Christmas Past: 1951 - ‘The spirit of Christmas walked open handed in Kirkcaldy…’

Christmas traditions were in abundance as Kirkcaldy celebrated the festive season 70 years ago.

Monday, 20th December 2021, 12:34 pm

The sense of community in December 1951 is evident in the reports in the pages of the Fife Free Press.

The language of the time also captures the sense of togetherness, and of thinking of others.

The Press boldly declared “the spirit of Christmas walked open handed in Kirkcaldy” before chronicling a number of events which saw doctors and nurses serve Christmas dinner, police officers dress as Santa, and record numbers of OAPs enjoying a festival.

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The Christmas tree near the war memorial at Kirkcaldy Galleries in 1951

Shops advertised clothes and toys as gifts - one even promoted Oxo cubes as the ideal present for the housewife!

The cinema s- and this town had many - were busy screening movies such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame while the Adam Smith Theatre was promoting a young Scottish comedian by the name of Jackie Milroy who topped the bill in ‘Whirl Of Laughter.’

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The Press reported: “The joy of the festival leapt from the familiar appeal of the carols ringing in church, hospital and home; echoed in the laughter and wondering-eyed excitement of the children; danced in the wink and gleam of myriad Christmas trees softly aglow in festooned finery; beamed warmed pm family reunions, seasonal gatherings and happy parties held by young and old.”

Advert from Fife Free Press of 1951

Happiness, it said, “formed the bounty in homely and generous measure.”

That said, there were two devastating fires - one which gutted the Burma Ballroom and then one which caused major damage to Spears carpet repository in Links Street on Christmas Day.

The courts also dealt with those who fell foul of the law, with several drunken cases featuring “filthy language.”

But the colour, warmth and spectacle of Christmas dominated the news pages.

Gifts for men in 1951

A record 270 OAPs benefited from the funds of the Third Ward (Kirkcaldy) Old Folks Festival which ha become so popular it had to be restricted to the over 70s.

It had been held every year for over six decades in Pathead Halls - and that sense of togetherness was reflected elsewhere.

The warmth of Christmas was no more richly experience than in the wards of various hospitals where patients received gifts contributed to by churches, the Gaumont Cinema and private individuals.

1951 advert for Mentiplays of Kirkcaldy

At Kirkcaldy General Hospital, celebrations began with carols sung by nurses at 6:30am, and they joined doctors in serving Christmas dinner.

Each patient in the women’s ward received a posy of anemones.

There was more carol singing at Victoria Hospital - it was voted one of the nicest ever Christmasses as each ward had its own turkey, and there was an abundance of other food as medical staff acted as carvers and servers.

There was also a film show in the sanatorium by Mr C Briggs of Oswald Road.

Gifts were added to hospital trays at Hunter Hospital which hosted its own concert, while at Forth Park Maternity Hospital, nurses in their scarlet capes walked round the wards singing carols.

Dr W.F. Flint and his young daughter visited the wards and presented each one with a gift for their baby

At St Olaf’s Children’s Home, youngsters had gifts and a trip to see Cinderella at Kirkcaldy Ice Rink

And over 1000 children received gifts under the Christmas Tree Scheme sponsored by Kirkcaldy Town Council with help of volunteers from the WVS.

A team from the corporation department, t under the guidance of Miss I. R. Thomson deployed two cars and three vans and spent all day distributing them.

The police also got all festive, with Fife Constabulary hosting 70 children at its annual party at Kirkcaldy Council Chambers where Sergeant Robertson dressed as Santa and emerged from an improvised fireplace.

The kindness of individuals was also summarised with a little known, and long forgotten ceremony, which used to take place at the Council Chambers on Christmas Day,

Miss Agnes Russell’s Christmas Gift was the legacy of one woman who resolved to form an endowment of £5 per annum in perpetuity to make donations to “a few respectable, intelligent, unmarried or widowed females not under the age of 60.”

It was started in 1876 by Miss Russell who died aged 94.

A presentation of 10/- and a cake of shortbread was performed by Provost James Young and the Lady Provost, Miss Young, in her memory.

The council inscribed the shortbread with “Peace on earth, good will to men”

As the Press recorded: “The spirit of Christmas walked open handed in Kirkcaldy…”

It still does to this day.

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