Fife architect Fairlie has left his mark on his home turf

Fife architect Reginald Fairlie.''Courtesy and copyright of RCAHMS.
Fife architect Reginald Fairlie.''Courtesy and copyright of RCAHMS.

Those who don’t have a passion for architecture may not know the name Reginald Fairlie.

A renowned Fife architect, Reginald grew up at Myres Castle – between Falkland and Auchtermuchty.

At the time of his death, he and his partner AB Conlon were completing the National Library of Scotland, a project which started in 1936 but was interrupted by World War Two.

Many of his finest works can also be found closer to home in Fife, to which he remained firmly committed – despite living most of his adult life in Edinburgh.

Reginald and the Fairlie family have been making headlines recently thanks, in part, once again to the National Library of Scotland.

For a Farilie family album is among the photographic treasures which have just been purchased by the NLS and National Galleries of Scotland as part of the MacKinnon Collection.

While most of the pictures in the £1 million collection have yet to be revealed, the Fairlie album was used to announce the news of its purchase.

A National Library of Scotland spokesman, said: “While photography is known for reproductibility, many of the artworks contained within the collection are unique.

“It includes daguerreotype portraits and hand-made albums.

“One such impressive example is the Fairlie album, consisting of family portraits and photographs by known makers including Julia Margaret Cameron.

“Using elements of collage, drawing and marginalia, the pages are a one-of-a-kind celebration of the Fairlie family from Fife.

“Reginald Fairlie was the architect of the National Library of Scotland building on George IV Bridge.”

A major exhibition of the MacKinnon Collection will be held at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery next year, with a touring exhibition to follow.

The entire collection will also be digitised over the next three years and made available online.

That is certain to be music to the ears of Falkland Society chairman Dr Peter Burman, who will next week deliver the group’s final lecture of the season – with Reginald as his subject.

Peter said: “The National Library of Scotland is one of the iconic 20th century buildings of Edinburgh.

“However, few now realise it was designed by the Fife architect Reginald Fairlie.

“While open to Modernist influences, his work represents the final flowering of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Scotland.”

However, Fairlie also did a considerable amount of work in Fife.

Peter said: “Reginald served as a soldier in World War One.

“Thereafter, like many gifted architects of his generation, he spent much time and energy designing war memorials, including the one in Auchtermuchty where the first name inscribed is that of his elder brother, John – a Highland Light Infantry captain.

“Two of his greatest works were also memorials: the restoration and fitting out of the University Chapel of St Salvator in St Andrews – a memorial to members of the university who died during World War One – and the Roxburghe Cloister in Kelso, for the Dowager Duchess of Roxburghe.

“The cloister is an undoubted masterpiece of construction, of beautiful lettering and composition, and sits perfectly within its ancient context.

“In Falkland, we also have the Memorial Chapel opposite the stables of the House of Falkland.

“It was consciously left incomplete, symbolising the cruel termination of lives during World War One but it is still very much loved today.”

Peter’s lecture will be delivered in Upper Town Hall, Falkland, on Wednesday, June 13, at 7pm, to which all are welcome.

The lecture will be followed at 8.15 pm by the Falkland Society’s AGM.

*Dr Peter Burman read history of art and architecture at King’s College, Cambridge.

For 22 years he worked in the central office for churches and cathedrals, for the last 12 years as director.

The next 12 years were spent as director of the Centre for Conservation Studies, University of York.

He came to live in Scotland when appointed director of conservation with the National Trust for Scotland in 2002.

During that time, he fell in love with Falkland to such an extent that he became a Trustee of the Falkland Stewardship Trust.