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Earlsferry Town Hall

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 7 o'clock 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 town hall.  

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 8 o'clock, 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 Earlsferry and Elie 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 behave yourself."

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.