Scottish Royal Lion Rampant Flag




Robert Fowler


In remembrance of a very fine and talented man.


"Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."


When I first met Bob Fowler he was an old man. Of course to a twelve year old anyone over fifteen is old. Most likely Bob Fowler was about fifty when I first met him. My parents had taken the family for a Sunday walk to see the spring flowers that were in bloom in  Kellie Castle’s garden about five miles distant from our home in Earlsferry. Our walk took us by way of St. Monans then inland by way of the hamlet of Ebercrimmie, or as it's known today, Abercrombie. As we walked through the hamlet here was this man tending the many beautiful flowers that were growing in his garden. In the thirties, with very few cars on the roads, life was lived at a very leisurely pace compared to today and everybody had time to converse with one another. After a few words of greeting and telling him we were going to see Kellie’s flowers Bob invited us in to see his garden.  Bob had a great old-world garden in which he was growing a great many varieties of flowers as well as vegetables for his table. Next Bob asked if we would like to see his workshop. This invitation became the start of him becoming one of my best friends for all of the years that I later was to live in Earlsferry.


Bob’s calling was the making of antique furniture in the styles of Adams, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Queen Anne and others. By the skillful way that Bob hand created his masterpieces, it would have taken a very learned individual to detect that his pieces had recently been made. Bob’s workshop was in a derelict stone cottage alongside of another cottage that was his home. It was awesome to be in his presence as he lovingly showed us various pieces that he had made. His eyes sparkled as he would say such things as ”look at the beautiful grain in this piece of wood.” It was humbling to be in the presence of a man who had such a love for his calling. As I got to know him better I was to find that he never put a price on anything that he made and that he would only sell to you if his instincts were positive for your motive in wanting to have one or more of his creations. When it came to the subject of price, Bob’s response invariably was something like, what do you think? There was never ever any haggling or dickering. If you and the amount you said showed that you appreciated his craftsmanship and you would take good care of his creations Bob would insist that you take the item, often for much less, even if you were a very wealthy person. If Bob didn't get this feeling for you then the item was very diplomatically no longer for sale. Money to Bob meant nothing but I know his gentlemanly and wealthy patrons always insisted on paying him more than he expected. Many of his works of art ended up in the stately homes of Earlsferry and Elie and the other nearby villages. Bob was so respected for his craftsmanship that always he was backlogged for five years or longer.


Bob made many of his wood working tools. Old and worn out farm implements were the raw materials for the making of his chisels, his planes and his carving tools. To make these he had a small forge of his own making and an anvil. Nearby Bob had a friend who was a blacksmith who kept the farm horses in new shoes. As the smith trimmed the hoofs to fit the new shoes he saved the hoof trimmings for Bob. Bob used this hoof material in his forge as he made his new tools. The carbon rich hoof material imparted additional carbon (Carburizing) into the red hot steel which is a major determining factor as to whether a piece of steel can be hardened such that it will keep a razor sharp edge. When Bob needed glue for the joints of his furniture he heated more of the hoof trimmings until they melted to the consistency that he wanted.  There was nothing hurried about the way Bob made his furniture as maybe five years might elapse from the start to the finish of a work piece. From the fine hardwoods that he had collected Bob first rough sawed the woods to the approximate sizes. In his workshop was what had been an open fireplace. This is where Bob stacked his rough sawn pieces for the gentle airflow in the chimney to slowly age and dry the wood for the length of time that he considered it necessary for the wood to become stable and warp free before being crafted into one of his pieces of furniture. The finish on Bob's pieces was all done by him gently rubbing in wax polish that he made by thinning beeswax with a mixture of turpentine and boiled linseed oil. To pollinate his garden and to supply the wax, Bob kept two hives of bees which also furnished him with a supply of honey.


As Bob saw my interest in his craftsmanship he volunteered, if you would like to make something for yourself I'll help you. Whenever you have spare time just come. I'll be here. Over the years Bob helped me to make a Queen Anne piano bench, (a present for my sister Minnie) a Queen Anne foot stool and a small and a large Adams mirror. During these years Bob also made for me a set of eight Hepplewhite chairs, a half round/round folding top swing leg inlaid card table, a matched pair of Gossip arm chairs whose insert seats are covered with Ferguson tartan kilt quality cloth and a Chinese Chippendale T chair.


Words can’t express my admiration for Bob Fowler. In later years, long after he had passed away, I returned to Abercrombie to once more just be there as I remembered this very fine old man who had befriended me. Someone, (I believe maybe Eve Burns, late of D'avaar, Earlsferry,) had bought his house and his workshop and very tastefully renovated them to become a very fine home in keeping with the character of the man. Today on the wall of his house is a nameplate that simply says, Bob Fowlers Cottage. 


The "gossip" chairs and inlaid, 30 inch diameter, half round folding card table were made by Bob. The wrought iron candlestick is one of my making as is the painting of The Lady's Tower. The bust is that of Sir Walter Scott. The painting of the Elie Harbour and the smaller one of the Elie Lighthouse are by Mr. Storrie of Kilconquhar. The large embroidery centerpiece was lovingly made by my youngest daughter Kyle which she made especially for me and gave to me as a gift.


In my den.

 Alongside of my collection of very old thermometers is a letter that's framed with purple matting . This is a personal letter to me in the USA as dated 24th. September 1987  from Kenneth Scott, private secretary to Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II  and written on the Queen's Buckingham Palace stationary. His letter begins-----

 "Dear Mr. Reekie,

 I am commanded by the Queen to thank you for your ------"


Bob Fowler Adams mirror


Scotland is well known for its numerous dry stane dykes and the Abercrombie neighborhood  was no exception. Many of the dry stane dykes looked like they had just been built and I was surprised when Bob told me that it was many, many years ago since they had been built. Most all were standing straight and true despite the walls having no mortar of any kind. In querying Bob as to how these walls were built he let me in on the method. As I remember it went something like this:


 Dry Stane Dyke


  Start wi a soond foond fer the length o' the wa,

then ane stane abane twa, ne'er ane abane ane.

Mak it dibble wide wi stanes atween

 tyin the wa's thegither.

Noo, pack it an fill it ticht,

 then croon it wi heavy wide arch stanes.

 Keep it a' trim an even

 an ye'll hae a braw long lastin wa.


"A Wish."

  "Mine be a cot beside the hill;

A bee-hive's hum shall soothe my ear,

A willowy brook that turns a mill,

With many a fall shall linger there.


The swallow oft beneath my thatch,

Shall twitter from her clay-built nest;

Oft shall the pilgrim lift the latch,

And share my meal, a welcome guest.


Around my ivied porch shall spring,

Each fragrant flower that drinks the dew,

And Lucy at her wheel shall sing,

In russet gown and apron blue.


The village church among the trees,

Where first our marriage vows were given,

With merry peals shall swell the breeze,

And point with taper spire to Heaven."


Samuel Rogers