Andrew Carnegie’s gold key on display to mark re-opening of Kirkcaldy theatre

A gold key given to philanthropist Andrew Carnegie when he opened the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy is going on show to mark the venue’s long-awaited re-opening.
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.The keepsake was one of two presented to VIP guests when Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith Theatre – recently given a £7.8 million makeover – was inaugurated in 1899. The doors to the venue re-open this weekend after a long three-year closure.

Keys were gifted to the Dunfermline-born steel magnate and the widow of Kirkcaldy linoleum manufacturer, Michael Beveridge, who funded the theatre’s construction. They are being reunited for the first time since 1899 and will go on show together for 12 months at Kirkcaldy Galleries – across the road from the revamped theatre. It is the first time the Carnegie key has been exhibited in more than 10 years.

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Crafted by local jeweller Alex Constable, the keepsakes were not keys to the theatre itself but decorative items bearing Kirkcaldy’s coat of arms and inscriptions to each recipient. The theatre was opened on 11 October 1899 to honour the hugely influential economist and philosopher Adam Smith, who was born in Kirkcaldy 300 years ago. A sculpture of Smith by Italian artist Baron Carlo Marochetti will be on permanent display in the refurbished foyer.

The gold key given to Andrew Carnegie in 1899 is set to go on display in Kirkcaldy (Pic: OnFife)The gold key given to Andrew Carnegie in 1899 is set to go on display in Kirkcaldy (Pic: OnFife)
The gold key given to Andrew Carnegie in 1899 is set to go on display in Kirkcaldy (Pic: OnFife)

The marble bust is part of the extensive art collection managed by cultural charity OnFife, which runs the theatre – now transformed into a multi-purpose creative hub.

Speaking at the opening in 1899, Carnegie declared the venue ‘suitable for concerts, charades, private theatricals, meetings of philanthropic committees, lectures upon interesting and instructive topics and entertainments of all kinds’.

Accepting his ceremonial key from Mrs Elizabeth Beveridge, Carnegie said: “This key, presented in any circumstances, would have been precious beyond price. Coming, madame, from you, the honoured wife of one of the benefactors of Kirkcaldy, I assure you this key must ever derive and retain tenfold value and (will be) handed down in our family as one of its most precious heirlooms.”

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The steel magnate was also given the Freedom of the Burgh of Kirkcaldy at the ceremony.

The philanthropist’s key is being loaned by the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum. Mrs Beveridge’s keepsake is on long-term display at Kirkcaldy Galleries.

Gavin Grant , OnFife’s collections team leader said: “The theatre’s reopening is a wonderful opportunity to reunite the two presentation keys for the first time since 1899. We’re delighted that visitors to Kirkcaldy Galleries can view these significant objects from the town's history over the coming year.”

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