Event recalls Cupar’s ‘forgotten’ history

From left, with a plaque recording the Polish forces' billeting at the Cupar Lodge - Cupar historian Steve Penrice, Violeta Ilendo, who chairs Fife Polish Education Trust and Douglas Abercrombie, Master of Lodge Coupar O' Fife No 19.
From left, with a plaque recording the Polish forces' billeting at the Cupar Lodge - Cupar historian Steve Penrice, Violeta Ilendo, who chairs Fife Polish Education Trust and Douglas Abercrombie, Master of Lodge Coupar O' Fife No 19.

Plans to mark a ‘forgotten’ piece of Cupar’s history get under way tonight (Friday) with a special event in honour of the town’s Polish links.

The Polish Consul General based in Edinburgh, Dariusz Adler, and some of his staff will join a number of local dignitaries for a commemoration event and plaque unveiling in the Masonic Lodge, Bonnygate, which it’s hoped will kick-start a campaign to erect a permanant memorial in recognition of the Poles’ wartime contribution.

But the event might not have happened at all were it not for a chance discovery by Lodgemaster Dougie Abercrombie and local historian Steve Penrice.

During the War, the Lodge premises, like many others, were requisitioned by the army for use as a billet, housing 20 soldiers from the ambulance section of the 1st Polish Rifle Brigade, in turn part of the Polish Mobile Ambulance Convoy based in Newburgh.

Since the Lodge itself dates back to 1736, it held a veritable mountain of historical papers and it was while ploughing through these that Dougie and Steve stumbled across a treasure trove of Polish wartime memorabilia.

“The soldiers didn’t leave any photos of themselves, but we do have some poignant reminders of their presence,” said Dougie.

“They had scribbled in green ink in an old attendance book and even left a list of their names and ranks.

“We also found a Christmas card that they had made using local landmarks such as St John’s Spire and the Corn Exchange as inspiration, because they reminded them of the skyline of the city of Krakow.”

“We don’t know what became of the Polish soldiers after the war – or if in fact they ever saw their liberated homeland again,” Dougie continued.

“But we owe them a huge debt of gratitude and feel that their contribution hasn’t been properly acknowledged.

“We hope that tonight’s event will raise awareness of how much we have to be grateful for.

“If we hadn’t come across those artefacts by chance the Poles’ place in the history of the Cupar area might have been forgotten.”

The memorabilia will be on display tonight along with a remarkable film of Polish soldiers marching along Bonnygate with Winston Churchill.

Now Dougie is seeking volunteers and benefactors to help him take forward his plans for a permanent memorial.

“Unlike other Fife towns there is no memorial in Cupar,” he said.

“It is intended that this unfortunate situation should be corrected and due honour and respect paid to our gallant Polish allies.”

Anyone who would like to help is asked to contact Dougie on 07749 231302.