Anniversary of blaze marked by artwork

A blaze which lit the skyline in Anstruther 25 years ago and destroyed a landmark church has been remembered in an artwork by a local artist.

Wednesday, 8th June 2016, 5:01 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:47 pm
Robin Forsyth's lino-cut of the Challmers Church fire in Anstruther 25 years ago.
Robin Forsyth's lino-cut of the Challmers Church fire in Anstruther 25 years ago.

Robin Forsyth has created a lino-cut of the event showing flames rising into the sky from the Chalmers Memorial Church, standing high above the harbour.

The church occupied a prominent position on the highest ground in the town and was a highly visible landmark for fishermen.

Robin made the piece last November when he had been thinking about bonfires but as he researched the event, he was amazed to discover 25 years had passed.

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His own memory of the fire was as a student studying in Dundee and being called to see a report on the television news.

“I was quite shocked and saddened by it and I still imagine the kirk is there when I’m looking at the skyline,” he said.

The church dated back to 1891 and was named in honour of Dr Thomas Chalmers of Anstruther, the moderator of the new Free Church.

It consisted of a main body, a tower to the north, and an aisle and a porch to the south.

It stopped being used in 1983 and attempts to find alternative uses were unsuccessful.

Even before the fire it had fallen into a derelict state, with fears expressed over its dangerous state.

When the blaze was discovered in the early hours of May 1991, fire appliances from Anstruther, St Monans, St Andrews, Methil and Kirkcaldy were called to the scene.

Five hoses used water from the harbour but the job was made difficult by an outgoing tide.

Within days demolition experts were called in to take down the remains, although the weather vane, bronze church bell and memorial plaques were saved.

There are no visible traces of the building today, with houses having been built on the site.

However, there is a Thomas Chalmers memorial garden, opened in 2013 below the site of the former church on the corner of Haddfoot Wynd and East Green, behind the Scottish Fisheries Museum.

When Robin posted a print of the lino-cut online, it prompted recollections from local people, including Alex Watson, who said it had been his family church, where his parents were married, as was his sister, and they were all christened there.

He even managed to rescue a very small fragment of structure, from above the main entrance, which has been in his garden since.