “Love and Loss – After the Armistice”. Written and narrated by our chair, Kevin Dunion, it tells the story of Elizabeth Johnston QMAAC who died on Christmas Day 1918. This was performed in Cellardyke and the Storytelling Centre in the High Street, Edinburgh. BBC Radio Scotland made a special 20-minute radio programme which was broadcast on three occasions, and The Scotsman carried a two-page spread on it.

Another tragic story is that of Dr Thomas Black, the local surgeon who drowned in Anstruther harbour in 1864. Our vice chair Glenn Jones was instrumental in recovering a damaged portrait of the doctor and securing substantial funds for its restoration. The portrait, by the prominent Anstruther born artist Robert Fowler (whose portraits of Disraeli and Gladstone are in the Palace of Westminster), now hangs in Anstruther Town Hall.

Three men hanging the Thomas Black portrait

Publications and membership

Our publications are important in telling the history of our community but also in raising revenue for the Burgh Collection. We combine research, oral history, old photographs and donated material to highlight people and past times of life in Anstruther, Cellardyke and Kilrenny.

Details of our current titles are to be found in the bookstore The major part of our income comes from books sales and membership subscriptions in support of our activity. Please do join us, wherever you may be.


Get involved

The Burgh Collection is actively seeking volunteers to join our team! Whether you can commit to a regular 2-hour shift a couple of times a month, or are available to help occasionally, we have opportunities for you. Do you have specialized skills? We especially welcome volunteers who can assist with our library, website, or general administration tasks.