Burntisland's latest summer exhibition focuses on Maritime Matters

Burntisland’s summer exhibition is back for 2022 and this year it has a maritime theme.

By Fiona Dobie
Friday, 22nd July 2022, 7:00 am

Visitors to the town’s Heritage Centre in Kirkgate are in for a treat with the latest display, which covers three topics all linked by the sea.

There's a chance to learn about the many different ways to cross the Forth over the years, from the 11th century to the present day, as well as to discover the fascinating tale behind the loss of the King’s ship in the Forth and the on-going search for the shipwreck.

Following his Scottish Coronation and a tour of the palaces, King Charles I made the return journey from Falkland Palace to Edinburgh on July 10, 1633 crossing the Forth from Burntisland to Leith.

Mrs Margaret Deans with some of the models built by her late husband Brian.

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    It’s not known exactly what happened that day, but through research it appears that two Burntisland ships had been chartered for the King.

    One carried the King to a naval ship anchored off Burntisland which then made its way to Leith.

    The other ship, believed to be called the ‘Blessing’, set sail with his possessions. A sudden squall caused one of the ships to sink in sight of the horrified King.A search for the ‘Blessing’ began in 1991, but the location of this vessel and its royal cargo remains an unsolved mystery.

    The full story of this ‘treasure hunt’ is told in this year’s exhibition.

    The Maritime Matters exhibition is open this month and next.

    However, the third part of this year’s exhibition is a truly special one with a selection of model boats on display, gifted to Burntisland Heritage Trust by Fife’s former Lord Lieutenant Margaret Deans.

    The ships in the exhibition are all fully working models built by her husband Brian Deans, who sadly passed away last year.

    The orthopaedic surgeon had spent many hours of his retirement tinkering away on his hobby.

    Among those he built, which are now available to view, are the Royal Yacht, the Victoria and Albert; paddle steamer the Duchess of Fife and HMS Lion, the World War I battle cruiser.

    Brian's model of HMS Lion on display in Burntisland Heritage Centre.

    Struggling to continue to store the models, which have many intricate details, Mrs Deans was pleased to be able to give the model ships to the centre to go on display.

    She said: “He was always interested in the sea.

    "His grandfather had been chief engineer on The White Star Line in Tyneside.

    "Brian was a keen angler and sailor, the sea was in his blood.

    "He wouldn’t have had time to build these models until he retired, and he made the decision to retire early at 60.

    “He took great pride in his model boats.

    "He was terribly fussy about them and wanted to make sure every detail was correct.

    “His collection was a very eclectic mix and some were kits and some he built from scratch.

    “Brian would be delighted to see them on display here in Burntisland.

    "The town and its links to the sea were important to him.

    "I’m terribly pleased that someone will look after them and that others can enjoy them.

    "This is a kind of legacy.”

    A free summer exhibition has been an annual event in Burntisland since 1994.

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    Ian Archibald, convener of Burntisland Heritage Trust, has been behind their organisation over the years.

    Explaining the significance behind this year’s subjects he said: “It was going to be Portrait of a Town but after receiving Brian’s collection of models I opted for a maritime theme.

    “I looked again at the information relating to Crossing the Forth from the 2015 exhibition and decided to take out the bridges and put it back up.

    "We’ve also tied it together with the coronation journey of Charles I and the ongoing search for his treasure in the Forth.

    "It seemed fitting to have an exhibition on Maritime Matters this year to tie in with these fabulous models.”

    The exhibition is open Thursday to Saturday each week in July and August, from 11am to 4pm, for both locals and visitors to the town to browse.

    Ian continued: “It’s satisfying to see what we're creating here with these exhibitions is more than just a social history, it’s collecting all the data together and creating a form of legacy.

    “There’s something here for everyone this year.

    “We get visitors from all over stopping in, and it’s always great to see Burntislanders come in and say ‘I never knew that’.

    "People who have lived in the town, who have never come in, are often surprised by what they see.

    “We are very grateful to the Friends of the Trust, who volunteer throughout the summer months to man the exhibition.

    "Without their support we wouldn’t be able to open – their help is absolutely invaluable.”