This page contains reports on all talks given to the Club since our website was launched in 2011. Click on any of the titles below to find the relevant report.



August 28 2019


Maurice Shepherd

Cupar Probus Club met in Age Concern Cupar on Wednesday 28th August, when chairman Peter Speirs welcomed 33 members and one visitor to the meeting.

Maurice Shepherd

The Chairman, Peter Speirs, invited Vice Chairman, Maurice Shepherd, to talk about the Saturn V rocket and welcomed him by crooning a couple of lines of “Fly Me To The Moon”, much to everyone’s amusement.
Against the background of a Saturn V rocket taking off in slow motion, Maurice explained that he wanted to give a technology-based talk which was factual and interesting. The Saturn V was probably the biggest rocket in the world, at 363 feet high equivalent to the height of a 36 story building; at take-off it burned 50 tonnes of fuel per second. He showed a series of photos which demonstrated the parts and enormous size of the rocket which highlighted the minute capsule holding the 3 astronauts.
Maurice then went through some of the history of rocketry starting with the Nazi V2 Vengeance Weapon in 1944 which created such devastation in the London area, where it killed 33,000 people. This rocket was the first to cross the Karman line, which at about 60 miles high divides the atmosphere from space.
After the war, both the Russians and Americans seized German rocket technology but rocket specialist, Werner von Braun, went on to develop rockets in the US. The nuclear Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was one of the outcomes of this work.
In 1957 the Russians put the Sputnik satellite into orbit, shortly followed by a dog, Laika. Russian Yuri Gagarin in Vostok was the first man in orbit in 1961, with the first American, John Glenn, in orbit the following year. In 1962 these and other activities prompted US President, John F Kennedy, to make his famous speech to get men to the moon and back safely within the decade. This helped to kick-start the Apollo spacecraft programme and the development of the Saturn V rocket.
The Saturn V is a 3 stage rocket with 5 engines in each of the 1st and 2nd stage and one engine in the 3rd stage. The Apollo Spacecraft which sits on top consists of a Command module, Service module and Lunar module. Maurice explained the complicated procedure to manoeuvre the relevant modules into position during different parts of the mission.
There were 17 Apollo missions in all between 1967 to 1971, of which 6 actually went to the moon. Apollo 1 had a disastrous fire which killed its astronauts, Apollo 8 was the first mission to use the Saturn V, Apollo 11 was the first mission to get to the moon and memorably, Apollo 13 nearly didn’t get back. After this Saturn V was used to take material to the International Space Station.
There were several questions and observations from members, after which John Topliss thanked Maurice for his fascinating, well researched and illustrated talk. Members gave their whole-hearted appreciation.

Report by John Topliss

14 August 2019


Martin Hepworth

Today, Martin’s subject was “The Bard of the Yukon!” This talk was all about the life and adventures experienced by the poet and verse writer, Robert Service.

Martin Hepworth

Martin took us through the life and times of Robert Service. He was born in Preston, Lancashire of Scottish descent in 1874. He was a bank clerk by trade, but spent long periods in the Wild West frontiers of Canada. Our speaker conjured up graphic images of the dangers and perils of Yukon life in those far off days. A place where survival was a game of chance! But, against all of the odds, Robert Service lived well and indeed prospered. Martin cleverly peppered his talk with some of the poetry and verse written by Service. This helped to illustrate his lifetime experiences. He was inspired by tales of the Yukon Gold Rush to write poetry revealing the comedy and angst experienced by the miners scrabbling for their share of the gold. These poems enjoyed immediate success and popularity during the lifetime of Robert Service and are still amusing to audiences today. Martin’s reading of such classics as the “The Dangerous Dan McGrew” earned an appreciative round of applause from a receptive audience. Robert Service became a wealthy man because of his poetry and could afford to travel widely and live a leisurely life. He based himself in Paris and the French Riviera. His works were dismissed as doggerel by critics at the time, but today he is classed almost in the same league as Kipling. This talk generated a wide range of questions and provided some very interesting insights from members of the audience. These acted as an excellent supplement to a most interesting talk. Colin Moore gave a very well deserved vote of thanks. He thanked Martin for his regular visits to the club and commented on the amusing and by turns, serious content of today’s talk. Colin’s vote of thanks was heartily and enthusiastically endorsed by all present. Cupar Probus Club will meet again in Age Concern at 9:45 on Wednesday 28th August, when club Vice Chairman Maurice Shepherd will give us a talk on the Saturn V rocket which was used in the moon landing expeditions. .

Report by Colin Moore.

24 July 2019


Malcolm Gerdes-Hansen

Malcolm Gerdes-Hansen, one of our own members, gave a fascinating lecture on slavery obviously based on a large amount of research and reading. Although the main theme was slavery in British history, he well began with the institution’s beginnings. Not practicable with hunter gatherers or in early agriculture it began in cities where the more advanced services and trades required manpower with war usually its main source.

By the eighteenth century B.C. Babylon was spelling out the legal status of slaves in the codes of Hammurabi. Greece and Rome were the two leading slave societies of the ancient world. First century B.C. saw the famous rebellion of Spartacus: how seriously this was taken was shown by the fact that the 6,000 surviving rebels were crucified along the Appian Way, an immense logistical undertaking. Malcolm pointed out that ancient war galleys were understandably manned by trained free marines. Modern ideas of slavery are based on the taking of slaves from Africa to the Americas by the Portuguese and later the British, but in fact from the seventh century A.D up to the 1900s the Arabs had a lucrative trade in humans stretching as far east as China. As with all slave transportation mortality rates were appalling: perhaps 80% died en route. The Portuguese began taking slaves from North Africa into Europe in 1444, 50 years before Columbus. Malcolm explained the triangle of trade from Britain: to Africa guns, alcohol etc. to pay for the slaves; to America slaves; to Britain goods such as sugar and cotton. The local rulers who sold slaves could become incredibly wealthy: the King of Dahomey in West Africa raked in £250,000 per annum. Though London started as the main port it became much easier to ship from the west coast from Bristol, Liverpool, and Glasgow: the wealth these cities reaped from this trade is only beginning to be acknowledged today and the preservation of honoured names in some buildings and institutions questioned given the source of the wealth that funded the building. Malcolm ended with two examples from slaving history: one little known and the second much more familiar though not in this context. The first was the massacre of 130 slaves thrown overboard from the slave ship Zong both to preserve water rations and to claim the insurance. The second was an account of the life of John Newton whose experiences as captain of a slave ship led to his conversion and career as a clergyman and writer of hymns which include “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” and “Amazing Grace”. Sadly the lecture finished with horrifying examples of slavery today, such as prisoners taken by Islamic State or Poles smuggled into the UK to work for a pittance and live in primitive conditions Colin Moore gave the vote of thanks, and the members showed their appreciation of Malcolm’s talk in the usual way.

10 July 2019


Jim Boyd

The Vice Chairman, Maurice Shepherd, welcomed Jim Boyd to talk about Playing Cards. Jim, a member of Glenrothes Probus Club and President of Kirkcaldy Magic Circle, explained that he had a particular interest in playing cards. While playing cards were only bits of cardboard they had history, mystery and stories.

Jim Boyd

Jim started his talk with a short card trick just to get this audience in the mood, then went on to explain that playing cards were most likely to have started in China, where paper was invented, about the 9th century. The cards gradually moved to the Middle East, then with the Arabs to Europe via Spain. The Topkapi museum in Istanbul has some of the oldest cards dating back to the 15th century. Playing cards were so influential then that an Act of Parliament in 1486 forbade the import of playing cards. Jim then went on to talk about different types of cards, including the 78 cards in a Tarot pack. While originally just used for fortune telling they could be used for black magic. Aleister Crowley, who died 1947, was known as The Beast, and was a well known master practitioner on the dark arts including using Tarot cards. Boleskine House, his house near Loch Ness, was reputedly cursed and burnt down. Playing cards have have been shown in many older paintings such as the Meliadus painting c 1352 in the British Museum showing men playing cards, and some cards shown in the detail of the 16th century Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch. Jim showed us that playing card suits have changed over the years and they are still different in some other countries today. The Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs were adopted from the French cards, and the court cards apparently relate to real royalty with stories about the detail in the pictures. Playing cards started having patterns on the back about 1860 to prevent cards being too easily marked to allow cheating, but as Jim showed, the fussy pattern on the back of a marked pack can be subtly marked and difficult to spot. Jim referred to the Soldiers Almanac of 1762 which related the 4 suits to the seasons of the year, the 12 picture cards to the months, etc., which was made into a song by Max Bygraves. He followed that with a lot of interesting detail of the 3 card trick scam carried out in London by teams of up to 8 crooks at a time to defraud the punters. Jim then finished his talk with a card trick and a demonstration of a variety of shuffles. After Jim had responded fully to several questions, the Vice Chairman thanked him for his fascinating and well illustrated talk. Members agreed by showing their whole-hearted appreciation.


26 June 2019


PC Macleod

Cupar Probus Club met in Age Concern on Wednesday 26th June when chairman Peter Speirs welcomed 37 members and 1 visitor. After the short business session, Peter welcomed our guest speakers for today, PC Keith MacLeod and PC Frazer Laird from Police Scotland to give a talk on personal safety.

PC Laird and PC MacLeod

PCs Frazer Laird and Keith MacLeod from Dunfermline talked about three areas: 1) home security 2) scams 3) ATMs.

1) At home, doors should be kept locked even with residents in the house and the key not kept in the lock but nearby. Insurance would not cover theft if house unlocked or window left open. Most thefts were “sneak-ins” and the average time for them in winter was between 4 and 6 p.m.: therefore timer lights should be installed to come on randomly and a radio (but not TV) be left on. Jewellery should be photographed: much easier than having to describe it once gone. Monitored alarms are the best but there was a strong recommendation of Sonis Europe, a device made in Dunfermline and hopefully available by the end of this year.

2) Scams came by post, the internet, and by ’phone. Strong passwords and firewalls were essential. Links in dubious e-mails (e.g. beginning “Dear Customer” rather than by name) must never be opened.  Cold telephone callers now have genuine local numbers. If they become obtrusive monitoring can be put in place e.g. Citizens Advice Bureaux’ TrueCall.

3) A mock-up of an ATM was produced and the various ways thieves could interfere with it exemplified e.g. by installing cameras to photo the card, sometimes on upper part which is why PINs should be covered when being entered. If notes do not emerge try to leave someone outside while going in to tell bank so that the thieves cannot remove the obstruction, take the money, and replace the obstruction. It is much safer using ATMs inside the bank if possible. If your card does not emerge ‘phone the emergency number on the back, a number which you must have noted already as the card will not be available. If there are two ATMs side by side one with a notice attached saying “Use other ATM” don’t!  If filling stations give a choice between paying at kiosk or at pump pay at kiosk. Contactless cards can be cloned by a nearby mobile ’phone app and so need a protective plastic cover available from the police at 50p. Cashback is actually the safest way of drawing money. In 2017 ATM fraud cost the banks £400 million and they can only retrieve this by upping charges. As for cowboy tradesmen on the doorstep it is much better to use the Fife Trusted Trader scheme if necessary. Most of PC Laird’s examples came from a big city like Dunfermline but those of us lucky enough to live in quieter area must still be on our guard against crime.

Many questions were answered during the presentation, and a further session at the end of the talk showed how much interest the members had in the subject matter. The vote of thanks was given by Treasurer Brian Knight and the members responded with hearty applause.

Report by David Cleland


12 June 2019


Jack Dempsey

Chairman Peter Speirs welcomed 32 members to today's meeting and also a small delegation of 7 members from the Cowdenbeath Probus Club.

Cowdenbeath Club visited last year, and were led on this occasion by their Chairman Alan Dunlop. It was their club Secretary, Walter Taylor who gave a few words of thanks for the warm welcome received.

Peter then introduced our speaker for today – Jack Dempsey, who would give us his experience on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Jack retired quite recently from working for some 30 years for the Saudi Arabia Oil Co. He has BSc and PhD degrees from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh in Electrical Engineering, and is still a volunteer worker for the Institution of Engineering Technology.

Jack Dempsey

Having been a keen squash player, Jack thought he had enough fitness to tackle the climb of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. This is a dormant volcano with the last activity recorded around 200 years ago. However the molten magma is only about 400 meters under the crust at the cone. Although no technical climbing skills are required, it is still a serious physical challenge as the summit is at 19,341 feet, or 5,895 meters.

The biggest problem is AMS, Acute Mountain Sickness caused by lack of oxygen. Air contains approximately 20% oxygen but at the summit the air pressure is less than half that at sea level, meaning only half the oxygen is available for each breath! Jack went into training, and booked himself on a 10 day trip with a group of 15 other people. A large quantity of clothing was required as the terrain varied from rain forest at the base, moorland or moonscape further up, followed by arctic conditions at the peak. Plus 20 degrees at the start, to minus 25 degrees at the summit. UV radiation also had to be considered, and care of feet to reduce blisters. Each climber was assigned three porters to assist with the baggage!

The actual climb took around six days with four going up, and almost two coming down. Each day of the climb was between 10 to 15 kilometers, and varied in ascent heights. The party slept in huts, and had meals provided, plus snacks for lunch. Jack began to feel the effects of AMS from the second day, but managed to keep himself in check to not overdo the exertion. The final day was a scramble up a steep slope with volcanic scree, followed by a walk round the rim of the crater to reach the main summit Uhuru Peak. This final climb started at 11pm the previous evening to arrive at the summit for sunrise the next morning. This was to overcome the problem of melting snow on the steep ascent. Only 5 of the party from the original 15 made it to the summit, and Jack claims it was the most difficult achievement of his life! Going down was the hardest part on the feet as Jack was moving much faster and taking bigger steps. He certainly earned his certificate of achievement on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

At the question and answer session after the talk members asked a wide range of questions and received some very interesting answers which added spice to the talk.

Keith McIntosh gave a very well deserved vote of thanks. This was heartily and enthusiastically endorsed by all present.

Report by Peter Speirs

22 May 2019


Andy Paterson

Andy Paterson

Chairman Peter Speirs welcomed 38 members to the Cupar Probus Club meeting in Age Concern on Wednesday 22nd May. The meeting opened with the usual cup of coffee and a short business session before Peter welcomed back Andy Paterson to talk about “Caricatures of Famous People”. Andy, who stays in Errol, had previously entertained the Club twice before with amusing presentations about “Stars of the Silver Screen” and “TV Times”.
Andy did not disappoint, with his slide show of caricatures covering a range of personalities. As the pictures appeared, members had to guess who they were. These covered presidents, actors and actresses, athletes, musicians, politicians, and even the Royal family. With many of the pictures Andy provided wry comments and stories in his usual droll style.
He explained that some people are more easy to caricature than others - Donald Chump (sorry Trump) appeared many times, as did Mick Jagger. The caricaturisations ranged from sketches to extremely well painted detailed pictures with some being exceedingly ugly and distorted.
Andy realised he had finished his talk rather early so much to the delight of members he presented another set of caricatures to amuse us, including some sportspersons and very early film stars. Andy then ended by asking for donations to Macmillan cancer support rather than asking for expenses. Andy has raised almost £30,000 for Macmillan by giving talks to various groups over the last few years.
After a couple of questions from members, Douglas Provan gave a heartfelt vote of thanks to Andy for an entertaining and amusing presentation, and his contribution to Macmillan. INDEX

8 May 2019

The Real Sherlock Holmes

Colin Moore

Sherlock Holmes aka Colin Moore


Chairman Peter Speirs welcomed 43 members who had braved the dreich weather to attend! Peter then introduced our speaker for today - this was our own club member and past Probus Club Chairman, Colin Moore. Colin was here to tell us about “The Real Sherlock Holmes.” Colin began by asking the audience what the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes would have looked like. He modelled for the audience a deerstalker hat, meerschaum pipe and magnifying glass which are all part of the ‘regulation kit’ used in film portrayals. He explained that these props were from the original Strand Magazine drawings but were never mentioned in the Doyle stories.
Colin took us through Doyle’s early life to his meeting and subsequent friendship with Dr Joseph Bell. He showed us through letters and a variety of other evidence how Joseph Bell had provided the inspiration for the appearance and personality of his fictional detective. He then asked for a volunteer from the audience to help demonstrate Dr Joseph Bell’s ways of forensic analysis. Chairman Peter Speirs volunteered to play the part. There then followed a mainly painless procedure which showed the audience Bell’s observational methods. Peter played his part very well and his acting skills were clearly appreciated by the audience!
Colin then took us on a journey through the Sherlock Holmes books and the real life of Joseph Bell. He showed us how fact entwined itself with fiction during the lives of Conan Doyle and Joseph Bell. Colin brought his talk up to date by showing the audience slides of five magnificent Sherlock Holmes statues around the world. Fittingly, the finest of these statues belongs in Edinburgh. This is in Picardy Place, the street where Arthur Conan Doyle was born. He ended his talk by showing the audience a slide of Joseph Bell’s final resting place in the Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.
This talk was followed by an absorbing question time. Members asked a wide range of questions and provided some very interesting insights which acted as an excellent supplement to the talk.

Report by Sherlock Holmes


24 April 2019


David Caldwell

David Caldwell

Chairman Peter Speirs welcomed 44 members, and introduced Dr David Caldwell to talk about “The MacDonalds”. David, an archeologist, was a curator at the National Museum of Scotland, led major excavations at Finlaggan, Islay, and is involved in several related organisations.
David explained that Finlaggan on Eilean Mor, Islay is the original home of the MacDonald clan. It was a very fertile area and contained precious metals such lead and silver. It was suitable for early settlement and burial grounds have been found from the 7th century.
The Lordship of the Isles laid claim to a large area of North West Scotland and the Western Isles and in the 12th century prince Somerled claimed Kingship of the Isles. Subsequently the MacDonalds assumed Kingship. Their culture was different from Britain and elsewhere as they spoke Gaelic, were militarised, and had an army of up to 7000 men and supporting ships. Excavations on Eilean Mor have revealed the remains of early timber defences, a midden on the bottom of the loch, a stone keep, kitchens, a late 14th century chapel, houses between the 12th and 16th century, roads and a council chamber. Various finds included arrowheads, keys, a pilgrim badge, and many other items.
David explained that Finlaggan was at the height of power in the 15th century when there were lots of buildings evident. Documents such as the 1549 Laws of Ranald, son of Somerled, indicated that there was a Finlaggan parliament similar to the 12th century Tynwald of the Isle of Man and Shetland’s Tingwall, although it is not clear which came first. The power and culture of the MacDonalds spread into other part of Scotland leading to “Scottishness”, although the title “Lord of the Isles” was taken away from the MacDonald family by the Scottish parliament in the 15th century.
David answered several questions from members covering shipbuilding, the source of timber, and the Clan MacDonald centre on Skye, after which Mike Edwards gave a vote of thanks for an informative, detailed, fascinating and well-illustrated talk.

Report by John Topliss



10 April 2019


Andrew Johnson 

Andrew Johnson

Chairman Peter Spears introduced our speaker for today, Andrew Johnson, a Trustee of St Andrews Preservation Trust. Andrew was here to tell us about “Stonemason’s Marks.” Andrew began by explaining that mason’s marks can be seen in all of our old buildings. An apprentice would serve under a registered mason for six to eight years. Once he became certified a personal mark was created and registered in his name. This mark could be a combination of his initials or a unique logo of his choice. He would then use this mark on his stones for the rest of his working life. When qualified he could travel the country working as a Journeyman mason. Andrew then went on to show us examples of marks found in various parts of Fife. Starting in St Andrews and the St Rules Tower, he took us on a journey to the cathedral undercroft and through to the old entrance of the ByreTheatre. Then onto various other Fife locations at Balmarino Abbey and Dunkeld Cathedral. Matching mason’s marks show how journeymen masons travelled the length and breadth of the country plying their trade in our great cathedral and churches. One mason’s journey can be followed from Durham through to Dunfermline and on to Dunkeld. The best place to view mason’s marks is on doorways, fireplaces and arches, rather than on rectangular blocks of stone. This is because the marks on stone slabs were often obscured by the builder as they thought that they disfigured the finished stonework. Some of our grand historical buildings gave specific orders that marks should not be visible on the completed walls. From our great cathedrals and castles to small churches and bridges, stonemason’s marks survive through the centuries as a testament to their incredible work. They are window into the past. This fascinating talk was followed by an extensive question time. Then Peter Speirs gave a very well deserved vote of thanks. This was heartily and enthusiastically endorsed by all present.

Report by Colin Moore


27 March 2019


Jane Crockett

Jane Crockett

Cupar Probus Club met at Age Concern, Cupar on Wednesday 27th March, when Chairman Peter Speirs welcomed 41 members. After the short business session Peter introduced the speaker for the day, Jane Crockett from the Cupar Lighthouse. Jane started by announcing that her most recent Probus Club audience had at first assumed she was a pharologist, who would talk about actual lighthouses. We in Cupar know better having had the Christian book and coffee shop in Bonnygate since 1987.


The Lighthouse, Bonnygate, Cupar

At that time Morag MacGregor a member of Cupar Old, Christine Sawyers of St John’s, and Rev. Bill Macdonald the new Baptist minister conceived the idea of a community café where locals could meet for chat and church resources would be available. From the start it was an ecumenical project with staff and volunteers coming from all the churches in Cupar and the surrounding districts. Money for the project appeared remarkably quickly aided by an auction which lasted till the wee small hours and raised £18,000.  Jane explained that prayer for funds was regularly answered with ready financial support from church members both individually and by organizing fund raising concerts together with grants from various local schemes and trusts. The most obvious use of such funds can be seen in the beautiful restoration of the shopfront in 2017. In 1987 the new minister of Cupar Old, Derek Browning, had attended the opening as the Lighthouse’s first chairman; thirty years later he returned as Moderator of the Church of Scotland for the official reopening. Apart from providing homemade food, books, and greetings cards it had always been meant to be a refuge for needy and lonely people: the tramp who required food and socks, the old actor whose child was a Hollywood A-lister, the drug addict who with local support eventually ended up as a pastor in New Zealand with a wife and family. Christian bookshops  have been closing all over the country in recent decades  while far more cafés and eating places have been opening and shutting in Cupar but  the Lighthouse has bucked the trend. Jane paid proper tribute to staff and volunteers over the years. She did study business at university and in her early career managed a large branch of Mothercare but the warmth and enthusiasm of her talk as well as the sympathetic and friendly style of its delivery did more to explain her success as manager.
Following a short question and answer session, John Topliss proposed the vote of thanks, and the applause was well deserved as her talk was very warmly received by its audience. A collection was taken on retiring and a sum of £178 was handed to Jane to help with the good work the Lighthouse does in the community.

Report by David Cleland


13 March 2019


Scott Struthers

Chairman Peter Speirs, today welcomed Scott Struthers, a UEFA match delegate to talk about his role in inspecting UEFA Cup games before, during and after each match. Scott explained that he was one of 15 delegates responsible for carrying out inspections at the 2300 UEFA games played each season.

Scott Struthers

Scott has had a long background in football including being secretary of Hamilton Academicals, on the Scottish FA Disciplinary Committee, and other roles before becoming match delegate. He explained, however, he had never been a football referee except at school.
6 weeks before a game, which could be anywhere in Europe, he would start the planning with stadium reports, problem areas, logistics of travel (especially eastern Europe), and team information. Arriving at the site Scott would look at the stadium and check out the facilities including making sure the Wi-Fi was available. This is essential because all UEFA matches are coordinated to start at the same time and are watched live on screens in UEFA headquarters in Switzerland.
On the morning of the match there would be a pitch inspection, check that the VAR (Video Assistance Referee) is working, and ensure that playing kits are OK. The security arrangements would be checked with special attention if there could be potentially political or racial tensions between teams and fans.
Scott pointed out that some symbols are not acceptable in all European countries which can cause problems. Apparently, the Celtic Cross is not allowed outside Scotland and Ireland, and Nazi symbols, which may be acceptable in parts of southern and eastern Europe are banned elsewhere. The flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has caused problems because that country is not recognised by any other country except Turkey.
During the match Scott has to watch the action in the stands to ensure that any problems are dealt with properly. Fans are searched before the match but they still manage to smuggle in flares and smoke bombs which can be as small as a ballpoint pen. Apart from the obvious distraction of these devices they can cause fires and serious injuries. When the match is over Scott still has to write his report before catching his plane home.
Scott finished his talk with a few stories about problems travelling to and from matches in the Faroe Islands. He then answered some searching questions and a well received vote of thanks to Scott was given by David Galloway for an interesting and informative talk.

Report by John Topliss


27 February 2019


Iain Fraser

Chairman Peter Speirs introduced Club member Iain Fraser, as the guest speaker for the day.
Iain followed up his previous talk on opera in Scotland with a fascinating account of the life of Carl Rosa who started as a child prodigy on the violin and then became an impresario who founded a highly successful company that produced operas in English.

Iain Fraser

Karl Rose was born in Hamburg in 1842; he later Anglicized his name as Carl Rosa, though interestingly his surname was given as Rosi in advertisements for his concerts in Edinburgh in the 1850s. After Mozart child prodigies throve and Rosa toured Germany, Denmark, and Britain. He played at the Kinnaird Hall, Dundee (forerunner of the Caird Hall) during the Burns Centenary celebrations of 1859. He led the Hamburg Philharmonic at 21. Five years later he married the greatest soprano of the age Euphrosyne Parepa: she was born in Edinburgh to a Scottish mother and a noble Romanian father. Rosa had travelled with her to New York as a violinist and they married there. They crossed to San Francisco and put on the first opera seen in the city. It was the difficulty of managing such a tour that turned the performer into the impresario and together they set up the Parepa-Rosa English Opera Company.
After touring as far as Cairo they established themselves in North West England. Sadly Euphrosyne died in 1879 aged 37, from complication following her third stillbirth. Rosa took up with his leading ballerina, aged 19, and they had four children in a common law marriage. He had relaunched the  company performing only operas in English whose performances-  240-290 a year at twenty plus venues -  were far more frequent than any opera company’s  today and attracted huge audiences: one winter gardens performance had an audience of up to 11,000. He was a shrewd and successful businessman having for example exclusive rights to the English translation of Carmen. He became a household name and a wealthy man.  
He died in Paris in 1889 and his funeral was an international occasion. The company continued under his wife Josephine and, after her death in the 1920s, on till 1960. The government was helping to fund opera and favoured the London based Sadler’s Wells over a company from Liverpool. Iain’s excellent talk showed how Carl Rosa was the greatest influence on opera in Britain in the 19th century.
A few well chosen questions and comments were heard before Colin Moore gave the vote of thanks.

Report by David Cleland


13 February 2019


Bruce Manson

Chairman Peter Speirs welcomed Bruce Manson to talk about “Local History in Stone”. Bruce, who is from Markinch, explained that he is an amateur archaeologist who specialises in ancient stones found in the Markinch area.

Bruce Manson

Stones for building survive in the Scottish climate where timber structures rot away. Some areas without trees such as Orkney and Shetland have only stone buildings left.
Stonehenge is an example of a henge (a ditch surrounding a circle of monuments). There is a henge at Markinch, but the timber monuments have disappeared.
Bruce showed photos of a series of ancient stones used for different purposes such as symbolic, practical, or decorative. These included arrow sharpening marks, marriage stones, boundary stones, imported millstones, and an imported marble tombstone.
The Markinch church tower was made of 8000 sandstone blocks between 1120 and 1130 when Markinch was the centre of Fife on the pilgrimage trail between Dunfermline and St Andrews. The nearby Moot Hill was also an important location before power moved in the 13th century to the Moat Hill in Cupar.
800 distinctive mason marks were found on the Markinch church tower ranging from mason identification to detailed building instructions. Recent archaeological excavation by the Markinch group has revealed scaffold holes and old building work. 19th century restoration work on the tower used low quality sandstone which has eroded and has had to be replaced.
In the reformation in 1660 buildings were “simplified”. This involved chiselling away any religious images such as crosses and crucifixions leaving vandalised structures, which can be seen today. Even Celtic crosses were removed.
Bruce finished his talk by showing a border stone he has made for his garden with a large “M” on it for his name, Manson. He suggested that this would have a longer permanence than the electronic records that are created today.
After Bruce had responded fully to several questions, Allan Black gave a well received vote of thanks for Bruce’s fascinating and well illustrated talk.


23 January 2019


Alistair Macfarlane

Chairman Peter Speirs gave a warm welcome on a very cold morning to 44 members and 1 visitor. Chairman Peter introduced our speaker for today - this was the local musician Alistair Macfarlane. Alistair’s chosen subject was “Songs of the People.”

Alistair Macfarlane

Alistair explained that his talk was about how folk songs give a keyhole view of past people and their place in our history. He then set about showing us how folk songs are a vital link to the past and illustrate how ordinary people lived their lives in various parts of the UK. Folk songs passed down to us by previous generations show us long ago ways of life that would otherwise be forgotten.

Alistair started with a haunting lament sung by a group of Durham pitmen coming home from their backshift and looking back on their hard lives in the old coal pits of the North. Then he took us up to Dundee and everyday life in the Jute Mills of that city. He played us three recordings by Mary Brooksbank, including, “The Dundee Lassie” telling us of the travails experienced by the bobbin spinners. Then he moved on to talk about the songs left to us by travellers. He illustrated these with a series of songs passed down through the ages, including “The Times they are a Changing”. He then talked to us about the well known traveller, Jess Smith and the rich heritage of songs and stories that she has given us. This was followed by two haunting songs about Selkies, sung by Julie Fowlis.

>Alistair concluded his talk with some audience participation. He encouraged members to join in with the chorus of a famous Julie Fowlis folk song called “Fodder for the Small Stirks”. The quality of the audience participation may not have reached a perfect pitch, but this lacking was more than made up by the enthusiastic tones reverberating around the room!

This was a fascinating talk that kept members spellbound throughout. He gave a wonderful snapshot of past people, their hopes and expectations all through the medium of the folk music left down to us over the years. This talk was followed by several interesting questions.

Bob Farmer gave a very well deserved vote of thanks, which was heartily and enthusiastically endorsed by all present.


28 Nov 2018


Bert Oliver

Bert Oliver

The Chairman, Colin Moore, welcomed Bert Oliver, a longstanding member of Probus, to talk about the Eyemouth disaster. Colin explained that Bert was standing in at the eleventh hour for Alan Hutchinson, the General Manager of the Tay Road Bridge, who had been called away at short notice.
Bert started by outlining the situation at Eyemouth, a fishing village in Berwickshire, on Friday 14 October 1881, now called Black Friday. Dozens of fishing boats went to sea on a calm day to get to the fishing grounds 15 miles out. They were manned by men and boys from Eyemouth and neighbouring villages. Some of the boys were only 11 years old.
A great storm, or hurricane, suddenly blew up and the boats either had to get to deep water or try to get to back to shore. Bert then explained in great detail the situation the fishermen faced as the wind rose rapidly. Boats were swept ahead of it, sails shredded. On shore 63,000 trees were lost near Duns.
Some boats were overwhelmed and the fishermen drowned. Boats reaching the harbour were smashed on the infamous Hurkar Rocks at the harbour entrance. The harbour itself was tidal and empty. Some boats tried to beach, usually unsuccessfully. Those boats that had ridden the storm often suffered the same fate later. Meanwhile fathers, wives and mothers grieved on the shore as their men folk and sons were lost in front of their eyes.
Out of a population of 800/900, Eyemouth and the area had lost 189 men and boys, but only 47 bodies were ever found. The remaining families had to recover and rebuild for the future. Today Eyemouth is a flourishing fishing village once again. Bert is emotionally tied to Eyemouth as he was brought up there and 17 of his ancestors, all from the Collin family, died in the horror of Black Friday, which is why Bert’s full name is Robert Collin Oliver.
There was a centennial remembrance service in 1981, but on 14 October 2016 a 5 metre long sculpture was unveiled near the harbour depicting all the bereaved widows and children of Black Friday. This has a special meaning for Bert.
After several questions, member Will Mackay gave a thoughtful vote of thanks to Bert for providing such a detailed, interesting and personal account of the disaster at such short notice, with which the members wholly agreed.

Report by John Topliss. Photo by Peter Speirs


14 Nov 2018


Anne Baird with Bela Simandi

Today's meeting was held in the Cupar Old Parish Centre where Chairman Colin Moore introduced our guest performers for the day, Bela Simandi and Anne Baird.

Bela and Anne

Bela originally came from Hungary before becoming a professional musician at the Royal Conservatoire of Music in Glasgow. He then pursued a career as a recitalist and accompanist in his own right. Anne Baird has enjoyed an all consuming interest in music throughout her life. She became a member of the Sadlers Wells Chorus in London and then became a soloist with Scottish Opera. She then successfully ran “Opera for Youth” and “Opera Go Round”, touring Scotland.
On a dreek grey and wet morning Anne and Bela lit up the hall with a delightful programme of music and song, which they called “Light and Bright.” Anne sang a variety of light opera pieces mixed with a selection of songs from West End musicals. These included “On My Own”, from the blockbuster musical, “Les Miserables” and a wonderful medley from "South Pacific". These were all impeccably accompanied by Bela on his electric organ.
Bela also played several solo pieces including a delightful rendition of the haunting “Third Man” theme tune.
Club members listened with pleasure throughout and needed no encouragement when asked to join in the chorus of some of the songs.
Colin Moore gave a most appreciative vote of thanks at the end of this wonderful performance. This talented duo had put everybody into a cheerful frame of mind on what weather wise was a particularly cheerless day.
Club members left the hall, back into the rain and the wind, happily humming and whistling snatches from the show. This had been a special morning’s entertainment from an especially talented couple.

Thank you both

Report by Colin Moore. Photos by Peter Speirs


24 Oct 2018


Jodie Whitham

Chairman Colin Moore introduced Jodie Whitham, the Regional Fund Organiser for East Scotland’s Poppy Scotland Appeal. Jodie had travelled to us from Edinburgh and was warmly welcomed by members.

Jodie Whitham

Jodie explained that poppies grew in profusion on the mud covered battlefields after the shelling of the First World War and poppies were chosen as the symbol of the fallen. Earl Haig started the first poppy factory in Richmond, Surrey in 1922. Subsequently Lady Haig designed the Scottish poppy and in 1926 opened the Edinburgh factory.
Today there are 39 veterans making poppies by hand in that factory. They also make wreaths including some for the Royal Family. Apart from our own Scottish poppy, there are different poppy designs available. For example, the English poppy has two petals and a leaf. Jodie showed a short video starting with shots of the First World War and then the Edinburgh factory with some of the veterans making poppies on the traditional machinery.
Jodie reminded members that one million British soldiers, sailors and airmen were killed in that war and one and a quarter million were left disabled. She then read the poignant poem, “In Flanders Field” by Lt Col John McCrae.
She then explained that Poppy Scotland provided support to ex – service personnel in several key ways, especially with mental health and physical disability. Poppy Scotland provides funding for the Armed Services Advice Project which has helped over seven thousand veterans back into employment.
Jodie pointed out that the Scottish Poppy Appeal is the largest fund raiser in the UK and raises over £2 million a year. The fund raisers consist of 500 area organisers and over 10,000 collectors. They are nearly all volunteers!
After Jodie’s talk there was time for club members to ask questions and add comments. At this point Bob Farmer highlighted all of the upcoming commemoration activities taking place in Cupar.
Then Robin Thomson, gave a well delivered vote of thanks. This was heartily endorsed by all club members. Then Jodie opened up her sale of poppy merchandise stall. Members collected around her table, where a variety of poppy designed broches were for available for sale.

A sum of £136 was donated by members.

Report by John Topliss. Photo by Peter Speirs


10 Oct 2018


Colin Moore

Having chaired the club business for the day, Colin Moore transformed from Chairman to Speaker for the day to deliver his talk entitled “Quote.. Misquote!”

Colin Moore

This turned out to be a light hearted and amusing talk about famous quotes, misquotes, ripostes and jibes, slogans and catchphrases. Colin began by explaining that a quote is a short statement that we remember and think worth repeating. This could be because it is – worthy, funny or wise. Some quotes have been corrupted over the years by accident or design. These are called misquotes. A well-known quote or misquote spoken at just the right time can really hit the spot.
Colin’s talk began with a look at famous first lines of novels. Then he moved on to space travel, mentioning Neil Armstrong’s “Mr Gorsky” misquote. He told us about three blond actresses, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe and Dolly Parton, who all mocked themselves using funny quotes as a defensive barrier. He then raised further laughter with a range of sporting quotes, from famous cricketers, golfers and footballers.
He demonstrated that the Bible and Shakespeare were the most quoted and misquoted texts in the English language. Then he moved on to the murky world of politics, scrolling through amusing blunders, ripostes and jibes made by Winston Churchill and his ilk. He concluded his talk with a look at quotes and misquotes made in the modern world of the text, the tweet, hashtag and snapchat.
After Colin’s talk there was time for club members to add some of their own treasured quotations. Then club member Ron Campbell gave the vote of thanks, throwing in some funny one liners of his own into the mix. He thanked Colin for a splendid morning of amusing entertainment.

Report by Colin Moore. Photo by Peter Speirs


26 Sept 2018


Ron Campbell

Chairman Colin introduced our own club member Ron Campbell as our speaker for today. Probus member Ron Campbell continued with his excellent series of talks on air force history by describing the history both of the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bombers and of its crews. In 1930 bombers had changed little from the end of the war and were biplanes with open cockpits. By 1937 when the first A.W.Whitley entered RAF service it was a monoplane with much stronger engines and tail and nose gun turrets. In September 1939, it participated in the first RAF raid upon German territory, though during the Phoney War only leaflets were dropped, some as far as Poland and Czechoslovakia. When actual bombing began 'planes were much hindered by primitive navigation with some missing their target by 50 to ten miles. Dropping zones were dictated by ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival). On one occasion due to bad weather the Thames was mistaken for the Rhine and bombs accordingly dropped on the nearest airfield. Luckily all missed their targets. The age of pilots must always be remembered: one finished his first tour of duty (30 flights) the day before his nineteenth birthday. Among famous pilots we heard of Willie Tait who helped sink the Tirpitz in 1944 and succeeded Leonard Cheshire as commander of the “Dambusters” squadron; uniquely he was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) four times. Hamish Mahaddie rose from apprentice ground crew to Group Captain and on retirement organized acquiring of planes for many films including The Battle of Britain. The Whitley's last usage as a bomber was in 1942 but it later served with Coastal Command and also towed gliders. It dropped secret agents and matériel into occupied France. Briefly it flew for BOAC but the Gibraltar to Malta run was too hot and the flights to Sweden too cold. It also served in military exercises including a much concealed disaster when two 'plane loads of paratroopers landed in the Tay rather than Tentsmuir due to high winds. The last Whitley was scrapped in 1949. As part of Bomber Command it undertook 8,996 ops, dropped 10k tons of bombs, and lost 269 aircrews. Of the 1,812 bombers built, 25% were lost. At the conclusion of this excellent talk, Peter Speirs gave a warm and appreciative vote of thanks to Ron on behalf of the club members. INDEX

12 Sept 2018


Martin Hepworth

Dr Martin Hepworth, a retired GP, has given more talks to Probus than any other of our speakers.

Dr Martin Hepworth

Having talked on Scottish banknotes, Laurel & Hardy, the Klondyke Gold Rush, and the Preston Bank Scandal he now provided a fascinating talk about the assassination of President Garfield. While our members could undoubtedly recall what they were doing when they heard of John F. Kennedy's killing and knew about Lincoln's evening at the theatre they were probably vaguer about the deaths of the two other assassinated presidents , James Garfield and William McKinley.

After hearing our guest they are now much more knowledgeable about both the life and the death of Garfield (1831-1881). Like Lincoln, Garfield went from log cabin to the White House; son of a poor farmer's widow he funded his later teenage years of education by being the school janitor. Then after teaching in the school within ten years he was a college professor of maths and classics.

He became an Ohio senator in 1859 and entered Congress during the Civil War during which he rose to the rank of general in the Union Army. A skilled orator, he was chosen as Republican presidential candidate in 1880 and on winning the election attacked patronage and corruption in civil service appointments and spoke up for ex-slaves' civil rights. Four months into his term he was shot in a Washington railway station by Charles Guiteau an unsuccessful lawyer and evangelist who believed he should, despite knowing no French, be appointed ambassador to France. Despite American doctors' knowing about antiseptic treatment from Joseph Lister at the 1875 Centennial Exhibition they rejected its use and after 79 days Garfield died of sepsis, Such was the strength of public feeling that Guiteau though undoubtedly insane, was executed. Vice President Chester Arthur succeeded. Although at first despised and indeed suspected of being involved in the assassination he reformed the civil service and broke the power of the political boss whose protégé he had been. When Arthur left office after one term he was generally respected.

Garfield's daughter Mollie married her father's young secretary Joseph Stanley Brown who later became one of the founders of the National Geographic Society

Report by David Cleland. Photo by Maurice Shepherd


25 July 2018


Roger Stark

Chairman Colin Moore introduced our special guest speaker Dr. Roger Stark who spoke of “Methuselah and The Recycled Teenagers.”

Roger Stark

It soon became apparent that the assembled audience were the recycled teenagers! Roger started his talk by explaining that old age is a state of mind.

People are now living much longer than previous generations. Older people are part of society’s success story. Several hundred years ago life expectancy was between twenty five and thirty years. Although talked about now in negative terms, food processing and refined foods were great inventions stopping people dying from food poisoning. Society only started to understand about vitamins and the food pyramid in the early twentieth century.

We now live longer thanks to a better understanding of dietary needs and better health care. We are now helped by safe blood transfusions, limb repairs, stents, etc. Life expectancy has changed dramatically. Statistics show that there are now two thousand centenarians alive in the UK, compared to only forty fifty years ago.

Roger then went through his regime for extending one’s life span. This ranged from advice on diet, medicines, and having a happy contented lifestyle. Roger’s talk was complemented with very funny visual slides and cartoons together with a humorous musical soundtrack. The conclusion of his talk was followed by a wide range of very interesting questions and comments from the audience. After question time, club member Robert McCririck, gave a most appreciative vote of thanks, heartily endorsed by our club members.

This very upbeat and entertaining talk concluded our club meetings before our annual August break.

Report by Colin Moore. Photo by Peter Speirs. INDEX

11 July 2018


David Munro

Chairman Colin Moore introduced our special guest speaker, Professor David Munro.

David Munro

Professor Munro, formerly director of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, gave a most interesting talk about the vanished Loch Rossie. Although many of us would have known that the local name “Kinloch” is Gaelic for “head of the loch” (and being aware that Birnie & Gaddon are under thirty years old), we have learnt that the vanished loch is Rossie Loch.

Known historically since the 1400s it is still present in the name of Rossie House and Estate off the A93 between Collessie and Auchtermuchty. “Rossie” means “promontory” and this was the land jutting into the other end of the loch. With the help of maps beautifully drawn since the 1590s and printed from mid seventeenth century on our speaker showed how successive generations of landowners had drained the loch to improve both cultivation of land and livestock and the ease of travel. Such drainage started in the early 1600s and can be clearly seen e.g. in General Roy's military survey after the '45 . A 1775 map reports the loch is drained and in 1805-6 the inhabitants of Kinloch village were dispersed to the new settlements of Edenstown, Giffordtown, and Monkstown (now part of Ladybank).

No sign of such change can now be seen when driving on the A93 but the speaker explained where various lengthy drains might still be found. Local farms too retain names derived from the water e.g. Kilwhiss (Gaelic: “projecting into loch”) or Daubs (Scots: “mud farm”). The talk ended with accounts of two other such local drainings. At Lochore the loch had disappeared in the late 1700s only to return in the 1920s with subsidence caused by mining from 1902 on and now features as part of the country park. Then in 1794 the local laird attempted to drain Loch Leven but it was too great a challenge which understandably bankrupted him though the 5,000 acre loch was eventually reduced by a quarter and the RSPB have been reintroducing wetlands at Vane Farm. Prof. Munro opened members' eyes to what they can no longer see in a fascinating lecture.

A vote of thanks was given by Roddy MacLeod.

Report by David Cleland. Photo by Peter Speirs.


27 June 2018


Jim Tebbs

Chairman Colin Moore introduced our special guest speaker, Jim Tebbs, to talk about Rolls Royce engines.

Jim Tebbs

Jim began by telling us how in his early career, he had worked for the Rolls – Royce Flight Test Establishment in Hucknall. He worked on the development of control systems for the large fan engine blades. He moved away from the company in 1978 spending the rest of his working life in various areas of the Automotive and Aerospace industry. On retirement in 2008, he was invited back to Rolls – Royce joining the Rolls – Royce Heritage Trust. This has a particular mandate to protect the history and engineering excellence of the company.
Jim used a well organised presentation with slides and photographs to plot the lives of the two great founders of the company. These were Sir Henry Royce OBE and the Hon Charles Stuart Rolls. He outlined for the audience the many significant milestones they shared together in the early part of the twentieth century. All based on the growing public interest and demand for motoring and powered flight. They were at the cutting edge of what was then a boom industry.
Unfortunately, CS Rolls, a flying enthusiast in his own right, was killed when a Wright brother’s plane that he was piloting crashed in 1910. This cruelly severed the partnership but not the reputation of the company. Henry Royce went on with Rolls – Royce and manufactured some of the finest automobiles and aero engines ever developed.
Jim gave an enthralling account of the partnership that developed between Rolls – Royce and RJ Mitchell of Supermarine. This joint activity led to Britain winning the prestigious Schneider Trophy in 1931 and more importantly to the development of the Spitfire which was vital to our victory in World War Two. The two men died prior to the war. They were unable to witness the finest hour of their achievements during the Battle of Britain.
After the war Rolls – Royce built on the successful work of Sir Frank Whittle by developing a full range of jet engines. Jim gave a fascinating account of the range of jet engines and the way that the Aerospace Industry was able to consolidate their success with Concorde and the Lockheed Tristar programme. Jim ended his talk by bringing us up to date on the future which now faces Rolls – Royce after more than 110 years of engineering excellence.
There was then followed by an interesting question and answer session. Club member John Topliss, gave an appreciative vote of thanks, on what had been a fascinating and well produced talk.

Report by Colin Moore. Photos by Peter Speirs.

13 June 2018


Roddy Greig

Chairman Colin Moore introduced our special guest speaker, Roddy Greig, to talk about Cupar born artist Charles Lees.

Roddy started his talk by showing us a picture of “The Golfers.” This is probably the best known work of Charles Lees and is in the National Galleries, purchased at a cost of £2 million. Roddy knew nothing much about art or Lees, so he decided to do some genealogy and research. This became a consuming paper and archive hunt through the footprints of history as Roddy painstakingly collected evidence about the life and times of Charles Lees from a wide range of sources. He discovered that Charles’s father was a linen manufacturer and had moved to Cupar in 1785. Charles was born in Cupar in 1800. Charles was always good at drawing and painting. He applied to join the Drawing Academy, the forerunner of the National Galleries. He was finally admitted in 1830 with Sir Henry Raeburn standing as one of his supporters. Charles’s love life got interesting when he taught drawing to eighteen year old Elizabeth Christie. Her father did not appreciate the attentions that he was paying to his daughter and she was made a ward of court. However, Charles eloped with Elizabeth to Gretna Green where they were married. A warrant was subsequently made out for his arrest and he ended up in Fleet Prison for defying the court order. This was eventually sorted out amicably and the couple proceeded on the Grand Tour through France, Switzerland and Italy, where their first son was born in Rome. He was the first of nine children. Charles’s father had stocks in the City of Glasgow Bank and Charles inherited these on the death of his father. Unfortunately the bank collapsed and Charles became liable to repay a large sum of money. This difficulty haunted him for years. He died in 1880 and his gravestone is in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh. Charles Lees has his paintings exhibited in several major galleries around the U.K. Roddy showed us a few family portraits as well as some portraits and early photographs showing Charles at different stages of his life. Among these was a portrait done in Rome in 1833 by Academician Robert Scott Lauder. Roddy showed us around some of the documentary evidence that he has unearthed relating to the life and activities of Lees. He admits to having become quite immersed in the subject and has actually purchased three Lees paintings which are on loan to Cupar Heritage Centre. After question time, club member Angus Allan, gave an appreciative vote of thanks, where he referred to the innate gift of painting present from birth in some individuals. This vote of thanks was heartily endorsed by club members.

Report by Colin Moore. Photos by Peter Speirs.

23 May 2018


Alex Lorrimer

Chairman Colin Moore introduced our special guest speaker Alec Lorrimer to talk about “Farming in Yesteryear".

Alec had already set the scene for his talk by putting on display (see above) a most impressive collection of old farming implements and photographs on tables in the hall. Members were able to examine these on arrival.
Alec has spent most of his life in the Cupar area. He was a special constable in Cupar for twenty five years. His family have been engaged in farming for many years. Alec showed us a large Victorian family photograph, showing his grandfather, Old Tam, born in 1872. He had grazed sheep on common land in Tayport. Alec read one of the poems that Tam had composed about his working life in a bothy.

Alex Lorrimer, ready for hire

Pride of place among Alec’s collection that he brought in for us was a bothy kist, which Alec had inherited. He explained that bothies were put up on farms to accommodate teenage workers. Most were wooden structures, but one was a retired double decker bus, which is now on display in a museum. After explaining that the boss of the farm workers was the farm Grieve, Alec read a poem about life in the bothy and on the farm. This was followed by a song called “The Last of the Clydesdales.”
Alec told us that in the mid nineteenth century newly industrialised Britain created great wealth which was invested in large estates and big mansion houses. New farming methods and new crops were introduced to feed the expanding nation. At the end of the nineteenth century mechanisation was replacing teams of scythers, binders, etc. The reaper binder machine in particular made a major impact on farm life. The use of heavy horses for war work in World War One allowed tractors to come into their own. Alec talked about Harry Ferguson, a brilliant engineer, who developed tractors and tractor based systems from the 1930’s. Alec then had us laughing when he told of his own adventures taking his tractor driving test around the crowded streets of Cupar.
Alec illustrated his talk with several ballads - he has a fine singing voice - and he read poetry in local dialect including, “The Ploughman’s Lament” and “Age”, about a farmers thoughts on retirement. He concluded his talk with a bothy ballad about an unemployed farm hand getting a job at Fluthers hiring fair. Club members joined in on the chorus.
Club member, Bob Farmer, then gave a most appreciative vote of thanks on what had been both a hugely informative and very entertaining presentation. This was heartily endorsed by club members.

Report by Colin Moore. Photos by Peter Speirs.


9 May 2018


Bob Grant

Chairman Colin Moore introduced Dr. Bob Grant as our special guest speaker. Bob was here to talk to us on “My Maggies Walks” and he was superbly qualified for his subject.

Dr Bob Grant

Bob is a brave and dedicated man, who despite illness enjoyed an active career as a GP in Markinch. After amputation of a leg 15 years ago, Bob, has raised many thousands of pounds for Maggies Centres by walking long distances on his crutches around Scotland. Accompanied by his family and a loyal support group, he has walked around most of Scotland’s famous rambling routes. He told us about the great support that he had from family and friends and also from a variety of business sponsors who supplied professional logistical support throughout. He also highlighted the contribution made by a variety of groups and organisations who had joined him on various sections of his journeys.
His supporters over the years have included a group of 100 Harley Davidson bikers as well as pipers and drummers regularly providing a fanfare as his walks reached their conclusion.
Bob then described the origin of the Maggie’s Centres set up. This was named after an Edinburgh architect who knew that she had benefited from excellent medical care up to her death from breast cancer with friendly and expert support. He said that sufferers often needed a supporting arm around them as well as a needle in their arm.
He then took us on a slide enhanced journey around the eight Maggies Centres in Scotland. The slide show was very professionally managed and arranged by Ken Wilkie, an IT expert, who attended our meeting alongside Bob Grant. These slides took us around the different centres, all individually designed by different architects. All of these centres have a welcoming ambience, where patients feel at home in a welcoming environment. The designs are now famous throughout the world: Bob’s personal all favourite is the one at Dundee with its views over the River Tay.
Bob’s talk was both heart-warming and inspirational. There were several questions and comments from members at the conclusion of the talk and then, Malcolm Gerdes Hansen gave a very warm and appreciative vote of thanks. This resulted in a spontaneous round of applause. There was a collection for “Maggies” at the end of the talk, which raised a grand total of £161.52.

Report by Colin Moore. Photos by Peter Speirs.

11 April 2018


Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

Chairman Colin Moore introduced Joe Fitzpatrick, our speaker for today. Joe is the Director and a Trustee of the Falkland Stewardship Trust which is responsible for the Falkland Estate. He has been actively involved in archaeological fieldwork for a number of years. Joe played a leading part in the 2017 excavation of East Lomond Hill Fort and featured prominently on the BBC’s “Digging for Britain” programme in December 2017. So, he was eminently qualified to talk to us today about “East Lomond Hill Fort.”
He proceeded to do this with great style and verve. He also brought along an excellent screen presentation which perfectly complemented his prose. Our club members were then enthralled for forty five minutes as Joe went through the events and archaeological findings from the 2017 dig on the Lomond Hills. His first slides showed a series of interpretations of how the fort probably looked two thousand years ago.
Joe then explained that the findings from the dig demonstrated that this had been a Pictish fort belonging to an elite local ruling family. There was also firm evidence of a Roman Britain influence during the post invasion period. The dig had revealed some high status glass vessels and semi-precious jewellery ware. Spearheads and other weaponry were also recovered. All the finds had been carefully recorded in situ before being removed for interpretation and future display. The dig also revealed clear evidence of a long straight pathway through the fort which may have had a ceremonial purpose.
Joe explained that the 2017 dig had been an inclusive experience for the people of Fife. Volunteers of all ages had been involved. Bell Baxter School children were shown busily working in some of his slides, as well as several other volunteers from Cupar. Joe was very proud of this community involvement and the feeling of empathy between those living two thousand years ago and today.
After this remarkable presentation, where club members felt that they had been watching an episode from Channel Four’s “Time Team”, there was time for questions and comments from the audience.
Then Ron Campbell’s appreciative vote of thanks resulted in a warm and approving round of applause.

Report by Colin Moore. Photos by Peter Speirs, except the LIDAR.

This is a LIDAR (light detection and ranging and imaging) picture of East Lomond.



14 March 2018


Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith

Chairman Colin Moore introduced our two guest speakers. These were husband and wife team, Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith. They own and manage the Lindores Abbey Distillery.

Drew and Helen McKenzie Smith

Drew began his talk with some brief historical background notes. He told us that Lindores Abbey was founded on the banks of the River Tay, near Newburgh, by a French Tironensian order of monks in 1191. The earliest evidence of Scotch whisky being distilled at the abbey is found in an Exchequer Roll for 1494.

Drew explained that four years ago he decided to drive through an ambitious plan to begin distilling again at this historic site. He paid full tribute to Business Gateway Fife for their assistance and expert support throughout the project. They had helped with feasibility studies, early funding and financial forecasts. Drew gave us many insights into the challenges that he had overcome during the project. For example the trade name “Lindores” had been difficult to patent. There was opposition from the chocolate makers Lindt, the producers of “Lindor” chocolates. Drew told us how this problem had eventually been resolved in a civilised manner.

Drew’s talk was complimented by a most impressive slide show, managed by his wife Helen. These superb slides illustrated the massive efforts that have gone into this four million pound project. We saw how original abbey stone has been re-used to build the outstanding new Distillery, Legacy Bar, Apothecary and Visitor’s Centre. Whisky is now being produced in three huge copper stills. There will be no return for ten years, but long term investors have come on board to sustain the project.

After this really interesting presentation, there was time for questions and comments from the audience. Then an appropriate and very amusing vote of thanks was given by Malcolm Gerdes–Hansen, on behalf of all club members.


14 February 2018


Michael Mulford

Chairman Colin Moore introduced our speaker, Michael Mulford.

Michael Mulford

Michael has held senior appointments in journalism, television and public relations. He worked at STV as an on screen reporter and presenter and was the first crime reporter at the Dundee Courier. He is a self-confessed “Morphologist” – meaning that he loves big words and phrases.

Michael presented us with a very amusing talk including quotations from a wide range of politicians, celebrities and publications. Michael also took us into word derivations during his presentation. For example, we were informed that the word Trump was first used in 1456 as meaning overbearing, and Trumpery means deceit, fraud and trickery!

He particularly enjoys typographical errors and explained that journalists never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

He gave us many hilarious examples of “typos”, such as in a Dundee Courier obituary, where an army brigadier was described as being “battle scared”. This was hurriedly changed to “bottle scarred” in subsequent editions. Amongst other many amusing anecdotes, he gave us examples of Dundee jute mill dialect and word plays on “Oor Willie.”

He recalled that the BBC infamously and most unfortunately played Bing Crosby’s recording of “Heaven, I’m in Heaven” as a tribute song on the day that he died and that John Kennedy did not mean to say, I am a jam doughnut when he proclaimed, “Ich bin ein Berliner!” Michael continued in this vein, keeping members laughing and groaning with his amusing and entertaining comments.

At the end of his talk, there was time for questions and comments from the audience and then a very well deserved vote of thanks was given by Keith McIntosh on behalf of the members present at the meeting. Club members responded with a hearty round of applause.

 Report by John Topliss - photos by Peter Speirs


24 January 2018


Malcolm Gerdes-Hansen

Malcolm Gerdes-Hansen

Chairman Colin then introduced our speaker for today, our own club member, Malcolm Gerdes-Hansen talking about Rudyard Kipling.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born to artistic parents in Bombay, in 1865. His father worked there at the School of Art as the Principal of Architectural Sculpture. His unusual Christian name was derived from Rudyard, the Staffordshire village where his parents courted. In 1871, Rudyard and his sister were boarded back in Southsea, England, where they suffered six years of cruelty and bullying. Rudyard called this, “The House of Desolation”. Rudyard found some relief from this hardship in 1878, when he attended the United Services College in Devon. His fellow pupils became the inspiration for his future 1899 classic novel, “Stalky and Co.”

He returned to India where he worked in journalism and began to write short stories. During this period he published his first collections of verse. Malcolm then took us through some of the major achievements of Kipling’s writing career, including the “Jungle Books”, “Captains Courageous”, and the “Barrack Room Ballads” containing “Mandalay” and “Gunga Din”.

During his talk, Malcolm, a declared lover of Kipling’s works, demonstrated the power of his poetry by reading a couple of his poems, including the legendary “Tommy”. Malcolm explained that some of Kipling’s works were criticised for their imperialistic sentiments and racist attitudes. It is interesting to note that Kipling used the left facing swastika (ganasha) on the frontispiece of all his works. This was the Hindu symbol of good luck. But, he immediately removed this from all publications when the Nazis came to power in Germany. He shunned personal publicity and declined offers of Knighthoods, Orders of Merit, and invitations to become Poet Laureate.

He did though accept the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. After a remarkable and hectic life, where he mixed with the most influential of people, Kipling died in 1936. This talk stimulated several thought provoking questions and comments from members. After these were aired, Bob Farmer gave a very well deserved vote of thanks on behalf of the members present at the meeting. The members responded with a hearty round of applause.

Report by John Topliss - photo by Peter Speirs


13 December 2017


Today we celebrated this special time of year with our traditional Mince Pie Day.

After enjoying our mince pies, coffee and blether, we got down to our entertainment. This was provided by our own club members showing off a wide range of skills.

We enjoyed a really fine mix of music, prose, verse, with plenty of fun and laughter along the way.

All of our performers were thanked for the time and effort that they put into preparing and performing their items.

Compere and impressario Malcolm Gerdes-Hansen

A special word of thanks was given to our hard-working impresario in charge of today’s production, Malcolm Gerdes-Hansen.

We really appreciated all his efforts.

Report by Colin Moore - Photo by Peter Speirs


22 November 2017


Maureen Young

Chairman David Galloway introduced Maureen Young to talk about her Life in a Mess. Maureen is a journalist from Auchterarder who had travelled overseas with the Black Watch and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards to many interesting locations. She and other journalists were given officer status and stayed in the officers’ mess – hence the title.

Maureen illustrated her talk with many photos of people and places. In West Germany she enjoyed driving a tank and talked about a horse being trained to be a drum horse which was found to be scared of drums.
Northern Ireland in 1967 was very dangerous but she still managed to sleep through a mortar attack. Everyone moved around by helicopter and she had to jump out while it was hovering a dozen feet above the ground – with a push! Normally Maureen wore army clothing but a photo in Crossmaglen showed her wearing civvies so she didn’t present an obvious target.
Maureen was back in Germany in Berlin in 1989 for the 250th anniversary of the Black Watch, about the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Black Watch was responsible for guarding Rudolf Hess in Spandau Prison, but the regiment was also known for being very smart at formal occasions. It turned out at lots of functions and at one parade President Ronald Reagan was heard to comment on their smartness. About that time the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards gave the Queen Mother a tank as a present – it is not recorded what she did with it.
Maureen visited Hong Kong twice. Apparently the harbour was filthy and toxic and she was warned not to fall in because it could be fatal. The second visit was for the hand back of the territory to China when there were 10,000 media personnel present. The regiment had all their finery on in the torrential rain and then had to get on the planes and leave by midnight while they were still soaking wet.
Maureen visited troops in Kenya where her accommodation was basic. One photo showed her on a “thunderbox”. The Black Watch carried out community projects in the villages. In one the regiment bought a cow for the village. Maureen was encouraged to donate her old trainers in exchange for some soapstone carvings.
Maureen visited Kosovo and recounted some of the horrors she saw and heard there. Subsequently she had a visit to Iraq where she had to don an NBC suit (nuclear, biological, chemical) in raging temperatures of 45 – 50 deg C. The Black Watch was providing support for repair work which included guarding the only bank. She flew about in Chinook helicopters there.
Maureen was lucky to go to the Falklands where the regiment was providing a rapid response force. She found the landscape similar to the Western Isles of Scotland. She also got a good photo of penguins. About that time Maureen was delighted to receive the General Officer’s Commendation for her journalism.
After a few questions, the vote of thanks was given by David Cleland for an interesting and well presented talk.

Report by John Topliss - Photo by Peter Speirs


8 November 2017


Ed Link

Chairman David Galloway introduced our visitors today, the ukulele band from the Cupar branch of the University of the Third Age, Cupalele, who gave us an hour of splendid entertainment. Their leader is Ed Link and remarkably they play and sing simultaneously without a conductor. They’re in their third year now with members from across Fife. The beginners have been joined by more experienced players who pick out the melody while the others play the rhythm. Their first number, picked no doubt because of that morning’s political headlines, was  “The Boys Won’t Leave the Girls Alone” and that Irish folk song was succeeded by songs spanning 90 years  from Al Jolson  and Bing Crosby to John Denver, the Beatles, the Kinks, Dylan, and the Corries. Probus members joined in heartily in these and numbers like “Edelweiss” or “Singing the Blues” as well. It was explained how the expected F word was not going to feature as George Formby played the banjolele whose bigger size ensured greater volume  for a solo vocalist. However the band relented in the penultimate piece where we all leant heartily on a lamp post. For the last item we rocked around the clock though given it was Probus plus U3A there was only singing and no dancing. What a very good reminder how those of us of the third age can fair enjoy it. After a vote of thanks the members gave an enthusiastic round of applause.

The Leader of the Band, Ed Link

Just a few of the band

Report by David Cleland - Photos by Colin Moore


25 October 2017


Paula Martin

Chairman David Galloway introduced our guest speaker for today, the local Cupar historian Paula Martin. After retiring from her academic career, Paula is now Cupar based and is the editor for various historical publications.

She has been involved with the research into Fife Milestones since 2004. She has found it to be a fascinating subject. She explained that milestones have been around since Roman times and appear in traditional tales such as Dick Whittington and through to the novels of Charles Dickens.

Fife milestones are usually cast iron. They are traditionally painted white with black lettering designed to stand out to travellers. Some can now be quite difficult to spot because of subsidence and verge changes. A lot are very attractively lettered in old script. They can now be seen only in Fife and not anywhere else in Scotland. All milestones and signposts were immediately removed throughout the U.K. at the start of the Second World War. A lot were destroyed and the cast iron was used in the armaments business at that time. The Fife roads Inspector took a different course of action at the start of the war. He providentially stored away the Fife milestones and then carefully restored them to their correct positions in the post war years. Fife was the only county to do this at that time. We are indebted to him today for his foresight giving us this magnificent ongoing link to our past. It is now recognised that these milestones are an attractive and important part of Fife’s heritage. The council now carefully maintains them and replaces them in cast iron where necessary. They go back to the eighteenth century where wheeled transport became more common due to the introduction of turnpike roads. This brought a need for travellers to know directions and distances.

Paula’s talk was supported by an impressive set of photograph slides detailing the variety found in the different milestones on view around the county today. This was part of an excellent PowerPoint presentation. These photographs are all from her own personal collection gathered together over the last fifteen years. Her fascinating and thought provoking talk produced lots of questions from the members present. After question time, Roddy McLeod gave a most amusing and gracious vote of thanks.

Report by Colin Moore - Photo by Peter Speirs


11 October 2017


Colin Moore

Chairman David Galloway introduced our speaker for today, our own club member, Colin Moore. His subject was “Classic Crime Fiction”.

Colin explained to us how he first started collecting Crime Fiction when he was twelve years old. His first book was an old and tattered second hand copy of “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”.

Over the years, he has built up an extensive crime fiction library in his own home. He developed his theme by defining the meaning of crime fiction and then told us about some of his favourite authors. He read short extracts from some of these classic crime novels during his talk. His presentation was complimented by a slide presentation of relevant book covers, photographed from his own collection.

Colin then told us about the Queen of Crime Fiction, Agatha Christie. He introduced her detectives and talked about some of her books and plays. Thanks to television, Agatha Christie remains a top selling author to this day. He then brought things up to date by talking about modern authors writing in the style of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction. These included Rebecca Tope and James Runcie.

Colin’s talk generated a lot of very interesting questions from club members. After question time, Bert Oliver gave a suitably entertaining and very well deserved vote of thanks.

Report by Colin Moore - Photo by Peter Speirs


27 September 2017


Alan Laing

Chairman David Galloway welcomed our guest speaker for today, Alan Laing of Fife Flying Club accompanied by Chris Anderson, chairman of the Club.

Chris Anderson and Alan Laing

As part of a syndicate Ian owns and flies a Socata TB9 Tampico, a beautiful small private ‘plane based at Fife Airport outside Glenrothes, shown below.

The TB9

He told us of the various activities and open days at the airport and of its contributions to various good causes; he recommended the Tipsy Nipper restaurant. Sometimes he is involved in flying out piggyback parachutists raising money for charity though he himself has only jumped once. Various technical details to do with power and weight explained why he picked the TB9 and he went into the financial costs involved for the syndicate. He explained too that although pilots fly now by GPS they are still legally obliged to have a chart on board as well. He reminisced of the pleasure of flying to islands like Coll or Tiree for the afternoon.

However Ian is not just a pilot but a skilled photographer and the second part of his talk gave evidence of this in a succession of beautiful photographs taken from the sky. We saw the Queensferry Crossing at various stages of construction>

With permission pilots may fly over the centre of Edinburgh, so that we viewed the Castle or Princes Street from above.  There were shots of Ben Nevis or Glencoe in bad weather as Ian explained that if you never ever flew in bad weather you’d rarely take off in Scotland. 


However there were many shots in fine weather too; those over the sea could reveal its shapes and wave patterns in the varying light. One notable example of the detail provided was the sight of the Sugar Boat wreck opposite Helensburgh at the Tail of the Bank in the Clyde. The Club offers flights down the coast from the airport to Crail and back and it was especially interesting to view scenery we all knew so well a different angle.

It is good for us to be reminded that our lines are fallen in such pleasant places and Ian’s doing of this was much appreciated.

After a few questions a vote of thanks was given by Alex Ness and the members responded in the usual manner.

Report by David Cleland - Photos by Peter Speirs and Alan Laing


13 September 2017


John Carder

Chairman David Galloway, welcomed today's speaker, John Carder, from Cellardyke to give a talk about “The Sounds and Voices of World War 2”.

Before starting the talk John handed out supporting handouts including the front sheet of the Daily Mail of 17 October 1939 and several photos.

John Carder

John, who was born in London, explained that he became a serving officer with the RAF, but he was a schoolboy in London during World War 2. He remembered the exciting time of being in Piccadilly Circus on VE Day outside the Rainbow Club (the US equivalent of the NAAFI) when a jazz band was playing. The wireless (radio) was the main means of communication at that time, and his family’s one was powered by an accumulator.

Bob then played some key recordings from the BBC to illustrate the progress of the war as told by politicians and presenters. It started with the Chamberlain speech in 1938 about “peace in our time”. He was seen as weak, but he had been advised that we couldn’t win at that time. A Hitler speech followed. Several well-known and less well-known speeches by Churchill were played, followed by a rousing speech by Roosevelt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

John also played unusual sounds of a Lancaster bomber aircrew radio flying over Berlin during a raid, a V1 Flying Bomb, and a V2 rocket exploding. We were brought back to earth with the classic recording by Richard Dimbleby of the horrendous conditions he found at the Belsen concentration camp. This recording was blocked by the BBC at the time as being too frightening.

John ended the talk with Vera Lynn singing “We’ll Meet Again”. Unfortunately, there was no time available for questions so Peter Speirs gave a suitable vote of thanks to John for his fascinating and unusual talk.

Report by John Topliss - Photo by Peter Speirs


26 July 2017


Chairman David Gallaway welcomed Tom Nelson to give a talk about Sweet Peas. Tom, who is from Cuparmuir, had already set the scene by putting out displays of sweet peas in the hall before the talk.

Tom Nelson

Tom has had a horticultural background for 40 years and became hooked on sweet peas after winning his first trophy at the Kingsbarns show. Apparently Cupar is famous for sweet pea growers. The first sweet peas came to Britain in 1699 from Sicily, and a variety “Painted Lady” from about that time is still available. Growing sweet peas is not expensive, and several sweet pea catalogues are available showing as many as 1300 varieties. Seed prices vary considerably but can start as low as 99p for 300 seeds according to variety – bigger flowers are more expensive. Showing sweet pea has been popular for a long time. At a show in 1912 there were 35,000 entries and a top prize of £1000. There are still many shows in Scotland although the number is falling. Tom grows about 400 sweet peas, and as well as showing them, is also a judge. He considers sweet peas value for money because of the long flowering period, although they only last a few days when cut.

Tom talked, among other things, about how to germinate seeds, get long stems, and to cut flowers hard to encourage more flowers. The best perfumed flowers are white, cream and blue. He ended his talk with a demonstration of how to create a display suitable for a show. Tom is a relaxed speaker whose informative talk was supported by many amusing stories and experiences which kept the audience well-entertained. After some lively questions, member John Dewar, a well-known horticulturist, gave a suitable vote of thanks.

Report by John Topliss - Photos by Peter Speirs and John Topliss


12 July 2017


Our speaker today was Dr. Roger Stark and his subject was "The Happiness Business."

Roger Stark and his Mr Happy tie

Roger talked us through the science of happiness. He explained about our body chemistry and took us through the happy chemicals, such as endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin which are present in our brains and surge though our bodies when required. These can be triggered at different times according to our individual situations and needs. He explained that hormones in the body govern what we do and what we think.

Roger took us through the United Nations Happiness League where the happiest country is Denmark. The Danish score highly with measures such as fairness, stability, security, opportunity and freedom. He then took us through ways that we can top up our own happiness. These included fresh air, sunshine, achievement, excitement, exercise, friends, music and laughter.

Roger's presentation included a wide range of really amusing slides combined with suitably enhancing musical sound tracks. He talked with great humour and engaged the whole audience in continuous laughter.

Douglas Provan gave a well deserved vote of thanks, praising Roger's very interesting and amusing presentation. Douglas quoted Harry Lauder, as saying, "Happiness is one of the few things in the world that doubles every time you share it with someone else."

One thing is for sure, after such an entertaining talk, Roger certainly left Cupar Probus Club members in a very happy state.

Report by Colin Moore - Photo by Peter Speirs


28 June 2017


Today's speaker, club member, Roddy MacLeod, treated us to a collection of some of his favourite Scottish Poetry.

Roddy MacLeod

His collection ranged from the early poem, "The Lament of the Makkers" by William Dunbar written in 1460, through to modern day offerings from the likes of W. N. Herbert with "The Ballad of Techno Fear". Some of these poems included dialectic words and phrases that have now been lost in time. But, when performed by a master teller, like Roddy, they still retained all of their rhythm, humour and harmony.

He included a selection devoted to William McGonagall, famous for managing to make everything rhyme, however distorted and contrived. Roddy explained that in a world where some clever people try to be silly, McGonagall was a silly person trying to be clever!
Roddy engaged wonderfully well with his audience throughout his presentation. He performed his programme with great joy and an infectious delight, which was shared by all present in the hall.

Like all skilled performers, he left the audience asking for more.  After an interesting question time, John Topliss, gave a well deserved vote of thanks, praising Roddy's delivery and presentation of a fascinating programme of poetry.

Report by Colin Moore - Photo by Peter Speirs


14 June 2017


Chairman David Galloway, welcomed Robert (Bob) Hutchison, a member of Glenrothes Probus Club, to give a talk about “The Dark Secrets of Dry Cleaning”.

Bob Hutchison

Bob, who had worked in the dry cleaning industry, led us through the history and development of dry cleaning apparently starting with Jean Baptiste Jolly in Paris in the 1840s accidently spilling spirit of turpentine on a table cloth and noticing that it cleaned the cloth. This soon developed into a full scale activity called “nettoyage a sec” i.e. dry cleaning.

By 1857 dry cleaning factories had been set up in Paris and elsewhere with clothing supplied from collection centres. These new factories tried various different solvents to improve the cleaning performance. These included petrol, paraffin and benzene, and chlorinated salts, which were safer. Carbon tetrachloride was very effective and used widely for some time but was eventually banned because of its toxicity.

In between the wars perchloroethylene, or PERC, started to be used which was much safer. Although other solvents have been tried, including liquid carbon dioxide, PERC is still the main solvent used for dry cleaning today. Machines were used at an early stage in the development of dry cleaning and over time they were developed to give better cleaning using a 3-stage process. The first stage is washing, where soap could be added, the second stage is rinsing, and drying is carried out in the third stage. Originally much of the solvent was lost in the process, but because of costs and ever tightening regulations, dry cleaning machines were developed to totally recycle the solvents.

Bob completed his talk by saying that, unfortunately, because much of modern material can be cleaned at home in the washing machine, the dry cleaning industry is slowly disappearing. However there will always be a need while men continue to wear suits which cannot go in the washing machine. After some interesting question from members, Keith McIntosh gave a deserved vote of thanks.

Report by John Topliss - Photo by Peter Speirs


24 May 2017


One of our own members Iain Fraser gave a fascinating talk on Opera in Scotland.

Iain Fraser

He and his brothers have set up the website which lists 680 operas, 11,000 artistes, and 22,000 performances.

This was started in 2008 in response to Scottish Opera’s giving no performances for a year amid claims that opera was “never part of Scottish culture”, despite the Edinburgh International Festival and the fact that nowadays Scottish Opera is seen by 80,000 people a year and is the largest performing arts organization in Scotland.

Iain mentioned two operas that were performed in Scotland in the 1720s: one of them, The Beggar’s Opera, still being known today. That century it was one of the first to be criticised for lewdness and immorality as happened also next century to La Traviata. As railways eased communication operas came to Aberdeen, Dundee, and Glasgow. By the 1850s Glasgow, with 20,000 pianos in the city, indeed claimed to be just as appreciative of culture as Dublin.

Iain’s talk then divided in two: opera stars who visited Scotland, like Gigli or Jenny Lind together with decades of tours from Carl Rosa’s company and those who hailed from here like Mary Garden, or Joseph Hislop who died in Lundin Links. Dame Nellie Melba who studied music in Melbourne (hence her stage name) was born to immigrant parents called Mitchell who came from Forfar and Tayport. 

Our speaker ended  with Alexander Gibson’s founding of Scottish Opera in 1962  and then as a superb encore let us imagine we were sitting in the stalls in the Lyceum  in 1889 as we listened to a 1903 recording of  Zélie de Lussan  as she sang an aria from Carmen. Bravo!

A few comments and questions from the members followed before Mike Edwards proposed the vote of thanks.


10 May 2017


Our speaker was John Beaton MBE. He talked to us about the NASA Space Centre. It soon became clear that John was particularly well qualified to talk about this subject. He is a regular visitor to NASA. In 2007, John created, in partnership with NASA, the Discovery STEM Space School. To date, this has enabled 44 local Fife primary school children to visit Houston and consider sciences as a future career. Astronauts and Cosmonauts visit and teach at Abertay University as part of the programme. John is now an official International Friend of NASA.

With the aid of a slide presentation, John took us on a reality tour of the NASA Space Craft Hall.  We then looked at the Discovery space shuttle. We "visited" the lower front deck and then proceeded up to the upper cockpit. We viewed a mission from the Mission Leaders' seat. The flight deck was very complicated. In front of the mission leader is a control panel with thousands of switches. Strangely, he explained that the most vital aid on a space shuttle was Velcro. Everything is attached with Velcro because of zero gravity. We even visited the toilet during our virtual tour! It was very interesting to learn about how using the "loo" is a real issue for astronauts!

John then compared the USA shuttle with the Russian Soyuz space craft. He then went on to the International Space Station which orbits the planet Earth every ninety minutes. The Apollo Mission Control Centre is now open as a space museum complete with working models of craft and simulations of space craft and control desks.

This was a fascinating talk given by a man with first hand experience. Ron Campbell gave an amusing and appreciative vote of thanks. The members present showed their appreciation with a fine round of applause at the end of the talk.


26 April 2017


Chairman David Galloway welcomed Hedydd Anderson, who introduced herself by explaining she is Welsh and her name means Skylark. Apparently her ornithological father decided it was a good name as she was born early in the morning.

Hedydd explained that she had a career in teaching. After qualifying in French her first post was at a girls’ school in Shrewsbury. She was there for four years and recounted how in 1963 the River Severn froze and cars could drive across it. Subsequently she married a Scottish engineer and moved to Edinburgh.

There she worked for five years at a boys’ school where she was the only female teacher. This gave her plenty of spare time because only the male teachers would do some activities such as games and the school CCF. Hedydd particularly remembered Mondays when the cadets’ boots clattered on the stairs.

Hedydd explained that she was very keen on good French pronunciation, and gave an amusing demonstration in French on how she coached a boy for an oral exam. When the examiner tried to trip a boy up by asking the French for “leek”, the examiner was impressed when the boy replied with the right word “poireau”. The reason for this was clear – Hedydd is Welsh and the leek is the symbol of Wales.

In 1972 Hedydd and her husband moved as a couple to teach French and science respectively in St Mary’s school in Melrose, where they were also responsible for boarders aged 8 to 13. At the holiday breaks the boys all had to be packed off home, some by air to overseas destinations

Hedydd told of the happy times – playing board games in front of the fire, singing with the piano. But there were the sad times – watching QE2 going to the Falklands with the fathers of two boys on it was one.

Working at St Mary’s was an uplifting and broadening experience for Hedydd and she illustrated her talk with many interesting and amusing details about her 25 years at the school. She finally became Deputy Head when she moved from being a teacher to an enabler. Hedydd is a very good speaker and her audience was hanging on every word.

After a few questions, a well-deserved vote of thanks was given by Robert McCririck.

Meeting report by John Topliss - photo by Peter Speirs


12 April 2017


Chairman David Galloway introduced our speaker for today, Sue Caton.

Sue is Eric Liddell’s niece and patron of the Eric Liddell Centre, Edinburgh. She never knew her uncle who died in a Japanese internment camp in China during the war but has an extensive knowledge of the famous athlete and missionary and of his family which she shared with Probus members in a fascinating blend of pictures, and extracts from recorded reminiscences.

The Liddells can be traced back in the Drymen area to the 1750s. Eric’s father was a Congregationalist missionary who worked in China from 1898, just before the Boxer Rising. He married in Shanghai Cathedral and Eric was born in 1902. Educated at boarding school in England, he went on to study science at Edinburgh University. From 1920 to 1924 he won almost every race he ran in together with playing rugby for Scotland seven times.

Most famously at the 1924 Olympics he refused to run heats on a Sunday for his favoured distance the 100 metres, instead settling for the weekday 400 metres where he won gold. At his Edinburgh graduation he was crowned with laurel leaves and carried out on the shoulders of his fellow graduates and when he left for the China he was taken to Waverley on a decorated horse drawn carriage.

Apart from trips home he spent the rest of his life in China both in Peking and in the more dangerous Inner Mongolia, teaching science and evangelizing. He married a Canadian nurse and had two daughters: we heard on recordings of mother and daughters with some of their reminiscences. They left for safety in Canada and then Britain in 1941 but Eric felt it his duty to stay on with his converts and pupils. Interned in 1943 he died of a brain tumour in 1945, never seeing the third daughter whom his pregnant wife was carrying when she left.

When he saw the situation of the young internees he overcame his sabbatarian principles and helped them with sport on Sundays. He always remained famous in Scotland and his reputation increased with the slightly inaccurate Chariots of Fire film in 1981.

Statues and memorials have been erected in both Edinburgh and China but Sue explained how his best memorial was his Centre at Holy Corner and its work with dementia sufferers and their carers.

Past Chairman Bert Oliver proposed the vote of thanks with the members giving a hearty round of applause.

Meeting report by David Cleland- photo by Peter Speirs


22 March 2017


Chairman David Galloway introduced today’s speaker Guthrie Hutton, author, and chairman of Cupar Heritage Centre to give his talk on Victorian asylums.

Guthrie Hutton’s interest in Victorian asylums, first awakened when he was commissioned to write histories of such institutions about to be closed down in Glasgow in the ’90s, was revived when organizing Cupar Heritage Centre’s exhibition for Stratheden’s 150th anniversary. We much enjoyed sharing the fruits of this further research with an historical account followed by relevant photographs. Before the late 1700s the mentally ill were locked up in the town tolbooths and could often be viewed as a source of amusement but then charitable institutions began to be founded: they can often be identified by having "Royal' in their names. By 1848 parochial boards had to set up and supervise poorhouses with separate basic provision for “pauper lunatics” but from 1857 county boards were established. Their asylums had to be within two miles of a railway and be 30-70 acres in size. No medications were available but it was rightly felt that work on the land could be therapeutic. Fife and Kinross Lunacy Board acquired the Springfield site in 1864 and the asylum, only renamed Stratheden with the coming of the NHS in 1948, was set up, bringing great financial benefits to Cupar tradesmen. As in other such institutions the inmates enjoyed sports like football and cricket while local groups came in to provide entertainment. After briefly going through more recent developments such as the end of this kind of asylum system, signalled in the 1960s by Enoch Powell when Minister of Health, Guthrie then gave a slide show of the sites and the people from all over Scotland. The former showed the majestic buildings with water tanks in their high towers, set in huge estates whose splendid gardens were well tended by the patients. The latter slides showed the staff and wards and workshops as well as dances and sports days. Although we went in thinking this would be a gloomy subject we came out realizing that for all the faults due to imperfect medical knowledge the setting up of asylums was a worthy example of Victorian enlightenment in which they invested money, involvement, and pride. A question and answer session followed before Colin Moore gave the vote of thanks.

Meeting report by David Cleland - photo by Peter Speirs


8 March 2017


Probus was brought to order by one of its members, dressed in scarlet, shouting stentoriously and banging his gavel three times. Malcolm Gerdes-Hansen from Shetland Isles and in his long life holder of more GB caps in water polo (93 as goalie) than anyone else, is now one of Scotland’s fourteen duly qualified professional toastmasters and gave a fascinating talk both on the history of toast and his life as toastmaster.

He explained how in the thirteenth century the wine was so dreadful that it needed to be improved with heated bread and spices which were left at the bottom of the cup and eaten thereafter: hence our idea of a toast, a word first used for honouring with drink in Bath in 1649 with drunken frolics in the ladies’ spa.

By 1847 toastmasters were the ones to call for silence and by the end of century started wearing scarlet frock coats thanks to Edward VII while Prince of Wales. Nowadays they have to learn protocol, procedure, and etiquette. They should never talk of “bride and groom” as grooms only tend horses but of course “bride and bridegroom”.

Never say “Be upstanding for ….” Because when that’s said in court it really does mean “upright, honourable”: it’s the usher who says “All rise!” In his time Malcolm, trained by the Queen’s toastmaster, has had to learn how to address a Greek bishop (“Your Beatitude”).

Something only he in Scotland has learned is sabrage. In Napoleonic times French hussars returning to barracks would attempt to open a bottle of champagne with their sabres; the winner would then share his wine with camp followers.

Malcolm had his sabre with him and expertly and speedily demonstrated how to do this. The bottle was opened undamaged and donated to the ladies of the Age Concern staff.

A splendidly entertaining morning especially for those of us who have never been invited to banquets and weddings of that calibre.

A lively question and answer session followed before a vote of thanks was given by John Topliss.



22 February 2017


Chairman David Galloway introduced Cupar Probus member, Robin Thomson, who gave a talk entitled “A Bairn at Large”.

After a witty introduction, Robin talked of his experiences when he lived in the village of Husthwaite in Yorkshire. In the Norman church some of the gravestones had as few words as possible to keep the engraving cost down, and some also had unintended humorous mistakes.
Apparently the performer, Stanley Holloway was in the Yorkshire Regiment in World War I and was quick to use the local accent. Robin then demonstrated the accent with a wonderful presentation of “Albert and the Lion” which Stanley Holloway had first presented in a local Working Men’s Club.
Robin then changed accent to demonstrate some witticisms and curious rhymes from the American poet and broadcaster, Frederic Ogden Nash.
Back to the North of England, Robin was moving into a new house in a new road in Guisborough called Buce Loo Close. Some investigation revealed a Scottish connection, and the road is now called Buccleuch Close!
Robin talked about a variety of subjects, including Hartlepool, Burns’ “Address to a Haggis”, quotes from Ronald Reagan, and the work of Scottish writer and poet, John Buchan. Buchan wrote 27 novels, including the well-known “39 Steps” but is also known for his poetry. Robin finished with a beautiful delivery of two of Buchan’s poems.
After some appreciating comments from members, a well-deserved vote of thanks was given by Angus Allan.

Meeting report by John Topliss - photo by Peter Speirs


10 February 2017


Our speaker today was Dakers Fleming talking on Hill of Tarvit Mansion House. Dakers is Chairman of the East Fife National Trust Members Centre and has been a guide at the Hill of Tarvit for three years.

Dakers gave us a tremendous talk combining visual images together with a well informed commentary on the history of the house and its present role within the National Trust.

He began by putting the house into a geographical perspective and the took us back to its beginnings with the tragic story of its owners, the Sharp family. He told us about Hugh Sharp. He was a great sports enthusiast, but sadly died when two trains collided near Glasgow in 1937.
In the second part of his talk, Dakers, gave us a virtual tour of the house and grounds. The house was built for entertainment and house parties. We were taken into every room of the house via slide images. It was built as a very comfortable family house. This can still be appreciated today. The drawing room has a fine collection of French furniture. The dining room is particularly well regarded and is a highlight of any visit.
Sport was at the top of the list for house guests, with tennis, billiards, curling, shooting and croquet all in evidence. There was also a hickory golf course set up for guests. Some of these sports are today still available for National Trust visitors to enjoy. The hickory golf course is still in action, with the house providing visitors with sets of golf clubs.
This was a first class presentation from Dakers Fleming. He deserved the appreciative vote of thanks given by Malcolm Gerdes - Hansen and the hearty applause from club members at the well attended

Meeting report and photo by Peter Speirs


25 January 2017


The meeting took place on Wednesday 25th January, so very suitably took the form of a Burns Celebration. The entertainment was provided by the “Muchty Music Makkers” and their guest artiste Peter Thomson. The group played a very well received selection of Burns classics.

The Muchty Music Makkers

They also provided the audience with song sheets, giving everybody an opportunity to participate. Peter Thomson then told us the story of Rabbie Burns with a mixture of poetry and music.

Peter Thomson

Then it was the time for our own member John Dewar to step forward and address the haggis.

John Dewar, the haggis and Poosie Nancy

He gave us a fluent and entertaining rendition of “To a Haggis”. This was a wonderful turn, with John waving the knife with great gusto! Members were then able to toast the haggis with a choice of either a wee dram or a non alcoholic juice.

Everyone was then served haggis and oatcakes while the band played on! It was really a lovely occasion.

Chairman David Galloway ended the morning by giving a well deserved vote of thanks to our guest entertainers and our own club member John Dewar, with club members expressing their enthusiastic approval.


11 January 2017


Retiring Chairman Bert Oliver welcomed 40 members to the AGM and wished them a Happy New Year. Reports by the various office-bearers and conveners were presented and overall showed the Club to be in a healthy position. Bert Oliver made his closing remarks on his year in office then presented the new Chairman, David Galloway, with the Badge of Office.

The 2017-18 Office Bearers are:
Chairman - David Galloway,
Vice Chairman – Colin Moore
Secretary – Peter Speirs
Treasurer – Brian Knight,
Past Chairman – Bert Oliver
Asst. Treasurer – Ron Campbell
Committee Members – John Dewar & Robin Thomson.
Full details of these and other positions are on the COMMITTEE page of the website.

The Chairman then introduced the guest performer, Alistair MacFarlane. Alistair is a very welcome and popular return visitor to Cupar Probus Club.

Today, he entertained the club members with a lovely selection of violin "airs" from various parts of the world. These included "Fyvie Castle" by Scott Skinner, a particularly haunting lament. We were also transported to Orkney for two bright and cheerful tunes written by Fiona Dryher, "The Brown Goose" and the "Real Beatrice." Alistair even included some audience participation with rhythm sections arranged with audience hand claps on and off the beat! He used a two hundred and fifty one year old violin which was made by Henry Jay in Piccadilly. This was when Mozart was only a ten year old boy. After all these years it still produced a sweet and harmonious sound. Alistair's performance was well appreciated by all of the members present. We look forward to another entertainment from Alistair on a future occasion.

Meeting report by Colin Moore and David Galloway - Photos by Peter Speirs


14 December 2016


Buttons and Bows

Chairman Bert Oliver welcomed 53 members who proceeded to enjoy their mince pies and coffee together with a good ‘blether’.
The morning’s entertainment for the last meeting of the year was provided by ‘Buttons and Bows’, a group of retired folk who have a wonderful hobby.

Our Compere

They travel around clubs and gatherings in Fife providing music, song and fun all the way. Their mixture of old Scottish tunes was played on the accordions and harmonica and was combined with some fine ballad singing, which certainly hit the spot. It had the Club members humming, tapping their feet and singing with great zip and vigour.
The six entertainers of ‘Buttons and Bows’ were given a great ovation at the conclusion of their performance and Colin Moore gave them a well-deserved vote of thanks.

Our soloist

Meeting report by Colin Moore - Photos by Peter Speirs


23 November 2016


Ron Campbell

Ron’s talk was about Russian female bomber pilots, the Nachthexen, a German word which translates as "Night Witches". These women were formed into a night bomber squadron and flew U2 biplanes with wooden propellers.
Their planes were very simple to operate and service, which made them very effective. They could be serviced and rearmed with bombs in under ten minutes. Some pilots are recorded to have flown as many as eighteen times in one night.
The Germans loathed and feared these women pilots in equal measures. Their planes came down suddenly on a quick descent out of the night sky like witches on broomsticks, hence the German title, "Nachthexen - Night Witches." They were thought to be totally fearless. They are credited with thwarting Hitler's quest for oil in the Caucasus because of their constant harassment.
They fought for Stalin and the Motherland and regarded themselves as ordinary members of the Communist party but certainly did an extraordinary job.
Ron's talk was very well researched, very well illustrated and extremely well presented. Members present had a first rate morning.
Colin Moore gave the well deserved vote of thanks.

A Polikarpov Po2 biplane


9 November 2016


Colin Moore, our speaker today, is also Convener of the Speakers' Team

Chairman Bert Oliver introduced one of our own members, Colin Moore, to speak on ‘That’s a Coincidence!’ Colin began by saying that mathematicians maintain there are no such things, but psychoanalysts say that it is the science of serendipity. He then shared some amusing, tragic and inexplicable coincidences, leaving us to make up our own minds.
Fictional author Morgan Robertson wrote ‘The Wreck of the Titan’, 14 years before the Titanic sank, details of both tragedies being identical! Furthermore, Violet Jessop, a stewardess on the SS Olympic and one of the few survivors when it sank, then survived again when working on the Titanic on its fatal journey. In 1916 she was on the SS Brittanic which also sank and she was thereafter known as ‘Violet the Unsinkable’!
And how about 2 assassinated American Presidents – Lincoln elected to Congress, 1846; Kennedy, 1946. Lincoln to President, 1860; Kennedy, 1960. Both shot on a Friday, in the head. Lincoln’s successor Andrew Johnson, born 1808 and Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson, born 1908. Lincoln was shot in the ‘Ford’ Theatre, Kennedy was shot in a ‘Lincoln’ car made by ‘Ford’.
Then we had strangers Neil Douglas and Robert Stirling, "doppel-gangers" or "doubles", who were randomly seated together on a Ryanair flight. With identical faces, beards and hairstyles they later found that they had both booked into the same hotel.
Date – January 1913, location – Cafe Central, Vienna, frequented by Dr. Sigmund Freud who studied and noted customer behaviour. Amazingly, five of the regulars were named Trotsky, Hitler, Stalin, Tito and Lenin!
This was a varied and well-researched piece of entertainment and a real treat to have such an accomplished speaker as Colin who, as a retired headmaster proved that he can still command his audience, young or old!

Colin received a well-deserved vote of thanks and the members expressed their enthusiastic approval.


26 October 2016


Peter Nurick, part of the Dundee V&A development team, gave members a splendid introduction to the museum which is to open in Dundee in summer 2018, with both images and commentary presented with verve and knowledge. The London V&A Museum of Art and Design was founded in 1852 as a follow-up to the Great Exhibition and now holds two to three million objects. Ten years ago it was looking to expand at the same time as Dundee Council were seeking a flagship project for their riverside development.

This, the third largest urban development in the UK today, aims at restoring the link between the city centre and the Tay. This massive new gallery will be that flagship: though it will look shiplike, its iconic outline is based on the striated formation of east coast cliffs. It must be stressed that the new museum is a partner of the London V&A but quite independent of it; moreover it is a museum of design only.

It can host some of the London V&A’s famous travelling exhibitions like Hollywood Costumes or   Alexander McQueen designs. As its national design gallery it will also highlight Scotland’s contribution here with the biggest exhibit being a reassembling of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Ingram St. tearoom  : 90 feet long, two storeys high, 600 pieces, all brought from storage in Glasgow.  

Dundee is the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design and among the exhibits will be D.C. Thomson comics and the products of local computer games producers. There will be a huge entrance hall, suitable for all sorts of gatherings, and a restaurant not only overlooking but jutting out over the firth. The comic strip on the wall now bordering the site not only is possibly the world’s largest comic strip but was the official UK representative at this year’s Milan Design Triennale, the international festival which welcomes half a million visitors. That we can still view if we go up to Dundee and will whet our appetites for the splendours to come in 2018.

This was a first class presentation from Peter Nurick and he deserved the appropriate vote of thanks from David Cleland and the hearty applause from the membership.


12 October 2016


The Chairman welcomed Jennifer Stewart, a Service Development Officer from the Fife Community Trust, to talk about Fife Libraries.

Jennifer explained that the Fife Community Trust was responsible for managing arts, archives, museums, libraries and 4 theatres in Fife. There are 44 libraries in Fife, 5 of which are in shared premises. However the scope of libraries has changed considerably recently – not just books! Although books still predominate with 1.7 million book loans last year.

Apart from static libraries there are mobile libraries, a home delivery service, and special collections to homes. Children can be registered from birth and can participate in a range of activities such as Bookbug activity sessions, author events for children, the popular summer reading challenge, book group for teens and a Facebook link.

There are general reading groups, special events such a ‘reading with gin’ at Eden Mill, and Book Week Scotland with author presentations. An interesting fact is that reading is good for you. Apparently reading for 6 minutes reduces your stress level by two thirds, and is better than music, walking or a relaxing cup of tea. Another healthy activity which has been set up in a few areas is WalkOn, where a short walk of about 40 minutes is followed by a chat about books.

Other activities which have been developed include Moments in Time for dementia sufferers, Book Prescription Service for users with mental health problems and supporting learners with reading difficulties.

WiFi is available in all libraries, as well as computers for general use which are particularly useful for job seekers. In addition, Fife libraries provide an e-service which you can access via the internet. This includes e-books which you can borrow for 3 weeks, e-audio, and a wide range of free magazines in e-magazines.

In addition, there are trained staff in Cupar, Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline to help users find out about their family history. Jennifer ended the talk by answering several questions from the interested audience. Past Chairman John Topliss gave a suitable vote of thanks for her first-class presentation.


28 September 2016


Speaker Alfie Ingram's talk on “Wade’s Highway” was a fascinating journey along old fashioned roads illustrated by a suitably old fashioned slide projector.

Alfie explained how the lack of any  roads in Highland Scotland in the XVIII century hindered  defences against Jacobite insurgency and how the ambitious Major-General (later Field-Marshall) George Wade was sent north to set up a policing force & strengthen forts.

This he did : the Black Watch was  founded and forts built round historic areas like Inverness  or Cromwell’s sites like Fort Augustus. The military needed speedy passage between the forts and so the roads had to be  built. The main ones were Fort William to Inverness and Inverness to Dunkeld: like today’s lorries on the A9 beside it, they by-passed the townships. The diggers were soldiers who were paid more and given better food than  guards. The bridges were put up by local builders and could be expensive. The one over the Tay at Aberfeldy  cost £5,314, 15s, & 10p in 1734, such a huge sum that questions were raised  in Parliament. However that bridge still stands today.

Wade is remembered for his roads but in fact he handed this task over to a subordinate in 1732 and most of the so-called “Wade’s roads” were built later under other commanders. By the start of the XIX century other authorities took over road building and the roads went from town to town by-passing  the military ways. The latter were sometimes better sited: nowadays when, as regularly happens, landslides block the Rest and Be Thankful, the traffic has to be diverted via the old military road. Most of us know the rhyme about “If you had seen this road before it was made,you would lift up your hands and bless General Wade”. Another less frequently cited poetic tribute is found in the National Anthem: “Lord, grant that Marshal Wade/May by thy mighty aid  Victory bring./May he sedition hush and like a torrent rush,/Rebellious Scots to crush./God save the King.”  Alfie Ingram’s talk certainly deserved John McManus’ hearty vote of thanks.

Wade's Bridge at Aberfeldy


14 September 2016


Neal Robertson is the owner of Tannochbrae Tearoom. Being 2010 World Champion porridge maker and the inventor of the ‘Spon’ (a double sided wooden mixing spoon) are only a few of his successes.

Neal cooked a 'porridge' dish, used by Mary's Meals in Malawi, while giving his talk

Competing with these achievements was his cooking of porridge for Alex Salmond and his cabinet at Bute House, the event now commemorated by the large photograph hanging in the Tannochbrae Tearoom toilets!

Angus Allan rounded off a great morning with a humorous and appropriate vote of thanks


27 July 2016


There was a real buzz around the room as we welcomed our speaker Marion Lang with her subject "Beekeeping". Marion explained that her interest in beekeeping began in her youth while in Kenya. She learned many of her skills from Kenyan natives. Honey was used by the natives to brew "Pombey". This was a very intoxicating alcoholic drink. 

Returning home, she extended her knowledge by attending courses on beekeeping at Elmwood College. She learned more about the anatomy and structure of these amazing creatures. A local bee expert, Marshal Land, became her mentor. He helped her to establish her own hives of bees. She joined the Fife Beekeepers Association and began giving demonstrations and winning awards at shows. She further extended her understanding when meeting other enthusiasts, learning tricks and methods never found in books. She preferred making her own hives and realised that new swarms soon sorted themselves out when given a new home.

Marion went on to serve on the Scottish Beekeepers Executive. Since 2004 they have had an educational side, for example, having a schools tent at the Royal Highland Show. Fife Beekeepers celebrate their 100th Anniversary this year. Marion explained that beekeeping in Scotland can be quite difficult because of the long winters. The recent record of poor summers has led to very low yields.

Beekeeping has also faced difficulties in recent years with the increased rules and regulations from rigid veterinary regulations. A lot of beekeepers have been discouraged by the "red tape" now involved. Marion finished her talk by sharing with club members a fascinating collection of memorabilia. There were photographs, honey, beeswax candles, a hive, and other materials complementing her talk. She emphasised that honey should always be enjoyed with the comb and also provided samples of home made honey tablet which was gratefully consumed by all present. Her excellent talk was followed by a wide range of questions from club members. Marion answered these with great aplomb and expertise. This was a really lovely talk. A well deserved vote of thanks was given by Alex Ness.


13 July 2016


Bert Oliver introduced our speaker Keith Mason, a practising solicitor for the Church of Scotland, to talk about some of the early history of trams in the Fife area.

Keith explained that a tram-train from Glasgow to the airport has been proposed. This would be the next new tram in Scotland.

He started by recounting an episode at Forfar Station when he was about four. The first steam train he had ever seen suddenly let off a lot of steam and frightened him. He was scared of steam trains for a long time after that, but that did not stop him wanting to find out more about trams after seeing the tramlines in the Dundee High Street.

He explained that the original Tramways Act of 1870 lasted until 1992 when it was updated. Trams were originally horse drawn, but they could be powered by steam, cable, or electricity. Edinburgh had cable-powered trams until the 1920s.

Kirkcaldy wanted trams early on but they didn’t have a power station. Eventually one was built in 1902 at the corner of Dunnikier Road and Victoria Road and the trams were soon operating. The building is still there. Dunfermline followed with a power station and trams in 1907. Keith showed many interesting old photos of trams in Kirkcaldy, Cowdenbeath tram depot, and Dunfermline.

A feature of the pre-WW1 photos was the absence of cars and people. However he noted the postcard shops in every town. That was when people could send a postcard in the morning and it would be received the same day. Subsequently a new line to Leven went through private land provided by the Wemyss family and had fast American tramcars. These had yellow livery and were called “Mustard Boxes”. Dunfermline, however, was never connected through Kirkcaldy to Leven.

The last tram in Kirkcaldy ran in 1931. Restored trams can be seen at several tram museums in the UK. Interestingly, a restored “Wemyss” tram can be seen running on a heritage line in Sintra, Portugal. This fascinating talk ended with many questions from the members and the vote of thanks was given by Mike Edwards, a self-declared tram enthusiast.

Report John Topliss and photo Peter Speirs


22 June 2016


Malcolm Walker

The Chairman welcomed Malcolm Walker, from Raith Probus Club, who gave a fascinating talk on the history and myths of the Knights Templar.

Malcolm explained that the Templars were formed about 1199 by Hugues de Payens at the request of Pope Urban 2nd who was concerned with the rise of Muslim power in the middle east. At that time the Crusaders had acquired much land in that area and needed military support.

The original Templars were 9 nobles, who were probably related. Their role was to safeguard churches in the Holy Land, and they were identified by a special red cross on a white cloak. Their numbers grew rapidly and were known for being skilled fighters in the Crusades. They became answerable only to the Pope and the Grand Master, wielded considerable power and move freely through the Christian countries. They were not taxed but could raise taxes on their own lands.

However the rise of Saladin and the new dawn of Muslim power led to disastrous losses for the Templars and Crusaders in key battles from 1187 onwards culminating in Saladin taking Jerusalem, the Templars headquarters. It was won back but eventually fell permanently into Muslim hands in 1244. After that, support for the Templars waned over a long period. King Philip IV of France, in connivance with the Pope, arrested the remaining ones for trial in 1307 and had them burnt at the stake on trumped up charges to clear debts. The Pope then disbanded the Templars in 1312.

From the questions that followed the talk it transpired that most of the modern direct associations with the Templars are myths, although the name Temple is still used today in places where Templars had known buildings, e.g. Temple Bar in London.

The vote of thanks was given by Douglas Provan.

Report John Topliss. Photo Peter Speirs


8 June 2016


Sandra Thomson

The Chairman then introduced Sandra Thomson, our speaker for the day. From the very beginning, Sandra Thomson enthralled us with a mix of humour and information on today’s subject “My Jute Journeys.”

Sandra with some jute fibre in a jute basket

Working without notes Sandra led us from 800BC when Jute was first used as a soup and medicine leading us to Dundee where massive employment was created from the “Chapper-uppers” to the bairns used mainly to work under the machines with considerable life threatening danger to themselves. Dundee benefited from all the skills required for this industry from engineering to weaving and being imported in all different shades, white jute being the best.

We heard of the continual fire risk and extreme working conditions with an average lifespan of 38. Sandra then journeyed with us to Calcutta; it’s heat, it’s odours and its complete lack of modern amenities but she was adamant in her love of the workers and Calcutta became a regular and happy place to be. To end, we were shown several jute items, flower pots, hats, compressed jute for making coffins, even a pair of men’s shorts!

Sandra Thomson excelled in her subject and after questions David Nimmo gave a vote of thanks expressing our appreciation.

Report Bert Oliver. Photo Peter Speirs


25 May 2016


Andy Paterson

The Chairman welcomed back to Cupar Probus, speaker Andy Paterson, whose “TV Times” today was a follow-up to his most enjoyable talk on ‘’Stars of the Silver Screen’’ in which Probus members had to identify stars and titles from past decades.

Starting with the nine inch screen embedded in handsome wooden furniture that appeared in many households after the televising of the Coronation in 1953, he produced image after image of TV stars and their programmes.

All genres were there: panel games, comedies, westerns, hospitals, variety, ads, and our members’ memories were well tested. It turned out most of us could recall past actors and their roles quicker than what we did last week: we could even sing along to jingles (“The Esso sign means happy motoring”).

We learnt about the stars’ subsequent lives when success left them; we saw images of a young Joanna Lumley as Heidi or of the Osmonds’ first appearance, in an Andy Williams show, or Clint Eastwood’s début in Rawhide. Not much appeared later than Fawlty Towers or Dad’s Army: we all agreed with the speaker that his fascinating trawl of programmes proved that today’s TV cannot hold a candle to that of past decades.

Bob Farmer gave the vote of thanks for Andy’s really entertaining presentation on the TV stars of the past.


11 May 2016


David Caldwell

Chairman Bert Oliver welcomed our speaker Dr. David Caldwell who recently retired after a distinguished career as curator with the National Museums of Scotland. David gave us a thoughtful and thought provoking presentation on one of his specialist subjects, "The Lewis Chessmen".

David explained that these objects are world renowned. They have mysterious origins. Their unique design and curious, almost comical expressions,range from moody kings to a frightened looking pair of wardens biting down on their shields. David has done a lot of ground breaking research on the chessmen. He took us through his findings by asking a lot of thought provoking questions and providing possible solutions and theories as answers.

A few of the chessmen

He covered everything from the story behind their enchanting expressions to a new theory suggesting when and where on Lewis they were found. He explained that the Isle of Lewis was a "central hub" in those days essential to Scandinavian sailing routes. Merchant traders regularly passed through the island. We learned that the chess pieces were individually hand carved, mainly from walrus ivory. They were most likely made by five different craftsmen.

The standard of work is variable and could have been made by a workshop under pressure.
David used the chessmen as a time portal transporting us back into history during his fascinating talk and after an interesting question time, a well deserved vote of thanks was given by Ron Campbell.


27 April 2016


Martin Hepworth

The speaker this week was Dr Martin Hepworth, who gave us a most entertaining and thought provoking talk on the Preston Bank Fraud of 1883.

The fraud was uncovered during a visit by the auditors, when £2,000 was missing – a large sum in today’s values. The Bank’s Sub Manager had disappeared and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was found fairly quickly, but in New York and then the real problems started.

Dr Hepworth’s talk took in the problems of extradition and the varying laws in England and the USA, and also mentioned the great City of Glasgow Bank Crash, which happened at around the same time.

The talk was much enjoyed by members and parallels were drawn with current events in today’s financial world.

Probus Chairman, Bert Oliver, thanked Dr Hepworth and announced that this had been his fourth talk to the Club – a record of excellence for which the Club is very grateful.


Dr Martin Hepworth was given a gift by Chairman Bert Oliver to mark his fourth talk to Cupar Probus Club


13 April 2016


Michael Mulford

The speaker for today, was Michael Mulford. His talk was on "Morphology", which he defined as the love of words and phrases, their use and misuse.

Michael Mulford

Michael called on many examples from his distinguished career in newspapers, broadcasting and government public relations. He also told us that all the events in his talk were true, but he emphasised that he never let facts get in the way of a good story!
He had club members rocking with laughter from the start of his talk when he related the errors made when he was a young trainee on the Courier newspaper. He then kept the laughter bubbling along by sharing some of the comical moments he encountered during his long and varied career.
Michael often 'interrupted' his own talk with hilarious news flashes which always left the audience laughing uproariously.
He told of the difficulties and unfortunate errors made when translating dialect in various parts of Scotland and the amusing ways these were recorded in the press. He concluded with his work at STV, telling us about some of the hilarious misuse of words made by newsreaders and continuity announcers.
Michael provided us with a show stopping performance from start to finish. He was a most amusing and entertaining speaker and earned a well deserved ovation at the end of his talk from the members present at the meeting.
Robin Thompson concluded the meeting by giving our speaker an excellent and well deserved vote of thanks.


23 March 2016


David Reid

Today’s speaker was David Reid, a retired headmaster and English teacher, who gave an incisive talk on Robert Louis Stevenson.

David Reid

Of the great Scottish trio of internationally renowned authors, Burns, Scott and Stevenson, he is the most read in the world : of all Scots writers only Conan Doyle has more readers.

Stevenson founded the psychological novel with Dr Jekyll  and Mr Hyde but his other works contain contrasts as well, either between leading figures like Alan Breck and David Balfour in Kidnapped or within characters  like Long John Silver or the Laird of Ballantrae where admirable and detestable traits mix.

These reflect  divisions within Stevenson’s own life : the blockbuster  author who had studied civil engineering and the law and was the inhabitant of both Victorian Edinburghs, the douce and sophisticated  New Town and the raucous and  immoral Old Town.

Though the ill health which led to his death at 44 forced him to travel furth of Scotland and finally to Samoa, he still  always remembered his native land, which is perhaps only just beginning to honour him as it should.

As well as demonstrating Stevenson’s skill at both characterization and dialogue, Mr Reid also  delighted his audience with a broad Scots extract from the tale “Thrawn Janet”. T.S.Eliot once wrote of a critic that after reading his introduction to an author, then reading that author “was the only pleasure in life”.

Mr Reid will have rekindled that enthusiasm among members of Probus, who will be hurrying to their libraries  to renew acquaintance with a writer they may well not have looked at since their boyhood.


9 March 2016


Duncan Lowe

Today’s speaker was Duncan Lowe from Uthrogle Mill who gave a fascinating talk on both Scott’s Porage Oats itself and the important and growing role it plays within the PepsiCo food empire.

Duncan showing Quaker and Scott's brand products

The Scott brothers set up the first mills in Glasgow in 1880, moving to Edinburgh during 1884: their famous symbol of the Highlander putting the shot was copyrighted in 1924. In 1947 the company moved to its site outside Cupar.

Thereafter it was taken over by various companies including Quaker Oats in 1982 and along with them PepsiCo in 2001. Since then £50m have been invested in the site and the staff has grown from 90 to 258 in ten years, despite the kind of mechanization that can e.g. pack two million sachets per week.

It is the biggest employer in N.E. Fife and one of the top ten employers in the county. 50% of the oats are grown in Scotland and the products are exported to Europe and beyond.

Though only forming 4% of PepsiCo, Quaker and Scott’s oats form one of its most profitable sectors. The vote of thanks was given by Club Treasurer Peter Speirs who pointed out for once all the audience were involved in a speaker’s topic as we all ate Porridge for breakfast at some time.


24 February 2016


Margaret Lawrence

The subject today was "Fair Trade in Sri Lanka" and the presentation was given by Margaret Lawrence. Margaret began by informing the members she had spent her working life teaching young children but this was her first talk before gentlemen of a certain age!

Her story began by describing the flag of Sri Lanka in detail, the highlands of the area, the elephants and spices.

Margaret spoke of the 2004 Tsunami and its utter devastation but the way their life went forward to rebuild their houses and buildings, the 30 year civil war and its end in 2009.

We then heard of Fair Trade and how it works, dealing mainly with Coir, (coconut husk), Fabrics, Tea from plantations and Gospel House where Wooden Toys are made. On the subject of weaving, Margaret (her mother was a weaver in Dundee) burst into song with “The Weavers Song.”

Margaret looking resplendent in some of the Fairtrade items that she brought along.

Onwards to the extensive recycling programme where nothing is wasted and all profits go back into the trades. Because of the better working conditions and education for children, people are now living longer in Sri Lanka.

Margaret inspired us with her enthusiasm for her subject. The vote of thanks was given by Past Chairman Robert McCririck.


10 February 2016


Debbie Dougal

Our speaker today was Debbie Dougall, a sign language interpreter from Fife Council's Deaf Communication Service.

Initially there was some confusion about how Debbie was going to do this because she was only using sign language and appeared not to be able to lip-read. She had given out forms in different languages and indicated that everyone should sign them.

Then to everyone's surprise she suddenly started to speak and it became clear that the confusion was a demonstration of the difficulty of communicating for deaf people. Debbie explained that the British Sign Language is structured differently from the English language and there is not a one-for-one translation between a sign and an English word. Also there are different signs for different accents and dialects, and often different signs for the same word, for example the word 'purple' has 75 different signs.

A trained sign language interpreter has to be able to learn and recognise all the variations, and can tell which religion or deaf school the person has been to. Debbie explained that because of the communication problems there is effectively a deaf world and a hearing world. Many deaf people cannot read English easily or get the grammar right. This becomes a problem at hospital or at the doctor because they cannot understand the instructions on the medication. Also someone who has been deaf from birth will probably not be able to lip-read.

There can be discrimination at work because employers may not be prepared to pay for a sign language interpreter in job interviews. Debbie said it took over 9 years training to become a registered sign language interpreter. She is the only interpreter in Fife for 900 deaf people, and there are only 70 registered interpreters in Scotland. Interpreters can be involved in signing legal contracts, operating theatres, police drug raids, medical appointments, etc. It was noted that the signing on the BBC news bulletins was in English and not easily read in Scotland.

After a busy question time, Debbie revealed that the forms signed at the beginning of the meeting allowed her to empty everyone's bank account and gain access to their health records! Thus demonstrating how easy it can be for poor communication to be exploited. Debbie is an excellent communicator, and presented her important message in an engaging and witty way.

Archie Watson gave a suitable vote of thanks which he completed with a signed thank you message.


27 January 2016


Irene Martin

Our speaker today was Irene Martin, Co-ordinator of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Cupar.

Her subject was ‘Money and Legal Matters’ and she began with a general introduction of the Bureau telling us how it had started during World War Two, with volunteers helping write letters to loved ones overseas.

This gradually developed into the massive organisation which we have today. She explained that the Bureau is now known as the ‘fourth emergency service’ and is run with a mixture of paid staff and volunteers without which the service could not run.

Irene talked about the wide range of money and legal issues impacting on people today and told us that debt difficulties were now endemic, affecting all levels of society. There was now a Money Advice Unit run by the Bureau which has been established to advise on debt, benefits, bankruptcy, trust deeds and wills. It can help people with gaining power of attorney and help monitor its administration.

Pension credits, attendance allowances and means testing were all highlighted during the talk with money advice now at the core of the Bureau’s work.

Irene is an impressive speaker and talked to the members in a calm and reassuring manner – very experienced, having served with the Bureau for many years. She supplied a wide range of leaflets and booklets on the theme of money and legal matters for club members’ perusal.


25 November 2015


Ian Copland

Subtitled “An Aussie Son of Cupar,” Ian Copland described in detail the life of Alexander Berry (1781-1873) from his early life as a boy on Hill of Tarvit Mains, eldest of seven, his first schooling at Cupar Burgh School: his studies at St Andrews University in medicine leading him to qualify as a ships surgeon and onward to world travel.

His successful move into commerce led him to Australia, the purchase, development and leasing of land quickly followed with the creation of thriving settlements.

Alexander Berry was a power-house throughout his life, achieving vast wealth but becoming highly respected because of his good works. He bequeathed money to St Andrews University and a hospital in Australia and is memorialised with a statue there.

Ian Copland closed his presentation by pointing out that there was no memorial to this native of Cupar. Some ideas were presented by our members. After questions a vote of thanks was given by Past Chairman John Topliss.


11 November 2015


John Marshall

Our speaker today was John Marshall and his subject “Tatties.”

In his many years with the Potato Marketing Board, John proved to be a lively, energetic enthusiast on his subject.

With the assistance of a vast array of screened photographs John led us from his war years on the farm, the history of the Marketing Board and onwards to his world travels as he researched the history and development of potato varieties and diseases.

The humble potato gained a higher status with John’s presentation and ended with Chelsea Flower Show as well as the modern manner potatoes must be supplied to our supermarkets.

A most interesting subject and followed by a healthy question time.

Professor John McManus gave a suitable vote of thanks.


28 October 2015


Paula Martin

Dr Paula Martin was our speaker today, her subject being ‘Cupar Old Town.’

This was no ordinary tour but a complete history stretching back to the 14th century and building a picture as the town developed.

Within her presentation, Paula treated us to mini histories of Cupar’s Churches, Schools, Inns & Hotels, even our prison!

Present day street names were explained and with the use of photographs and maps we could see how streets and dwellings were altered to suit the expanding population.

We are indebted to Paula Martin for the volume of information she imparted and the insight into Cupar as it was.

Peter Speirs gave an excellent vote of thanks.

This fine building was originally Cupar Jail


14 October 2015


Colin Vincent

Colin Vincent was our speaker today to inform us about communication over distance.

The Transatlantic Cable. Colin caused us to think about ancient ways man used to send messages of approaching danger, of good or bad news. Fires, beacons, straw bales, runners, horses, all leading eventually to early forms of semaphore and morse.

The early use of electric batteries (like that shown to us by Colin, on the right) led us forward with cable attached to railway lines but when underwater was attempted, this gave way to serious problems of insulation and the sheer weight of a cable being laid on the ocean floor.

As in many great inventions, “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” and names such as Wheatsone, Cook, Lord Kelvin etc became leaders who carried us forward.

Colin Vincent led us through this very interesting subject in a relaxed and easy manner using photographs, sea charts and maps and we are indebted to him.

Maurice Shepherd gave an excellent vote of thanks and our members demonstrated their appreciation.


23 September 2015


Ron Scrimgeour

Although Ron Scrimgeour’s talk today was entitled “The Work o’ the Weavers,” it quickly became obvious it was to be much more than its title.

This was a full history of an industrial city stretching back in time to the 16th century, the growing of flax locally, vital to the weavers because of its linseed oil content and on to the import of Jute from Bengal.

Cloth was produced for industry in vast amounts including sand-bags during wars, sails for many well-known ships, for holding various foods, working clothes.

The presentation was nicely mixed with humour and anecdotes of his past and we are indebted to Ron Scrimgeour for his excellent presentation.

After several questions, Bert Oliver gave the vote of thanks.

Ron showed a modern day 'jute' bag, made from polypropylene


9 September 2015


Alan Motion

Weather forecasting was today’s presentation by Alan Motion and we were quickly made aware of the vast amounts of data gathered constantly worldwide by the Met Office.

Costing over £190 million to run, employing 1800 people, headquarters in Exeter and 60 sites worldwide, ever increasing use is made of satellite and computer all helping to create a more accurate and detailed forecast to our benefit.

Four million forecasts per day can be produced supplying the different needs of Army, Air Force, shipping, road transport, agriculture and leisure activities.

From the earliest days of forecasting in 1854 to the first computer and onwards to the very latest soon to be installed, our sincere thanks must go to Alan Motion for the amount of information he imparted.

After questions, Secretary David Galloway gave a vote of thanks.

The present Met Office near Exeter


26 August 2015


Paul Taylor

“Sons of Largo” was Paul Taylor’s presentation today. With the use of an excellent display of pictures and maps we toured upper and lower Largo hearing of Sir Andrew Wood, born during the mid-15th Century, a sea Captain who ended as Lord High Admiral before his death in 1515.

We heard of David Gillies, net maker in Lower Largo and his success in this trade as well as caring for his workers, this leading to a short history of the fishing industry within the area.

No story with such a title would be complete without the name Alexander Selkirk, marooned on an uninhabited island for over four years giving rise to Daniel Defoe’s fictional character Robinson Crusoe.

Statue of Robinson Crusoe in Lower Largo

We are grateful to Paul Taylor for the volume of information he presented within the time available and Chairman David Cleland gave a well-earned vote of thanks.


12 August 2015


Hazel York

Our speaker today was Hazel York and her subject was Diabetes.

Hazel began by informing us of her medical career and her strong leanings towards this illness.

In a very easy and relaxed presentation we were led through the history of Diabetes dating back to the 2nd Century and the various symptoms to be aware of, as well as the average age when it can manifest itself.

Hazel went on to describe the differences between Diabetes type 1 and 2, the complications that can come from the illness if not treated properly and advice taken,

A very healthy question time followed demonstrating the interest taken in this subject.

Malcolm Truesdale gave an excellent vote of thanks.


22 July 2015


Brian Murray

“Airfields of Fife” was the subject of today’s speaker Mr Brian Murray.

We were introduced to the early days of flight with its obvious dangers as pilots and designers embraced a new way of life, on into WW1 when certain aircraft became tried and trusted while others were found wanting.

Aerial photography demonstrated where 15 airfields were sighted during the following years, most of which are no longer in existence. Woodhaven, Donibristle, Glenrothes, Leuchars, with Crail recognised as the best preserved WW2 airfield.

Brian Murray mixed his talk liberally with anecdotes of his working life and the talk ended with several members adding their own thoughts and experiences.

We are grateful to our speaker for showing us areas of Fife we pass regularly without being aware of their history.

Ron Campbell gave a vote of thanks.


8 July 2015


Hilda Scott

Today’s talk, '100 years of Scotts' (our local ladies clothes shop) seemed somewhat unlikely for a group of 45 men but speaker Hilda Scott with humour, interest and PowerPoint display was able to hold the attention of our members.

We saw the fashions for men and women during the early 20th Century, how styles changed as years passed. The Company takes pride in their complete history in paper, pictures and cuttings.

Hilda Scott spoke of the grim times of fire, flood and war years and why the decision was taken to trading in men’s clothing during the 1990’s. A nicely planned presentation of this well-respected Cupar store since its opening by James A Scott in 1907.

Speakers' Convener Colin Moore gave an excellent vote of thanks.

Scotts today


24 June 2015


James McGeehan

Our speaker today was James McGeechan, from the local company Kettle Produce. The facts and figures of this very successful company are difficult to imagine.

Supplies come from local areas as well as England, Jersey and Spain, up to 90 different products, a varying staff of 900, 18 trucks leaving Fife each day delivering to Tesco, Marks & Spencers, Sainsbury etc. It is very difficult to imagine 80 million kg of carrots, 7 million kg Broccoli as their annual output unless you find yourself stuck behind one of their tractor/trailers travelling at 7mph!
During 2013 Kettle Produce achieved a turnover of £100 million giving an idea of their responsibility to the supply of fresh vegetables to our tables.

On this occasion, question time was a marathon but well handled by James McGeechan.

Bert Oliver gave a vote of thanks.

Click here for Kettle Produce website


10 June 2015


Laurence Low

Our speaker today was Laurence Lowe, an enthusiast on the Morgan Sports Car.

From its early beginnings in 1910 by Henry F S Morgan, the aim was for perfection only achievable by being handmade. We heard of early use of a three-wheeled car with a large external engine and the later move to four wheels.

The Morgan is created by fitting parts from eight other cars; engine, suspension, fittings etc have always taken their place in this beautiful vehicle.

The presentation was accompanied by a large range of photographs and Laurence had his car in the carpark (see below) when many members gathered allowing them to dream their dreams!

Laurence with his splendid red Morgan in the car park

After questions, Bob Farmer gave a very suitable vote of thanks.



27 May 2015


Richard Lloyd and Kay Frizell

Our talk today was an explanation of the Children’s Panel and was excellently presented by Richard Lloyd and Kay Frizell.

Richard Lloyd and Kay Frizell

With 2500 members across Scotland, this panel exists only in the best interests of the child whether they are offending or offended against.

Kay described her life as a Clinical Psychologist and active member of the Children’s Panel explaining in detail the fundamental principles of their work.

We were left in no doubt as to the power of this organisation and their successes and heard examples of the best, worst and hopeless cases.

The talk demonstrated how rapidly the Panel could act in an emergency, how a Hearing is organised and controlled and the present experiences of poverty within families.

This was a gigantic subject but presented perfectly by Richard Lloyd and Kay Frizell.

After an extremely lively question time Mike Edwards gave the vote of thanks.



13 May 2015


Andy Paterson

Our speaker today was Andy Paterson, his subject “The Silver Screen” was a very large helping of humour, of interest, of journeys down Memory Lane; indeed a total therapy for a Spring morning.

We were blessed with this presentation as we travelled through films on comedy, westerns, musicals and finally cartoons; our memories were stretched to their limit as we were asked to name actors, etc., from the past.

It was slightly disturbing to hear how much knowledge our members could display on actresses and ‘pin-ups’!

Our thanks are extended to Andy for an excellent morning.

Robert McCririck provided the vote of thanks.


22 April 2015


Roger Grundy

Today’s speaker, Roger Grundy presented a comprehensive talk on the works of the RNLI around our coastline with particular emphasis on Anstruther.

Roger Grundy

This year sees the 150th anniversary of this life boat station and we heard of its achievements and steady progress from men with oars to the first engines in 1933 and on to the latest Mersey Class boat today and the “D” Class Inflatable..

We saw the various methods of launching and recovery showing the determination of lifeboat men going to any length to help seafarers and people in trouble.

The talk included amusing stories and a screened Powerpoint brought this subject to life. Completely dependent on public contributions, Roger Grundy demonstrated reasons for the RNLI being supported and encouraged in their many endeavours and we give our sincere thanks for his presentation.

Anstruther Lifeboat Stationl

Click here for more on our local lifeboat station


8 April 2015


John Bonnington

Our speaker today was John Bonington described as an artist and sculptor.

In telling of his early working life, we quickly became aware of John’s brand of humour and settled down to hear of his time in Warsaw and the strict security.

John with an acrylic painting of Reid's Hotel in Funchal

With the assistance of a well prepared slide show we experienced work in various stones, brass, resin-bronze.

Having gone into watercolours we witnessed John’s professional ability with paintings of Dysart, Elie, the Lomonds, St Andrews and others.

After displaying some of his favourite cartoons we heard of the Open Studios Weekend on 2nd, 3rd and 4th May, all details on the John Bonington Facebook or

We commend John Bonington on an interesting, humorous presentation. A healthy question time followed and Colin Moore gave a well-deserved vote of thanks.


25 March 2015


Bert Oliver

50 members gave an enthusiastic welcome to Minute Secretary Bert Oliver whose talk was appropriately entitled “Just a Minute.”

This was a talk covering the history of Cupar Probus minutes from 1987-2000, packed full of interesting snippets.

Comical stories and anecdotes peppered Bert’s well-researched spiel and his pawky humour had the members laughing in appreciation.

We heard about waiting lists for membership, attendances reaching 70 and Probus members being referred to as Elderlies, Whoopies and Wrinklies! Bert also expressed his strong feelings about the importance of keeping the minute books safe and available for future members.

Bert is an accomplished story-teller and is renowned for his humour and timing of punch-lines; he ended by mentioning two members who joined our club the same year his story began (1987), Sam Anderson and Eric Neish, both present today.

We are indebted to Angus Allan for his excellent vote of thanks.


11 March 2015


Geoff Armitage

Geoff Armitage presented today’s talk entitled “Skiing in Scotland” and from the earliest known skis made in Norway from birch trees to the latest laminated versions we travelled the snowy tracks of Scotland’s mountains and ski slopes.

We heard how two world wars moved this sport forward via improved clothing and transport.

From home-made skis using Scots pine, Scottish Ski Club, the first Ski School at Dalwhinnie we were led to the first ski lifts and the development of Aviemore as a main centre and onto the latest snowboards.

Geoff ended his talk by describing the future of skiing as questionable because of global warming.

An excellent and interesting talk even for the members who have no wish to rush northwards towards snowy mountains.

Mike Edwards is to be thanked for his assistance in demonstrating a selection of skiing equipment.

Secretary David Galloway offered a vote of thanks.


25 February 2015


John Dein

The subject of today’s speaker was Caledon Shipyard. Dundee and John Dein provided us with a wonderful visual and oral picture of this hard working, successful company.

John Dein

John mixed his talk with amusing shipyard stories having begun his career as an apprentice draughtsman. The yard traded for more than a century and successfully launched over 500 ships, the largest being 12000 tons, the company merged with Henry Robb during 1968 and closed in 1981. We witnessed the complete absence of safety procedures as men walked and worked on narrow steel beams with a fall of anything up to 50ft in the event of a wrong move.

With the benefit of old photographs, we visited all the main workshops of this industry as well as the drawing offices and the very beautiful main entrance. The number of questions and observations following John’s talk demonstrated the interest and enjoyment of this subject. Mike Edwards gave a vote of thanks.

Old Caledon shipyard on the Dundee waterfront (1926 map)



11 February 2015

Our speaker today was Jim Hanson who spoke about an Antarctica cruise.

Jim Hanson

This was no ordinary cruise but a voyage of discovery on the MV Fram into this very remote, very dangerous Continent.

All became obvious when Jim described the strict safety precautions, special boots and survival suits. We heard of the professional team of guides and the variety of wild life to be seen.

Penguins, Bull Seals, Whales, Birds, a multitude of icebergs and glaciers all this came to life by the medium of excellent photography. Jim ended by showing the Northern Lights from a previous trip to Norway.

We are grateful to Jim Hanson for his excellent presentation and this was confirmed when Archie Watson gave his vote of thanks on behalf of all members.

MV Fram


28 January 2015


Our speaker today was David Galloway, club member and shiny new secretary for 2015, his subject being “A Baker’s Dozen.”

We were treated to David’s collection of poems, stories and jokes covering most aspects of life; Robert Burns, age, sport, religion, animals, war etc.

With his clear speaking voice and easy delivery David brightened up a cold January morning.

Colin Moore gave a well-deserved vote of thanks.


14 January 2015


John Topliss (retiring Chairman) inducts David Cleland (right) as the 2015 Chairman

Following the traditional presentation of the Chairman’s Badge of Office and photographs Chairman David Cleland gave his gratitude for this honour and spoke of his hopes for a successful year ahead.

Office Bearers for 2015; Chairman David Cleland, Vice Chairman Bert Oliver, Secretary David Galloway, Treasurer Peter Speirs, Past Chairman John Topliss, Asst Treasurer Ron Campbell, Speakers Team Mike Edwards, David Galloway, Colin Moore, Website Coordinator Maurice Shepherd, Committee Members, John Dewar, Bob Fraser, Keith McIntosh, Robin Thomson, Conveners, Age Concern Alex Ness, Bowls Tom Vickery, Golf Sandy Aitken.


10 December 2014


Starring: John Topliss, David Galloway, Ron Campbell and Bert Oliver

As always at our final meeting of the year, we celebrate Mince Pie Day and we looked forward to welcoming the choir of Castlehill Primary School to entertain us with their Christmas programme. However because of the severe weather conditions their visit had to be cancelled.

Following the true traditions of the theatre that the show must go on, four brave lads stepped forward; John Topliss, David Galloway, Ron Campbell and Bert Oliver offered our members poems, stories, jokes and song, all going to end our season on a high note and our thanks to them for their endeavours.

The meeting was closed with Chairman John Topliss wishing Christmas greetings, compliments of the season.

We look forward to meeting again at our AGM on Wednesday 14th January 2015.


26 November 2014


Edgar Shields

Our speaker today, Edgar Shields presented a talk on The Covenanters.

Edgar is known to us at Cupar Probus Club from at least one previous presentation so we were aware of his excellent speaking voice and brand of humour.

We were led through the very cruel times of the 17th century as our people fought and died for their religious beliefs. Some of us were unaware of the amount of local activity here in Fife and with the aid of screened pictures, we were shown head-stones and memorials in Markinch, St Monans, Leuchars and Cupar etc.

This was a thought-provoking talk from Edgar Shields and one that surely caused some members to question their religious strengths during such a time.

After a busy question time, Mike Edwards gave the vote of thanks.

Archbishop Sharp Memorial, St Andrews


12 November 2014


Isabel Copland

Our talk and painting demonstration today was given by Cupar Art Club President Isabel Copland and was very much ‘a first’ for our Probus Club as we mixed the ancient art of producing a picture with modern technology thereby videoing Isobel as she worked and watching it on our large screen.

The subject was “Cupar in a Brushstroke” and involved bringing an ordinary lane in Cupar to life as we watched.

Isobel talked and answered questions as she worked using pastels.

Isabel's drawing is projected onto a screen behind her for all to see.

Our appreciation of this excellent demonstration was recorded by our Vice Chairman David Cleland who also included our technical team for their work in this presentation


22 October 2014


John Topliss

After a hearty introduction by Colin Moore, Chairman John Topliss led us gently through the history of Computers.

He spoke of the years of innovation, development and steadily lowering prices.

We heard of Charles Babbage and his early works, of punch cards, Enigma Code Machines. During the 1960’s when air conditioned, sterile rooms had to be created to take a computer weighing many tons some members showed their age by recalling such times.

Although a very serious subject, Chairman John was able to inject humour and a very realistic American accent where necessary.

The talk ended by bringing us up to date with the latest Tablets, Smart Phones, iPads etc; all this being accompanied by an excellent screen projection adding strength to the talk.

After a busy question time, Malcolm Truesdale gave a vote of thanks.

A Babbage machine


8 October 2014


Sandy Green

Our talk today was by Sandy Green and was entitled “A visit to Chernobyl” but Sandy quickly explained he was at Belarus, possibly the nearest anyone would wish to be to Chernobyl.

The outward journey in an old single-decked bus was packed with mishaps, wrong turns and ‘Sat-Nav-Sandy’ was blamed for everything!

His talk was filled with humour but in no way hid the dreadful conditions of life in that republic. The aftermath of Chernobyl continues to make its presence felt with children and animals being born with deformities, people in responsible occupations not being paid regularly, etc.

We are very grateful to Sandy Green for this informative talk and after a busy question time, Chairman John Topliss gave a vote of thanks.

Chernobyl is in the Ukraine - bottom right of the map


24 September 2014


Ian Thomson

Our speaker today was club member Ian Thomson to speak on the life and times of Sir Jimmy Shand.

Ian spoke of his early attachment to Jimmy Shand and how their friendship flourished; his well-rehearsed presentation carried us through Jimmy Shand’s early beginnings with mouth organ and his drift onto an accordion, times of unemployment, working as a coal miner, his time in the Fire Brigade and his steady rise to world fame with his Shand Morino accordion.

Ian played snippets of music such as “Lunan Bay” “The Bluebell Polka” “Lord and Lady Elgin” finishing with Ian’s own accolade “Supt Ian Thomson’s farewell tae the Fife Police!”

Sir Jimmy was a stalwart and enthusiastic member of Cupar Probus Club and Ian Thomson must be thanked for his excellent talk and for keeping the memory of Jimmy Shand alive as he continues to give his talk to clubs and organisations when called upon.

After questions, Mike Edwards gave a vote of thanks.

Sir Jimmy Shand


10 September 2014


Eve Soulsby

Our speaker today was Mrs Eve Soulsby with the history of the Kyle family.

During the early-to-mid 1900’s this family of three boys and three girls matured to excel in sport and academic studies.

They all became expert golfers, the boys taking part in many other sports; their schooling did not take second place as sometimes happens and they all achieved professional careers.

It was also nice to hear that the family achieved longevity, the men reaching their 80’s and the ladies their 90’s.

Eve Soulsby presented her talk in a homely manner liberally scattered with a quiet humour and although mainly concerned with golfing achievements, non-golfers were surely intrigued by the subject.

After questions, David Galloway provided a suitable vote of thanks.


27 August 2014


Bob Hamilton

In a change to the advertised programme, our speaker today was Bob Hamilton from Dunfermline Probus Club who would present financial aspects of the new Forth Road Bridge, (The Queensferry Crossing).

At the moment, believed to be the costliest bridge in the world at £1.45b Bob compared it with similar structures, including higher and longer bridges all costing much less.

We heard of other building works where costs spiralled out of all relation to original estimates; Holyrood, Skye Crossing, Edinburgh Infirmary and Edinburgh Tramcar System.

The difference in costs between commencing and completing structures was, without exception mind-blowing.

To be expected, question time was extremely busy and reflected our appreciation of a well-researched and presented talk.

Ron Campbell recorded our thoughts in his vote of thanks.


Three crossings


13 August 2014


Ian Gilchrist

Today we enjoyed a clever PowerPoint presentation from Ian Gilchrist on hot-air balloons.

We travelled in time to the 18th century when by accident it was discovered that heat would cause an object to rise.

From such early beginnings we were flown through various types of balloons and heating systems finally arriving at today’s easily recognised versions and varieties.

This well prepared presentation culminated in a filmed flight from Penicuik to Carlops. Our sincere thanks go to Ian Gilchrist for allowing us to view areas of Scotland from a height of 2000 ft.

After questions, Bob Hopkins gave a vote of thanks.

Hot air balloon over Loch Leven


23 July 2014


Daniel Caldwell

Entitled “Robinson Crusoe,” our talk today was given by David Caldwell and was the story of Alexander Selkirk and his four years on the island of Juan Fernandez after being abandoned by the his ship.

We heard of the Selkirk family and their wayward lifestyle, Alexander going to sea and his many adventures including piracy.

Because David Caldwell has visited the island, his talk became very real as he related his researches. An abundance of goat meat, fruit, fish and water makes this an easy place to be abandoned; it was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island by the Chilean Government in 1966, and lies 360 miles off the Chilean coast.

This was the adventure to inspire Daniel Defoe to write his “Robinson Crusoe” novel. An excellent story and presentation from David Caldwell with several questions to follow.

Bert Oliver gave a vote of thanks.

Juan Fernandez island


9 July 2014


John Reade

Our speaker today, John Reade spoke on ‘Brewing in Fife’ but mainly in and around the Cupar area.

John travelled back in time to the mid-18th century when beer was consumed throughout the day.

This was obviously John’s subject as he compared the multitude of small breweries and how the same system is used today but with modern equipment.

Of particular interest were the street maps of Cupar showing where breweries were located. John runs his own brewery at Abbot House Heritage Centre, Dunfermline where visitors are welcome by appointment.

A most interesting presentation and a suitable vote of thanks by Robert McCririck.

Click here for information about our local Eden Brewery


25 June 2014


Bert Oliver and George Wilson

At very short notice, Club Members, Bert Oliver with poems and prose and George Wilson on accordion stepped in this morning to fill an unexpected vacancy and provided a good measure of words and music to a very appreciative audience.

Bert Oliver and George Wilson

George played such toe-tappers as Farewell to Uist, Dumbarton Castle, Loch Maree Islands, The Marquis of Tullibarton and several more while Bert recited poetic treasures such as The Guide Scotch Pie, No medal at the Mod, Glasgow Love Poem, Granny’s Porridge among others.

The presentation was very well received and Archie Watson gave a vote of thanks.


11 June 2014


Jan Steyn

“Life in South Africa” was Rev Jan Steyn’s chosen subject and we were immediately made aware of Jan’s enthusiasm and vigour for his birthplace.

In a presentation controlled only by time, Jan was able to transmit a full picture of animals, birds, the geography and the sheer size of his country.

We heard of the very sad times followed by the changing scene as the years and people changed. He spoke fondly of Nelson Mandella and his great works.

It was fitting that we had a record number of members present today to hear and enjoy this superb talk by Rev Jan Steyn.

After several questions Bob Farmer offered an excellent vote of thanks.

South Africa


28 May 2014


David Fraser

David Fraser was today’s speaker and his subject was “The Postcard Century.”

The study of postcards, (deltiology) came alive as David described how they were used as a means of communication in times past and now replaced by text, email etc.

With a collection of 1500 postcards containing several complete sets on a particular subject we were made aware of the information to be gained from a simple postcard.

The use of screen and projector added even more interest to this presentation.

Bob Farmer gave a well-deserved vote of thanks.

Click here to see the many postcards published by Raphael Tuck & Sons

Postcard of St Monans

14 May 2014


Ron Campbell

Today’s speaker was club member Ron Campbell.

His subject was “The Brewster Buffalo.” After some of us were made aware we were not bound for the great prairies of America but to WW2 and the American built Brewster Buffalo fighter aircraft, Ron displayed his extensive knowledge of aircraft during times of war.

We heard of the history of this fighter craft, its development and the difficult way it was manufactured in a most unsuitable building. The Brewster Buffalo (F2A) earned the title of the worst fighter aircraft in the world and “The Flying Coffin”.

A Brewster F2A-3

Ron Campbell spoke freely and easily on his subject and is to be commended on his research.

Bob Fraser gave the vote of thanks.

Click here for more information on the Brewster Buffalo


23 April 2014


Eduard Klak

‘Polish troops in Scotland’ was the subject and Eduard Klak was our presenter.

With the aid of projector and screen Eduard gave a full history of Poland and its constant battles with Germany and Russia stretching back into the 1500’s: he highlighted the constantly moving border as each country fought for land.

We moved through the strong alliance between Scotland, France and Poland covering all aspects of politics and religion.

Eduard reflected on WW2 and spoke of his father’s war history. We record our thanks to Eduard Klak for his efforts.

Treasurer Peter Spiers gave a vote of thanks.



9 April 2014


Martin Hepworth

We welcomed the ‘weel-kent’ face of Dr Martin Hepworth today to speak on the Klondike Gold Rush.

Martin spoke easily on this subject for 60 minutes providing us with facts, figures and a frightening picture of thousands of men and their vain attempts to reach the goldfields.

With the use of excellent photographs, old and new we were made aware of the sheer size of the area, how thousands of men left home totally unprepared for what lay ahead. We heard of the first strike, we heard of the policing part played by Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

What can only be described as sheer madness and lust for gold was brought to life for the members of Cupar Probus Club and we are extremely grateful to Dr Martin for his presentation.

Prof John McManus gave a well-deserved vote of thanks.


Setting off up the Chilkoot Pass

Click here for more information


26 March 2014


Andrew Arbuckle

With the title “Farming in Yesterday,” the members of this club knew we were travelling down memory lane, (or farm track) led by Andrew Arbuckle.

Andrew began by touring Cupar, the market/farming town of this area.

We heard how dealing and trade was done in the Crossgate, described the normal layout of the Corn Exchange. We experienced feeing days when farm hands moved on, not only the problems but also opportunities to be gained by a good move.

Moving on to the town’s Beet Factory when it opened during the 1920s and the very successful Stallion Shows in the Cart Haugh.

Prior to the tractor, the Clydesdale horse reigned supreme. The coming of the railways opened a new world for farmers allowing them to transport cattle and produce across a much wider area.

Our eyes were opened to the steadings, the farmhouses and the strict ‘pecking order’ of farm hands. Within the time available, Andrew Arbuckle ploughed in a comprehensive picture of farming life at all levels and he is to be congratulated on his inspiring presentation.

Andrew has published three books on this subject. “Footsteps in the Furrow,” “We waved to the Baker” and “The first 100 years.”

After a busy question time, Sandy Wynd gave a vote of thanks.

by Andrew Arbuckle


12 March 2014


Bill Ritchie

Our speaker today, Bill Ritchie spoke on the subject of “The Cooncil Speke”. Bill began by outlining his life in education and his work on various committees that gave him contact with councillors.

He spoke of his interests in golf and music and likened the arm action with his violin not unlike that of his golf swing.

We heard quotes from three main areas, Council meetings, football managers and children.

The wee lad at Sunday school with very shiny shoes because of his slight misunderstanding of the children’s hymn “Jesus bids us shine,” the football manager who said “My team has it’s 2nd Leg up it’s sleeve,” the councillor who said he could half the problem by 75% and “I want quarterly meetings twice a year!”

Bill Ritchie presented his talk in an easy, relaxed manner and several personal examples were recounted by our members.

Ian Thomson gave a vote of thanks.


26 February 2014


David Cleland

Colin Moore introduced our speaker today, who by coincidence was David Cleland, his subject being Cupar Old Church. David has made a study of this 600 year-old church but was today concentrating on 23 years during the 19th century, (1838-61).

We heard extracts from the first Minute and information on the first Church in Cupar, a very destructive fire circa 1412 and a description of life and times in the early 1800’s, listing the various trades and the positions held within Cupar Old Church.

David described the power of the Church as they sat in judgement of sinners and people who strayed from righteousness, we also heard of The Disruption of 1843, when a large number of ministers left to form the Free Church of Scotland.
This was a very large subject but our speaker kept it in his control. David Cleland is to be congratulated on leading us as Chairman; advising us as Secretary and enlightening us as today’s speaker. Angus Allan gave the vote of thanks.

Cupar Old Church (© Martin Baird)



12 February 2014


Glenys Marra

Our speaker today was Glenys Marra on the subject of Bowel Cancer. This was a difficult and sensitive subject but Glenys spoke easily after explaining she was not medically trained but had suffered from this illness and received corrective surgery.

She spoke highly of surgeons, doctors and care nurses during her ongoing treatment and went on to describe good and poor foods and lifestyles to help keep this area of our bodies as healthy as possible.

Glenys Marra must be complemented on her presentation and the volume of questions demonstrated our interest in the subject.

Colin More gave an excellent vote of thanks.


22 January 2014


Bob Drummond & Alastair McFarlane

Our talk today was headed “Robert Burns” by Bob Drummond with Alistair McFarlane on violin but nothing can do justice to this superb presentation by the two men.

Bob Drummond and Alistair McFarlane

In words, songs and music, mixed heavily with couthie humour we were led through the life and loves of our Bard. Bob Drummond related the story of Robert Burns with great feeling and the music and song provided by Alistair made this day an excellent beginning to our new year at Cupar Probus Club.

Words and Music

David Galloway’s vote of thanks, given as a play on the words of Burns’ “Is there for honest poverty?” was the icing on the cake and a perfect end to a perfect morning.


25 September 2013


Gavin McDonald

Gavin McDonald, our speaker for today enthralled us with his subject, “Classic Detective Novels.”

Gavin demonstrated a deep study and knowledge of this subject as we were made aware of the proper structure and format that makes a perfect detective novel.

Gavin spoke without notes and led us through the days of Penny Dreadfuls and went on to speak in detail of the crime writers who have enjoyed success because of their skills with the pen. Dorothy Sayers, Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.
Gavin ended his talk by speaking briefly and modestly on his own efforts as a crime writer but he is well published and his books are worthy of our attention.

After a very active question time, Colin Moore gave the vote of thanks.


11 September 2013


Julie Kerr

Our speaker today, Julie Kerr presented a talk on Balmerino Abbey.

Julie led us in stages from the early life of the Cistercian Monks, their daily routine, diet, and their form of garb.

With the use of excellent photography we witnessed the original layout as well as features remaining today.

The abbey was active for over 300 years but deteriorates steadily because of shortage of funds. A descriptive booklet has been published by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, (RCAHMS).

After questions, Past Chairman Bob Farmer gave a vote of thanks.

Link to the RCAHMS website


28 August 2013


Alex Strachan

 Today’s speaker was club member Alex Strachan, his subject being ‘On Guard’.

Alex was tight-lipped before his talk and would give no clue whether it was army life, railways or the art of fencing!

After retirement as an architect, Alex followed his boyhood dream of working with trains and was a volunteer guard on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway in Cumbria.

We were treated to constant humour and interest as he described the workings of this very busy tourist railway.

Robert McCririck gave a well-earned vote of thanks.

The Ravenglass & Eskdale Preservation Society website


14 August 2013


Ian Clark

 Our talk today was presented by Ian Clark of Kirkcaldy Museum and Gallery and was mainly to update the club on the 18-month restructuring of the building prior to our visit on 21st August.

Ian’s job title is “Exhibitions and Outreach Curator,” a title to make his mother very proud he tells us!

19th century painting of Balsusney House

We heard of the origins of the present building, it being built on the site of Balsusney House, c1850 and the considerable financial input by the Nairn family.

Kirkcaldy Galleries today

This presentation gave us good reason to visit Kirkcaldy Galleries and enjoy the benefits of a 2.4 million pound investment in the future of the town.

After questions, Vice Chairman John Topliss gave a vote of thanks.


24 July 2013


Alex Tarvit & Harry Field

 Our presentation today was given by Alex Tarvit and Harry Field. This was an excellent wake-up-call for us to be more conscious in our use of gas as we heat our homes. We were reminded of the importance of insulation, of basic attention to radiators and the great need for carbon monoxide sensors.

Our speakers from Scottish Hydro, Alex Tarvit and Harry Field.

It was also brought to our attention the need to consider the temperature of household water supply; all this creates the cost factor of our every-day life and we are grateful to the speakers for bringing such an enlightening subject to our attention.

A lively question time followed after which, Colin Moore gave a vote of thanks.


10 July 2013


Caroline Campbell

Our speaker today was Caroline Campbell, her subject being ‘Journey inside a violin.’

Caroline is a violinmaker and began this journey by taking us back in time with the story of the violin.

Moving on, she divided her presentation into two parts, describing in detail the outside of a violin; where the strengths must be, where measurements must be exact. We next travelled inside where we dealt with sound and how a violinmaker strives to achieve a perfect tonal quality by shaping the wood.

Caroline's website is at

Caroline describes her work as ‘a job of splendid isolation’ and believes that her ears will tell her how near to perfection she is. The main woods continue to be spruce and maple and as we moved on to violin strings, the bow, the bridge etc we were able to sense the dedication Caroline Campbell gives to her craft.

The presentation was enhanced by various tools, woods and templates all helping to demonstrate the birth of a beautiful instrument. Ian Thomson gave a vote of thanks.


26 June 2013


Edgar Shields

The subject of our talk today was ‘Alvis Cars’ given by Edgar Shields.

After telling of his early interest in cars and his route towards the Alvis models, Edgar quickly demonstrated his natural ability to make us laugh, and laugh we did as he related stories of mishaps, misunderstandings and mistakes as he sought to retain a happy mix between cars, girls and life in general.

With a well-planned slide show, we were able to see the derelict state of his Alvis cars and wonder at the end result after many hours dedication to his obsession.

This was a professional mix of interest, humour and indeed education as Edgar Shields shared his life in Alvis cars with us.

John Arnold gave a well-deserved vote of thanks.

Edgar with his Alvis TF21 in its old livery.


12 June 2013


Bob Hamilton

Our speaker today was Bob Hamilton from Dunfermline Probus Club with his subject ‘Wind farms.’

Bob has a vast technical knowledge having worked in the largest coal fired power station in the Southern Hemisphere.

We were shown the good and bad sides of the various methods of producing electricity, the fact that it cannot be stored and how we have always depended on a varying supply. This highlighted a weakness in wind power, i.e. no wind, no power.
With the professional use of an excellent slide show we were made aware of the problems and causes we are suffering worldwide today.

An excellent presentation from Bob Hamilton and much appreciated by all members.

Sandy Wynd gave a worthy vote of thanks.

Whitelee wind farm


22 May 2013

Macular Disease

Dennis Cook

Our talk today by Dennis Cook from Dunfermline Probus Club was entitled “Macular Disease” and caused the members to be aware of this problem in it’s earliest stages leading to the gradual reduction of sight.

Dennis suffers from the affliction and was able to describe his life now. With the use of ‘doctored’ glasses, we were made aware of life with this disease.

We heard in detail the two different types of degeneration and the advances being considered.

An extended question time demonstrated the interest shown by our members and Secretary David Cleland gave a sincere vote of thanks to Dennis Cook for his efforts in travelling to Cupar to present his talk.

The helpline telephone number is 0300 3030 111 and the Macular Society website is at


8 May 2013


Martin Hepworth

With the introduction of our speaker Dr Martin Hepworth, we were led into the fascinating world of Scottish Banknotes, their history, their design and their individuality to various banks of Scotland.

We heard of the famous people appearing on notes as well as well known buildings. During WW2, Germany made an attempt to flood Gt Britain with forged notes thereby destroying our economy; it is fortunate this exercise failed.

At the end of the war there were 8 Scottish Banks issuing their own notes but most have now disappeared.

A professional presentation greatly assisted by the use of an excellent slide show.

After a lively question time John Topliss gave a vote of thanks.

Clydesdale & North of Scotland Bank 1960

National Commercial Bank of Scotland 1959


24 April 2013


Ian Fairley

After an introduction by Chairman Tom Vickery, we met with the “weel-kent-face” of Ian Fairley; well known because Ian has given several talks with a maritime theme and is respected because of his professional presentation and display.

His subject today was the Mary Celeste and we were quick to learn that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle only used the spelling “Marie” in a novel. Ian talked firstly on the mysteries surrounding the Bermuda Triangle with its history of disappearing ships and aeroplanes.

One of Ian's excellent display boards.

The mystery of what became of seven crew, captain Briggs, his wife and child on the Mary Celeste will never be solved, only calculated guesswork can consider a rogue wave, undersea earthquake, mutiny, pirates or the strange blue-flame-flash caused by the cargo of 1701 barrels of crude alcohol.

Most can be discounted but the latter is a very real possibility. Our thanks go once again to Ian Fairley for an enthralling mystery of the sea.

A painting of the Mary Celeste

Hamish Cross gave the vote of thanks.


10 April 2013


Pat Mitchell

Pat Mitchell today gave our presentation on the subject of ‘Percussion’ and this was made very obvious by the presence of three kettledrums and various other items.

After a lifetime in music, Pat is completely at ease with her subject, describing her early years as she developed her skills.

We were treated to examples of drums adding emotional sounds to music and how they are not used simply to add volume as is sometimes thought.

Pat explains features of the kettledrum to David Galloway.
See larger photo in Album

She illustrated the types and uses of various drumsticks and, during the time available, gave us a much better understanding of the important place percussion instruments play within all types of music.

An exciting and interesting presentation by Pat Mitchell.

Past Chairman Bob Farmer gave a vote of thanks.


27 March 2013


Guthrie Hutton

Before today's talk, Past Chairman Bob Farmer made a presentation of a plaque to our speaker Mr Guthrie Hutton of Cupar Heritage. This plaque will be displayed on a display cabinet within the new Cupar Heritage museum at Cupar railway station.

Mr Hutton offered sincere thanks to the club for their contribution towards the purchase of the display cabinet.

Bob Farmer presents Guthrie Hutto with the plaque. See larger photo in the Album

Guthrie then updated us on progress at the museum. He spoke of the early beginnings, of the search for suitable premises and of the efforts to gain grants.

We heard of the early gathering of suitable artefacts and the steady flow of gifts as they gained momentum and how the best use of available space is being made.

Cupar Heritage Museum has now received charity status and will open again on 13th April. Finally Guthrie spoke of plans for the future. After several questions, George Wilson gave a vote of thanks.

The Cupar Heritage Centre is located at the eastern end of Cupar Railway Station.

More information at the Cupar Heritage website


13 March 2013


Jim Wood

Because of a change to the advertised talk today, club member Jim Wood spoke on ‘A Kirkcaldy Engineering Company.’

This was the history of Douglas & Grant Engineering with it’s beginnings in Cupar under Robert Douglas during the mid 19th century and later in partnership with Lewis Grant.

Finally established in Kirkcaldy the company made all sizes of steam engines being shipped worldwide for use in rice-mills, cotton-mills and many other industries where power was required to drive machinery.

A most interesting presentation of a world now almost gone, coupled with a slide show of steam engines.

Our thanks go to Jim Wood for his efforts in presenting his substitute talk.

Mike Edwards gave a worthy vote of thanks.

Single-cylinder horizontal stationary steam engine built by Douglas and Grant Ltd of Kirkcaldy in 1923
Royal Museum of Scotland


27 February 2013


Danny Rooney

Our talk today was entitled “Guide Dogs” and was presented by Danny Rooney, assisted by Stuart Donaldson.

Two very well behaved dogs, German Shepherd Belle (shown with Danny on the right) and Golden Labrador Vadar (shown below with Stuart).

Both Belle and Vadar are young dogs starting out on the way to becoming trained guide dogs.

Danny gave a brief review of retirement after an active life in the Fire Service and how he became involved as one of 10000 dog carers.

We enjoyed a detailed film-show of dogs being trained and the new owners learning to trust the dog and enjoy a new freedom.


The members were treated to a very detailed picture of life as a guide dog.


After many questions, Malcolm Truesdale gave a vote of thanks.


For more information about the Guide Dogs in Scotland click here.


13 February 2013


Carrie Ruxton

Our speaker today was Dr Carrie Ruxton. Carrie demonstrated the healthy option foods for men of a certain age, she described why men are more liable for heart, prostate and colon problems and how physical and mental exercise is beneficial at any age.

After research, Dr Ruxton was able to dispel several myths about food and drink. This was an excellent, plain-talking presentation with many questions to follow.

The club members were not slow to learn that pie, chips and beans, washed down with two pints of beer was not the route to a healthy body!

Bert Oliver gave the well-deserved vote of thanks

Colourful food from the Barcelona indoor market

and Scottish salmon would both be highly recommended.


23 January 2013


Bert Oliver

Our scheduled speaker for today, Pat Mitchell had to cancel owing to an injury and we wish her a speedy recovery.

Minute Secretary Bert Oliver, at short notice, gave his talk on the Eyemouth Disaster of 14 October 1881.

Bert described how a hurricane struck the Eyemouth fishing fleet at sea and the crippling loss of life. He told of the struggle for survival and the grief for 129 men and boys loosing their lives from this small fishing village and the consequences to the community.

Eyemouth should have died on that day but it survived because of the determination of strong womenfolk and the men who were left, amongst which was Bert's grandfather. Bert's great-grandfather and his two eldest sons died in the disaster.

After relevant comments by Peter Gordon, Angus Allan gave an excellent vote of thanks.

The Eyemouth Disaster Memorial

A smaller memorial showing women and children watching helplessly as the disaster overtook their menfolk


14 November 2012


Ian Winter

In his talk today, John Winter, from Ravenscraig Probus Club, spoke of his working life as an engineer and treated us to an excellent presentation on the sad passing of old Scots words and ways.

With the liberal use of jokes and stories we enjoyed his gentle prodding at farming, church, couthy islanders and of course, the English and many other avenues of life in Scotland.

At this time of the year, this was the tonic we needed and the vote of thanks by John Arnold recorded our appreciation.


24 October 2012


Craig Stockon

Our speaker today was Craig Stockton, his subject being Motor Neurone Disease.

This debilitating illness affects mainly middle age and is very difficult to diagnose during its early stages.

Craig gave a well-balanced and very detailed talk covering all areas of support, counselling, benefits, respite etc. We were shown videos of sufferers to illustrate how crippling MND could be, a very sad illness indeed.

A lighter moment from Craig was to inform us that research has shown we humans to be on the same level as fruit flies and as most research is connected to the brain, we must draw our own conclusion!!

Excellent information can be found on the MND Scotland website.

Chairman Bob Farmer gave a vote of thanks reflecting our appreciation of Craig Stockton’s efforts.



10 October 2012


Ron Campbell


Club member Ron Campbell gave our talk today on the subject of the CG4A combat glider.

Such gliders were used during WW2 to land troops, fuel and machinery into enemy territory. This was an extremely dangerous mode of travel calling for a total commitment when landing without power or lights.

The gliders were very flimsy and any damage from enemy fire could prove fatal. In the early days of the war, glides had to be seen as a ‘total loss system’ with no return after landing but later a ‘snatch’ arrangement was created with some success but overall, the loss of life was considerable.

Ron added much humour into his talk creating an excellent, interesting presentation.

Peter Speirs gave a well-deserved vote of thanks.

More information on the Glider Pilot Regiment.



26 September 2012


Maurice Shepherd

Today’s speaker was club member Maurice Shepherd, his subject being Cryptography, the art of writing and solving codes.

The word itself means ‘secret writing’ and Maurice described in detail the wartime necessity for solving written daily orders passed from our enemies.

We heard of Bletchley Park and its Enigma machine and how new codes had to be formed and solved daily and the great need to stay ahead.

Enigma and Lorenz coding machines

The ‘Lorenz Coding Machine’ was used to pass orders and information through the German high command from Adolph Hitler.

It cannot be understated the benefit to our war effort from Bill Tutte and Tommy Flowers in breaking this code. In modern times we live with codes in banking, computing and even various puzzles in our daily papers.

An inspiring and greatly appreciated talk by Maurice Shepherd confirmed by a vote of thanks by David Nicholson.


12 September 2012


Will Mackay

Our speaker today was club member Will Mackay who spoke on the world of geneology. His talk mainly concerned his own and his wife’s ancestry but was given in such a way as to be interesting, very informative and amusing.

Will informed us that family history can quickly become an ‘incurable disease’ and the family tree can produce a variety of nuts, lemons and rotten apples!

We heard of the tremendous value of the Internet and the benefits of the search machine Google.

In his talk, Will gave us a well produced slide show and finished with a young lady singing a bothy-ballad. A most interesting talk and appreciated by the members.

Maurice Shepherd gave a well-deserved vote of thanks.


22 August 2012


Derrick Thomson


Derrick Thomson was introduced to speak on ‘The Cochrane Family.’ This was the story of Thomas Cochrane, (1775-1860). As a young naval officer he proved his worth during the Napoleonic wars and it was Admiral Nelson who gave Cochrane his first full command, HMS Speedy.

Thomas Cochrane was brave, relentless and always positive in his actions against the enemy and was named ‘Sea Wolf’ (Le Loup des Mer) by the French. After a very chequered career he died during October 1860 with the honorary title of Rear Admiral of the United Kingdom.

Derrick went on to tell us something of the life of Sir Ralph Cochrane, (1895-1977) best known for his role in the ‘dambusters’ raid and finally brought us up to date with the Hon Michael Cochrane. A most interesting presentation on this illustrious family.
Archie Watson gave a suitable vote of thanks.


8 August 2012


Bert Oliver & George Wilson

Entertainment today was provided by two club members, musically by George Wilson and verbally by Bert Oliver, both seen performing below.

George demonstrated his mastery of the accordion, entertaining us with a selection of reels, jigs, and waltzes, including some compositions of his own.

Bert kept everyone well amused with a collection of poems, anecdotes and one-liners, all delivered in his own inimitable style.

Bravo to our club double act!

Past Chairman Ian Thomson gave a vote of thanks and the members responded enthusiastically.

*The copy for the website talks is usually written by Bert Oliver but he has asked me to do this review. MS


25 July 2012


Martin Hepworth

Our speaker today, Martin Hepworth, began by describing “The Sons of the Desert”, the long established fan club of the duo.

Wearing the traditional ‘Fez’ Martin described the lives of each and how they eventually came together.

We were treated to excerpts from several films showing Laurel and Hardy at their zaniest best and demonstrated once again how their comedy has withstood the test of time.

The presentation ended by the members singing “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” but the East Fife Male Voice Choir need have no fear of a takeover bid!

Martin Hepworth presented us with an excellent morning of entertainment and Treasurer George Wilson offered the vote of thanks.

Sons of the Desert website


11 July 2012


Fiona Poolman

Our speaker today was Fiona Poolman speaking on Podiatry—Foot care. Fiona began by explaining the difference between a Podiatrist and Chiropodist, moved on to the earliest known form of foot care in ancient Egypt.

She described the elaborate engineering of the human foot and the daily stresses placed on it.

Volunteer Bob Farmer had his right foot examined and explained in detail to us, it finally being declared a wonderful foot. Fiona made no comment on the rest of him!

In the time available, we heard about most forms of foot problems, their cures and exercises to benefit us in our daily life.

A most interesting subject receiving the approbation of all members.

Robert McCririck recorded a vote of thanks.


27 June 2012


Martin Dean

Our speaker today was Martin Dean, his subject being “Shipwrecks.”

Martin opened by giving a brief background of his work and life; he described the latest Multi-Beam-Sonar equipment for viewing wrecks on the seabed that now provide us with three-dimensional models which in turn can supply intricate details and provide new information of many wrecks and the reason for sinking.

The presentation was accompanied by excellent photography.

Martin Dean ended by giving us his thoughts for the future for this most interesting subject. Vice Chairman Tom Vickery gave a vote of thanks.


13 June 2012


Chris Reekie

Today’s speaker, Chris Reekie was introduced and offered a talk and slide show on his safari to Kenya.

In the time available, Chris presented the members with an excellent overview of this vast and beautiful country; his script covered people, politics, wildlife, market places and scenery in abundance.

Three of Chris's excellent wildlife photographs are shown below.

Our sincere thanks to Chris Reekie and a well deserved vote of thanks by Allan Dow.


23 May 2012


Rhona Hay

With the introduction of our speaker Mrs Rhona Hay, we were led into the world of Reflexology by talk and demonstration.

Rhona encouraged questions as she manipulated the feet of willing volunteer Colin Moore.

Feet are the sensors of our body and reflexology is seen as a complementary medicine. This was a lively but relaxed presentation by Rhona who spoke easily on her subject and her efforts were greatly appreciated.

Colin Moore gets the treatment

It was a very relaxed Colin Moore who gave the vote of thanks!

See a larger version of the photo in the Photo Album.

9 May 2012


Elizabeth Kenny

Vice Chairman Tom Vickery presented Elizabeth Kenny with her subject “Laughter - The Best Medicine” Elizabeth opened with a brief account of her life as a parish minister, her short-lived retirement and new life as a prison padre.

By way of a continuous gathering of jokes and stories, Elizabeth aimed a gentle poke at all aspects of religion.

Our members laughed and applauded throughout her delivery because it was her timing that was perfect and made this a very memorable occasion for all.

Sandy Wynd gave a well-deserved vote of thanks to Elizabeth Kenny.


25 April 2012


Alistair Macfarlane

Our speaker today was Alastair Macfarlane, his subject being “Scottish Fiddles.”

Alastair enthralled us using seven fiddles made by amateurs in their spare time.

Using each one in turn we were treated to reels, jigs, laments and strathspeys.

Some of the fiddles played by Alistair during his presentation.

We heard of the great Scots fiddlers, Neil Gow, Scott Skinner and others who entertained the gentry as well as the local folks. Alastair demonstrated with great skill the voice and mood the fiddle could project. He claimed that after much searching he played a piece called “Och Jimmy, there’s nane like the lads at Cupar Probus Club.”

Finally, Alastair introduced his guest Caroline Campbell who is a violin maker from Springfield. Caroline made the violin that she is holding in the photo.

After a lively question time, David Nicholson gave a vote of thanks.

Neil Gow's "Lament for the Death of his Second Wife" Performed by Jed Mugford, Kate McCullough and Mike Gardiner.

11 April 2012


Betsy Wójcik

Our speaker today was Betsy Wójcik and her subject was ‘Fife People’s Panel’.

The Panel comprises a large group of volunteers who, by completing selective questionnaires make our various council departments aware of strengths and weaknesses thereby enabling them to make good decisions on behalf of all residents.

With over 2000 volunteers throughout Fife, the People’s Panel is able to pinpoint problems and needs of age groups; villages, streets, etc., and we at Cupar Probus Club appreciated this very informative talk by Mrs Betsy Wójcik.

After question time, Malcolm Truesdale gave a vote of thanks.

See the Fife People's Panel website.

28 March 2012


Michael Brown

Our talk today was “Robert the Bruce” given by Michael Brown and centred on Bannockburn with it’s well documented battle between Edward II and Robert the Bruce on 24th June 1314.

With the assistance of excellent slides, Michael demonstrated the extended layout of the area, the advantages and disadvantages between cavalry and infantry on this occasion. We were to hear how the foot soldiers of Robert the Bruce were able to gain the upper hand and carry them to victory.

Although outnumbered 3 to 1, the army of Robert out-manoeuvred the enemy at every turn.

A very healthy question time followed and Mike Edwards gave a vote of thanks.


For more information on the period see Michael Brown's book, "The Wars of Scotland 1214-1371".


14 March 2012


Jeremy Greenwood

Chairman Bob Farmer welcomed our speaker for today, Prof Jeremy Greenwood speaking on “Conserving Birds through Bird watching.”

This was an excellent presentation, a mix of interest, facts and humour. Beginning with details of his background in ornithology, Prof Jeremy described the structure of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and praised the invaluable and constant work by volunteers across the country; by necessity, this work continues throughout the year creating a constant stream of information.

We were shown charts recording the rise and fall in various bird populations and the effects of modern farming on various species of birds.

After a lively question time Bert Oliver gave a vote of thanks.

See the excellent BTO website and perhaps volunteer?

22 February 2012


Steve Liscoe

Our speaker today was Steve Liscoe who gave an excellent talk and illustration on gaining information and knowledge from boats going ashore on the coast and being left to rot away, to drainage ditches being dug and yielding clues from our past way of life.

Steve explained the modern scanning equipment now available to provide more detail of underwater debris such as gun barrels, aeroplanes and shipwrecks.

A most interesting presentation followed by a well-deserved vote of thanks by Colin Moore.


8 February 2012


Wynn Harley

Chairman Bob Farmer introduced today’s speaker Wynne Harley, her subject being “Fife Folk Museum.”

This well presented talk was to take us on a journey behind the scenes of highly rated, well-organised museum life; we heard of a computer-controlled temperature application, the necessity for pest control and volunteer assistants who undertake insect identification to maintain proper records; the serious problems of storage and keeping a database updated.

Museum entrance

Wynne made use of an excellent slide show liberally mixed with funny stories and ended by telling of her hopes and plans for the future of Fife Folk Museum.

Rear view of the Museum

Following question time Past Chairman John McManus gave an excellent vote of thanks.

More information on the Fife Folk Museum website

25 January 2012


Ian Fairley

Ian Fairley was our speaker today on his subject “The Titanic and Lusitania”, two passenger liners destined to sink under very different circumstances.

Ian demonstrated the structural differences in the ships and explained in detail the type of engines and propulsion and the part played in the disaster of both ships; he is commended for his excellent display boards showing exact measurements and information on both ships.

Cunard’s Lusitania had a twin sister the RMS Mauretania, who enjoyed a relatively trouble-free war, unlike the Lusitania sinking within 18 minutes after a torpedo attack.

Ian Fairley ended his presentation by updating the members on the liner Costa Concordia and the likely outcome of this £375 million shipwreck.

David Cleland gave the vote of thanks.


23 November 2011


Gavin White

Our speaker this week was Gavin White, his subject being “The Signs of Christmas”.

With a slide show of old and new Christmas cards, Dr White asked us to consider the traditions of robins, holly bushes, churches etc and their proper place on the cards. He gave reasons why the items were featured and concluded by explaining that the theories were his own and had been published and presented with no voice in dissent.

This was a very carefully presented talk and one to make many members look afresh at this year’s Christmas cards.

Peter Gordon gave a vote of thanks.


9 November 2011


Sandy Wynd

Chairman John McManus introduced our Speaker and Past Chairman Sandy Wynd speaking on “Local Fife Covenanters”.

After the Reformation of the 16th Century, we move into the 17th, the time of John Knox and conventicles when secret prayer meetings were held in barns, fields or houses; it was Scots demanding their own religion and to sign such a covenant was to sign your death sentence in any way the Dragoons decided; there was no question of a fair trial.

We were to hear about the prisons on Bass Rock and Edinburgh with a high population of ministers as inmates. This was a time when Covenanters stood fast in their beliefs and so many being martyred. The persecution ended with the accession of William III & Mary II in 1689. Sandy demonstrated his knowledge of this subject and his ability to impart it to an interested membership. After questions, Bob Farmer gave the vote of thanks.

More information about the Scottish Covenanters from Wikipedia


26 October 2011


Robert Dick

Our speaker today was Robert (Bob) Dick who spoke on his life within the world of bowls.

His commitment to both national and international events was most impressive and ranged from Commonwealth Games via Scottish Bowling Association to bowls for the disabled where much of his life is now centred and his ambition is to develop a first class world team.

Bob spoke of his early life at school, his first job eventually leading to a career in local government. His world travels in bowling management were an inspiration to bowlers of any age and we were proudly shown his gold medal presented as manager of World Bowls Championships, 2004.

A good question time demonstrated our interest in this sport. Jack McCubbin gave the vote of thanks.

For more on Scottish bowls



12 November 2011


Giff Bradley

Our speaker for today was Giff Bradley (right) who spoke on Macmillan Cancer Care. Giff opened his talk by reminiscing on his life and experiences.

He spoke of the tragic loss of his teenage daughter that led him to work for the Macmillan Cancer organisation. 1976 saw the first Macmillan nurse enter a patient’s home to give care and support, there are now 4000. Giff Bradley presented us with a descriptive view of cancer from all angles.

Cancer has no friends but an abundance of support for patients, family and friends. The talk was an excellent balance of laughter and sadness and we are indebted to Giff Bradley for his efforts.

Malcolm Truesdale gave a vote of thanks and a collection was taken when £134.77 was donated.

The Macmillan cancer support website


28 September 2011


Bob Mitchell

Chairman John McManus introduced our speaker Bob Mitchell (left) Honorary Curator of the St Andrews Botanic Garden to present his subject, “Gardens of East Neuk.”

This was presented by way of slides and a well-prepared talk of East Neuk Estate Gardens during the 18th and 19th century. Many of the gardens no longer exist or have lost their former splendour but the slides demonstrated how they were planned in their original state.

Bob explained why plants, shrubs and trees were selected, how colour schemes went in and out of fashion and how many gardens were designed to lead the viewers eyes towards a particular spot, a good example of this being the Bass Rock as a perfect landmark.

A most interesting presentation by Bob Mitchell with a lively question time to follow and a vote of thanks by Allan Dow.

St Andrews Botanic Garden website


14 September 2011


Keith McCartney

Today’s speaker, Keith McCartney (right) was introduced to speak on “Old Tom Morris.” Keith spoke without notes and was obviously very comfortable with his subject. Thomas Mitchell Morris, born 6th June 1821, died 24th May 1908, probably the most famous golfer in the world and born to a very different game than we know today; no manicured greens and fairways, rowdy behaviour to upset the golfer. The discipline demanded on golf courses now is very welcome but remains a mystery how or when it came about.

Old Tom worked to his final days and died prior to his 87th birthday by falling down the cellar stairs at the clubhouse, he was predeceased by all his family. Old Tom is known worldwide and thousands go to St Andrews to pay homage at his grave. We are indebted to Keith McCartney for his presentation that gave interest to both golfers and non-golfers, he ended by setting a golf question to the club correctly answered by Jim Elder, a very lively question time followed and John Arnold gave the vote of thanks.

More about Tom Morris...


24 August 2011


Alistair Paton

Our speaker for today, Alistair Paton, gave a brief hi of Howe of Fife Rugby Club.

He described the structure of the club, it’s early beginnings when farmland was used for their games up to the present times at Duffus Park, comprehensive training structure and the enthusiasm of it’s members help to keep the club going in difficult times when young people have so many other interests.

1st XV Squad - Season 2010-2011

An excellent presentation appreciated by all present.

Bill Phillips gave a vote of thanks.

Howe of Fife website...


10 August 2011


Bert Oliver & George Wilson

Bert Oliver and George Wilson presented the cultural section of the meeting, George on accordion and Bert with a selection of Scots poems, mainly humorous!

During their presentation, George played such treasures as “Wee Cooper o’ Fife”, “Leaving Lerwick Harbour”, “Skater’s Waltz”, a Gay Gordons selection and some 2/4 Marches.

Bert presented his selection of one-liners on old age and poems ranging from “Granny’s Porridge” “Wee China Pig” “My Granny—Singin’” and ”The Vital Organ”

In a troubled and unsettled world, George and Bert gave good reason to laugh and tap our feet. Colin Moore gave a vote of thanks.


27 July 2011


Mairi Shiels

Our speaker, Mairi Shiels, spoke on the Tay Railway Bridge Disaster, which occurred on Sunday 28 December 1879 during the Great Storm. Mairi opened her talk with the damning statement from the subsequent inquiry that the bridge was badly designed, badly built and badly maintained.

Mairi then presented the events leading up to the disaster, which included the race between the North British Railway Company and the Caledonian Railway Company to get from Edinburgh to Dundee the fastest.

Thomas Bouch, a renowned railway engineer, was responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of the bridge to replace the Tayport to Broughty Ferry train ferry. The bridge was highly regarded internationally, and Queen Victoria knighted Bouch for his work.

However on that stormy night the high girders section of the bridge collapsed and the train from Wormit to Dundee was swept away. All on board perished, with the final death toll subsequently believed to be 59. The engine was recovered, repaired and used for another 30 years.

The broken bridge

The inquiry blamed virtually everything on Sir Thomas who died shortly afterwards. John Topliss proposed a vote of thanks to Mairi for an excellent, interesting talk.

More information about the disaster...

13 July 2011


Gilbert Nisbet

On 13th July, the Rev. Gilbert Nisbet presented his talk entitled 'Serving God and Mammon' . Gilbert launched into his early life as an indentured chartered accountant and the 23 years that he spent within that profession before becoming a minister within the Church of Scotland.

This change of profession became known, in the family, as "Dad's midlife crisis' but Angus, Fife and Perth all benefited from Gilbert's preaching.

This was a remarkable talk filled with amusing anecdotes that kept our members smiling.


22 June 2011


Sylvia Troon

Our speaker on June 22 was Sylvia Troon, speaking on “Storytelling and Puppets.”

Sylvia and some of her puppets

Sylvia, a lively, energetic wee lass, immediately bullied the 38 members into re-arranging tables and chairs, after which she enthralled us with tales from history, from school days, etc., all being illustrated with glove and hand puppets beautifully made at home.

The Bell Rock and Robert Stevenson

We met Robert Burns, visited the Bell Rock and many other people and places. Sylvia showed books relevant to her craft and the musical instruments to support her tales.

We were truly entertained and educated by Sylvia, who recommended two websites worth visiting Scottish Story Telling Centre and Bleather Tay-gether.