Kirkcaldy Naturalists' Society winds down after 140 years in town

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One of Kirkcaldy’s long standing community groups is calling it a day.

Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society (KNS) is winding its operations down this year after an illustrious 140 years in the Lang Toun.

The society, which was founded in 1882, was formed to study natural science by the collection of specimens, by reading of communications, lectures and excursions.

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However, with diminishing membership numbers in recent years and with so many options for people to learn about nature in the digital age, the society’s board has agreed to wind down its operations.

Members of Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society in 2018.Members of Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society in 2018.
Members of Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society in 2018.
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Bill Brown, president and secretary, said: “With the society down to around 30 members who are mostly elderly, we have made the difficult decision to end operations as we cannot see a future for the group.

"We’re very sad for it to finish, but we’re finding it increasingly difficult to find people to sit on the board as well as new members – it’s just not the same as it used to be.”

Although the decision to close was a hard one, Bill shared some of the society’s more memorable moments over the years.

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Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society president and secretary, Bill Brown.Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society president and secretary, Bill Brown.
Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society president and secretary, Bill Brown.

"Almost immediately after its formation, the society’s first excursion was organised – a ‘botanising’ expedition to East Lomond Hill,” he said.

"A total of about 70 people swarmed over Falkland Hill examining the flora and collecting specimens – it must have been quite a sight!"

More adventurous outings followed in 1883 including the hire of a ship from Dundee in order to dredge the mouth of the Tay with other expeditions exploring St Andrews Bay and Lindores Loch.

Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society first president, John Sang.Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society first president, John Sang.
Kirkcaldy Naturalists’ Society first president, John Sang.

"A large number of members visited Inchkeith on board the yacht, Mayflower, but unfortunately, they were becalmed on the return journey only arriving back in Kirkcaldy at 2:30am!

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"In later years excursions went as far afield as Culzean, Nairn, and Culloden – these were not simple undertakings given the transport available which is evident as on a trip to Glenfarg and Abernethy, at the Bein Inn “the horses were unyoked”.”

The advent of motor coaches made things much easier for the society, but even they could sometimes run into trouble Bill said.

"In 1988 a double decker bus ended up covered in leaves and twigs from the overhanging trees on the narrow road into Tentsmuir Forrest, much to the alarm of those on the upper deck.”

Excursions were often followed by a meal in a local hotel which were described in various reports as “sumptuous repasts” accompanied by the drinking of many toasts.

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"In June 1891, after such a dinner, it is reported that three weeks later a proposed visit to Tentsmuir had to be cancelled as “many members having not yet returned from Glen Clova”.

"Indeed, James Bease, the first to write a history of KNS, complains that many reports contain virtually no information on observations and specimens but go into great detail about meals.”

Bill added: "Increased car ownership, the advent of television nature programmes, and then of the internet has lessened he usefulness of KNS activities since the turn of the century and membership has declined.

"A group which, over its history, has made many beneficial contributions to the town itself and to its reputation further afield has, unfortunately, had to call it a day.”

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