Extract of Matriculation of
the Arms of the Royal Burgh of Elie and Earlsferry
Note: Over time the red dyes in the film
that I used to take this photo have badly faded. I hope the red
colours as on the original document , wherever it happens to
be today, have fared better.
I date this photo early 1930's. The Earlsferry & Elie Town Council
Top left: Councilors Oddy, Webster, Braid, Rennie,
Clark, and Alistair Cook (legal advisor).
Front row left: Bailies Tom Reekie (my father), and
David Greig, Short, (he was well over 6 feet tall), the provost and
headmaster of the Elie School, ex-provost Prescott, and far right
Dr. Pentland-Smith. Dr. Pentland-Smith assisted my mother at
the time of her giving birth to my brother John in 1923, me in 1926,
and brother Noel in 1929 in our home, the Cross, just across the
road from the Earlsferry Town Hall. In all probability the
photographer was William Bromley whose photography shop with
portrait studio above was in the building at the Earlsferry corner.
In the 30's and 40's, when radio was in it's infancy and TV had
never been heard of, the Earlsferry town hall was in almost daily
use. We called the Town Hall, the Picter Hoose as this was a main
weekly use. It became a movie theatre on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
On each of these two nights there were two full movie showings. Also
shown, in addition to the main feature film, would be at least two
short films and the Gaumont British news. Weekly serial movies were
also a feature like the Floyd Gibbons cliff-hanger series where the
speeding car just beats the train to a crossing.Sing-along films were also popular like Shine On, Shine On
Harvest Moon, where a ball indicated when and what word to sing.Movies were black and white. Deanna Durban,
Jeannette Mc. Donald, Nelson Eddy, Clark Gable and
Errol Flynn were it.
The very first
movie that I saw was a horror film that haunted me for years. It was
called Hands of Orlac. Orlac was a strangler who had just been
dispatched. A man in an accident had just lost his hands and Orlac's
hands were used as replacements. With the hands having memory of
their own you can imagine the rest. Next in my memory bank is a
movie called China Clipper that featured the early days of Pan
American Airways. I remember the suspense as the airliner battled
it's way across the Pacific Ocean through fog and rainstorms as on a
heading for Alameda California in San Francisco Bay the pilot
repeatedly called for guidance, "China Clipper calling Alameda,
China Clipper calling Alameda. "China Clipper calling Alameda." Another movie
that I remember there was the early, early version of King Solomon's
Mines, high, in the mountains of Africa, and featuring
the singer Paul Robeson as Umbopa. Other favourites were San
Francisco and Gone With the Wind.
At starting times it was quite common for crowds of people to be
lined up, several abreast, from the steps of the town hall front
door to right around the corner and into the Cross Wynd.
Projection of the film to the screen was by means of high intensity
carbon arc light. Under the town hall was a space that housed a good
sized gas engine which had two wide faced flywheels that were
coupled to a dynamo by means of flat belting. The dynamo provided
the electric power that created the intense carbon-arc light beam.
Gas to fuel the engine was produced a half mile away at Jimmy
Stevens gas works at Liberty.
The movie projectionist was William Bromley who also had a
photography business in the house at the
Earlsferry corner, before it fell down. (I don't ever remember
that this engine and dynamo were dismantled in order to be
removed and it can well be that this equipment is still in place
under the Ferry Town Hall, alongside of the Cross Wynd.)
Friday nights were big nights for two separate events. First and
starting at was the weekly
whist drive. Seats for the movies were mostly long wooden benches
and were pushed back to the walls. A dozen tables with four chairs
at each usually sufficed for the whist players. Card play was for
two hours which ended up with a first and a second prize and a booby
prize being awarded for the player with the poorest score.
After the whist drive the hall came alive as the younger set showed
up. The chairs were removed and the floor was sprinkled with
slipperine. This was dance night. The
dance was always well attended and ended at two in the morning.
As we lived next door that was when we could get to sleep.
On other days and nights the hall was used for concerts and plays,
bring and buy jumble sales, events to raise money and things like
that. Most every day in the week something was going on in the
One show that I well remember (about early 1930's) was the night
that Dr Walford Bodie put on his performance.His specialty was hypnotism and in the demonstrating of his
so called resistance to high voltage electrical shock. The highlight
of his show was an electric chair into which an assistant strapped
him. At the right moment and with a roll call of drums the assistant
threw a switch. Huge sparks shot everywhere like as from a Tesla
coil. Light bulbs lit up and smoke surrounded the chair. It was
announced that 30000 volts of electricity (no doubt at very low
amperage) were passing through his body. The audience gasped as he
appeared to sizzle. The drumbeat ceased, the switch was unthrown and
the smoke died down.Dr Bodie was unshackled from the chair and he emerged
smiling. He was indeed a super showman.
Another night a doctor rented the hall to extol the great health and
medicinal benefits of wearing an iodine locket around the neck .This
was supposed to ward off whatever ailed you. He sold a bundle of
them as most of the villagers wore them for years until we wised up.
Every evening, at ,
the "curfew" bell in the steeple of the Town Hall was rung. There
was never an actual curfew but the bell was rung for about five
minutes just to keep alive an old Earlsferry tradition.
As it got dark the village lamplighter went around the village
lighting all of the street gas lamps.
In a back room of the Town Hall was the Council Chambers where the
elected members of the
Town council met
once a month to conduct the affairs of the joint villages. In the
council chambers were stored the records and artifacts of the
villages, the provosts gold chain of office (which as I remember was
a gift from Elie's Miss Allison) and things like that. The walls
were hung with other old pictures and the framed Coat of Arms of the
joint villages of Earlsferry and Elie.
On Saturday mornings the council chambers became the Court of Law.
If Wilson the bobby had formally charged anyone for a misdemeanor
this is where he came for the charge to be read and the sentence, if
any, to be levied. My dad, Tom Reekie, for several years was Bailie
Reekie.It was his job to be the sentencing magistrate, if the
accused was found guilty. Earlsferry and Elie being a pair of small
towns everybody knew everybody else so it was a difficult job for my
father to levy jail time. My
father, Tom, was well known to always be lenient and his sentences
usually took the form of a good talking to and "now, go away and
My brother Noel reminds me---- on one
occasion our dad, Tom, had fined a young man for whatever it was
that he did, then, feeling sorry for him, Tom paid the fine himself.
Earlsferry and Elie
never ever had any really bad guys.