This is how the
Earlsferry corner looked for many, many hundreds
of years until in the middle of the night on a
fateful day in 1947 the two buildings on the
corner came crashing down to change forever the
ambience, the charm, and the gateway to the
When it happened I
was their owner.
For many years the
two level building on the corner and the single
level adjoining building in the High Street had stood empty.
every day over the years as I walked by them I
thought what a shame that something wasn't done
with them. I often thought what a wonderful home
they could be made into. The two storied house
right on the corner was several hundred years
old and was maybe the
oldest house in Earlsferry. It was the only
house in Earlsferry that had an inside solid
stone winding stairway. The walls were made of
good stone and were more than two feet in width at the
base. The last person to occupy the property on
the Ferry corner was William Bromley who used
the lower floor as a camera and film shop and
the upper floor as his photographic portrait taking studio.
On the right; my
sister Minnie who was born in 1920 and my
brother John, born 1923.
by Wm. Bromley.
I became the owner of
the properties at the corner in
quite a strange way.
Two elderly spinster
sisters, by the name of the Misses Waddell lived
together in a house on the beachfront in Earlsferry.
From time to time, as a teenager, I did odd jobs for them like doing minor repairs
and gardening, that sort of thing. One
day, in making conversation, I made mention to the
two ladies as to my admiration for and interest in
the two old vacant houses at the
They astonished me by telling me that they were
the owners. After a short time they said, well,
come back again and we can have some tea and
talk about it some more.
(What I remember
most about their house was that in the
street side garden there grew a fuchsia bush
that was so old and prolific that when I was a
teenager it had grown to become a tree that then
must have been ten to fifteen feet tall.)
I did. I asked,
did they want to sell the two old houses? No
they hadn't been thinking about selling. They
went on to say that it would take quite a bit to
bring the properties up to modern
day standards. I said that I thought that
over time I could do it. They then went on to
say that they had been talking things over
between themselves and had decided to not sell
but to give me both
of the old houses. There was only one catch.
They went on to explain that at the corner they
also owned the large two level house by the name
of Ferry Lodge, This house was right next to the corner
house. They were the owner/landlords and as such
had tenants living in Ferry Lodge. Some years
prior to this a wartime law had been passed
called The Rent Restriction Act. The gist of the
law was that the amount of the rent of a rented
house was frozen at the amount being charged as
of 1939. The landlord had to keep the house up
to standards and pay for all repairs. The
landlord could not regain possession until the
tenants either voluntarily vacated or died. They
told me that the expenses of ownership of this
house far outweighed the income and that, with
the age they both were, the sitting tenants
would in all probability outlive them. If I
would accept this house too and relieve them of
their responsibilities they would have papers
drawn up to transfer all three
buildings to me for nothing. They did not want
me to say anything then but to come back the
following week for tea, after I'd thought about
And so I became the
owner of all three properties at the Earlsferry
corner. It was a tender moment when the
two dear ladies handed me the keys.
I stood inside the buildings for the first time
as owner I knew instinctively that somehow I'd
only become the person designated to be
custodian. I made one change to the inside
which was in keeping with the antiquity and the character of the two
properties. This was to make an internal
connecting doorway to make one home out of the
two properties. The outside
appearance I decided not to change in even the
In due time I had in
my mind all the non structural and minor changes
that I'd do to make "
home". My start was to clean from end to
end and from top to bottom.
At this time the Earlsferry
and Elie local authority decided to resurface the roadway of the
Street. Before doing so they contacted all the
underground utility people to first carry out
any repairs or the laying of
new pipes etc. to prevent at a later
date having to dig up the new road surface. This
was just after World War ll
ended and the Labour
Government had been voted into power. One of the
first things the new government did was to
nationalize many industries. The gas industry
was one of them.
It was decided that a
new gas main pipe would be laid along the entire
of the Earlsferry
The foundations of
many houses that are built near the sea rest on sand which is a stable
long as it is contained and it is never disturbed.
A foundation that is built on well drained sand makes a better base than
earth which can turn to gooey mushy mud when it gets saturated. A foundation
that is built on a
solid rock base is preferred.
A trench was dug the
length of the High Street about five feet deep
and the pipe was laid starting from the west
end. At the east end, the Earlsferry
corner, the roadway was so narrow the pavement
sidewalks on either side of the street were less
than three feet wide and the roadway was
not much more than the width of one vehicle.
The trench had been
dug hard against the pavement on the north, my, side
of the road. To still allow vehicles to enter
the village, the sand
that was dug up out of the trench was piled upon
the pavement and against my houses. Before the
pipe was laid in the trench it started to rain
in a heavy downpour. It rained heavy and
incessantly for a whole week. All work stopped.
The almost six feet deep trench had not one stick of
shoring. During the fateful night the weight of
the sodden sand that was all piled up on the
sidewalk caused the concrete sidewalk to
shear off and slide down into the trench. Right behind
it the entire foundations of my two buildings
slid sideways into the trench and the walls
collapsed. The roof exploded into
splinters as the entire structure of the two
buildings broke up. When daylight came it was
like the two buildings had taken a direct hit
from a high explosive bomb.
The buildings were a
total loss. An ignominious end to
a historic past.
Authorities came to
inspect the site and the buildings were declared
a danger and a hazard to the public at large. As
the owner I was served with a demolition order
to completely clear the site. A contractor was
engaged to do the work. It took heavy equipment
to get the large stones hoisted out of the
trench and all the materials that had comprised
the two buildings loaded on to trucks. Clearing
the site took the labours
of several men about a month. The sea had been
eroding the land adjacent to the twelfth tee of the golf course. All the
materials were hauled there by way of the West
Sea road and used to rip'rap the shoreline.
After the site was
cleared the now exposed gables of the
properties on each side of the break had to be
strengthened and repaired.
The situation was
taken advantage of as this was the ideal time to
exert the right of the public as to eminent
domain to take from me as much of my ground as
was necessary in order to widen the roadway to
the extent that it is today.
No single entity
would admit responsibility for the damage. The
town authority claimed that they only ordered the
work to be carried out in a workmanlike manner.
The National Gas Board said they had engaged a
responsible Edinburgh contracting firm to dig
the trench and lay the pipe. The contractor
claimed that the incessant rain that stopped the
work and so caused the disaster was an act of
The controversy as to
the liability for damages made newspaper copy.
I was contacted by a lawyer who contended that
all concerned with the pipe laying project were liable and
named the joint towns of Earlsferry
and Elie, the National Gas Board and the
contractor as parties jointly
accountable for the incurred expenses of the
When at last the dust settled it was established
that there had been gross negligence as to the
carrying out of the work and that all of the
named parties were jointly accountable.
I was awarded an amount of money sufficient to
pay for all the costs of demolition and the
repair of the gables and an amount sufficient to
pay for all of the lawyer charges and legal
costs. It was determined that since I had just recently become the owner of the properties and
had paid nothing for them that I wasn't out of
pocket. True to an extent. I wasn't into it
The real losers were
the long time residents of Earlsferry
and the public at large.
The gateway to the
village had consisted of ancient, unique and
attractive old dwellings, heritage properties.
The very essence of the village became a gaping
Overnight my dream of making home
there vanished with the rubble.
properties that vanished
in but a few short years
"Caddy Days " page and read about Walkers'
my "Wilson the Bobby" page
and read what happened to his cottage.
built by Admiral Duddingston, the Gourley
mansion house atop the Kincraig cliffs
and last but by no means least the humble salmon
fisher's cottage at Shell Bay.
As it was until 1947
Earlsferry Corner, As It Is Today