The East Fife Members Centre
National Trust for Scotland

30 January 2020Newsletter for 2019
14 January 2020Membership application/renewal form now available
22 December 2019Dates for your new diary in 2020!
12 June 2019Report on the June 2019 trip to North Wales
08 April 2019Monday morning coffee mornings at Kellie start again
25 May 2018General Data Protection Regulation document for the EFMC is now on this website
09 March 2018Report on the AGM and celebratory lunch at the Old Manor Hotel
15 August 2017Report on outing to Barry Mill, House of Dun and Aberlemno Pictish Stones
13 July 2017Report on outing to St Mary's Song School and Culross
01 June 2017Report on Outing to the Isle of Man
12 May 2017Newsletter May 2017
12 May 2017Report on annual coffee morning and talk on 'White Gold'
29 November 2016New photographs of beautiful alpacas at Kellie
27 November 2016Newsletter - November 2016 - from the Chairman
18 October 2016Report on the talk on Box Beds by David Jones
20 September 2016Report on the Evening concert at Kellie Castle with newly restored and restrung fortepiano
29 August 2016Hill of Tarvit award!
03 July 2016Report on visit to Liverpool, June 2016
01 June 2016Newsletter 2016 - from the Chairman
01 June 2016Newsletter 2016 - Work at Balmerino
01 June 2016Newsletter 2016 - from the Treasurer
01 June 2016Newsletter 2016 - report on the annual lunch
07 May 2016Report on outing to House at the Binns and Bo'ness steam railway
14 April 2016Report on Annual Coffee morning, Rufflets hotel
14 April 2016New gates at Hill of Tarvit
11 April 2016Annual Report of Trustees for the year 2015
16 March 2016Report on AGM, Hill of Tarvit
30 November 2015Report on EFMC Donations update for year 2015
01 November 2015From the Chairman, Newsletter November 2015
21 October 2015Report on presentation by Dakers Fleming on renovating Forgan Parish Church - ' Let us build a house where love can dwell'
29 July 2015Report on day visit to Kirkcaldy and Wemyss Castle Gardens, July 29 2015
01 July 2015Report on visit to Dunfermline Churches
01 June 2015Report on Northern Ireland visit, June 1-5 2015
18 March 2015Report on talk on Scottish Redundant Churches Trust

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Newsletter for 2019
Thursday 30 January 2020

Happy New Year, and indeed new Decade, and welcome to the Annual Newsletter. I hope this update finds you well.

We have been struggling for some time to find replacement committee members and I would ask you to reflect on the open letter below from the current Committee, and whether you are able to make a contribution to the successful running of the EFMC.

On a happier note we had a very successful 2019 and there are some short reviews in the newsletter looking at some of the outings and lectures that took place. We are all looking forward to the upcoming events for 2020, and in particular the outing to the Hill House. You will recall that the EFMC donated £6k in 2018 towards the Hill House Box appeal.

Your Committee Needs You

(or someone like you)

As you know, the East Fife Members’ Centre is run by members who have volunteered to take on a planning role, running and organising events to raise funds which are used to support NTS properties, primarily those in our cluster.

We offer a range of activities, including one-day coach outings, a residential holiday, lectures, musical events, an annual lunch and some one-off events such as last year’s wildflower walk from Balmerino Abbey. The events are varied so that they appeal to as many as possible, and members are welcome to bring along visitors.

In recent years, we have seen a change in our demographic, in line with many other organisations. We are all getting older—that cannot be denied or changed!—and for multiple reasons, few younger people are joining our group. We have been in contact with the NTS staff who put together the newsletter that goes to all NTS members, and they have agreed to run an article drawing attention to the existence of Members’ Centres. The EFMC committee is also looking into the possibility of having NTS HQ send a letter on our behalf to all NTS members living in our catchment area, encouraging them to join the EFMC. We hope these initiatives will expand our membership.

Perhaps you know people who might be interested in joining the MC—for example, friends, neighbours, or perhaps someone taking a class that you also attend. We need to cast the net wide, because we are now in the situation where our continued existence cannot be guaranteed. We urgently need committee members willing to play an active role so that the load can be shared.

Office holders take on a three-year term and may stay on for a second term if they agree. But we do need an injection of fresh blood. We are delighted that Penelope Lycett, a volunteer guide at Hill of Tarvit, has recently taken over as Membership Secretary. However, the chair is already in his 4th year in post, as is the Events Coordinator who is hoping to stand down. Would anyone consider shadowing with a view to taking over a role?

Please do consider this request; the brutal reality is that without the committee to run events and outings, we will cease to exist, as has already happened with some members’ centres around the country.

The properties in our cluster, namely Kellie Castle, Hill of Tarvit, Falkland Palace, Balmerino Abbey and Branklyn Gardens, are immensely grateful for the funding we provide them to cover items that NTS Central cannot cover. But we can only provide items such as recent donations of defibrillators at Tarvit and Kellie, garden enhancements at Falkland, and essential work to protect a 500-year old tree at Balmerino, if we have raised sufficient funds.

If you are interested in learning about how you can play a more active role, please speak to any of our committee members.

This is our East Fife Members’ Centre. Please help us ensure its continued contribution to our area.


East Fife Members’ Centre Residential Trips

In this mailing you will notice the flyer produced by Brightwater Holidays for the trip they have custom- designed for our group. If offers a very full itinerary, an excellent range of visits, and a stay at the 4-star Loch Fyne Hotel and Spa.

And best of all, the logistics and transport are taken care of; all you need to do is book, pay and turn up with your suitcase and NTS membership card at your local departure point. We collect members from St Andrews, Cupar and Glenrothes before heading for the ferry from Wemyss Bay to the Isle of Bute.

It is already in my diary – by the time you read this, my booking form and £100 deposit will already have been sent. You might call it a perk of being on the committee, but I do not want to miss out on this! We suggest that members (and their friends) book by Monday 30 March. If there are still places available, we can then contact other Members’ Centres to advertise places. But should you miss that date and would still like to go, please call Brightwater to ask about availability. Their contact information is on the booking form, as is the tour code.

The first time I read about the EFMC residential holidays, I made the mistake of not giving it due consideration. Used to independent travel, I foolishly thought that a coach holiday was not for me. And so I passed up the opportunity to go on the visit to Northern Ireland.

I had only just joined the Members’ Centre, didn’t know other members, wasn’t sure what to expect and thought that perhaps I might not fit in.

As I got to know other members over the following months, many referred to their wonderful holiday, with a guide who seemed to have beguiled the group, taking them to a fascinating range of venues such as the Titanic exhibition and the Giant’s Causeway. They enjoyed their hotel and a full agenda, sharing lots of laughs and of course the places they visited sparked interesting conversations. And I knew that I had missed out.

So the following year, I paid much more attention to the Residential, and put my name down. I had never been to Liverpool, and frankly did not have enormously high expectations. But how mistaken I was. The trip was an eye-opener, and the range of places we visited was excellent, from the Tudor delights of moated Little Moreton Hall, to Jodrell Bank, taking the ferry across the Mersey (yes, we sang...) to visit The Lady Lever Art Gallery set in the planned garden village of Port Sunlight, to Quarry Bank Mill with its vast looms.

May 2017 saw the group sailing to the Isle of Man where our itinerary included all the major sights such as the Old House of Keys, Tynwald Hill, the Laxey Wheel, Peel Castle to name a few, yet still allowed for evening strolls along the front in Douglas.

Sadly in 2018 there were not enough bookings for the proposed Aberdeenshire Castles holiday to go ahead, but last year we were back in business, with a first rate holiday in North Wales. We stopped en route at Housesteads, a fort on Hadrian’s Wall where an expert guide entertained and informed with great enthusiasm.

Once in Wales, we were very fortunate in having an excellent guide, Richard North, who had previously worked for the National Trust and was super knowledgeable on every topic we quizzed him on. We were based in Caernarfon which allowed easy access to fascinating gardens and fine houses. The hotel was very comfortable with good meals, and on the first evening Richard gave a presentation to introduce some of the places we would visit. The following morning we crossed the Menai Strait into Anglesey to visit Plas Newydd where we were astounded by the very extensive Rex Whistler trompe l’oeil mural. The lovely gardens on the water are home to many mature trees and a healthy colony of red squirrels. Conwy is a pretty town, where some of us walked the city walls and we all visited the medieval Aberconwy House, home to a merchant and his stores, before walking across the Conwy Suspension Bridge.

Plas Cadnant, considered Wales’s Lost Gardens of Heligan, was a gem even in the rain. It includes a deep valley with river and waterfalls, and varied, colourful plantings. Penrhyn Castle was very forbidding, built to impress and intimidate by the Pennant family whose family fortunes derived from Jamaican sugar and Welsh slate.

The ride on the Ffestiniog railway, founded in 1832, was a delight and we learned about the demise of the slate industry and new ventures to provide employment. The last visit of the holiday was to Portmeirion which could not be more different from Penrhyn Castle. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis’s flamboyant, brightly coloured Italianate village, is beautifully sited on an estuary. Sitting in the sunshine, toasting another successful holiday with prosecco, it was hard to credit we were still in Britain, not in the Med.

In summary, the EFMC residential holidays have been very different, but common to them all has been a warm, welcoming atmosphere, hassle-free travel and arrangements, and above all a wonderful mix of properties and gardens. Tours exclusive to our group let us get much more out of our visits.

So do read through the information about this year’s Highland and Islands trip. For many, the highlight will be the private tour of Robert Lorimer’s masterpiece, Ardkinglas House and gardens. It only accepts tours by special arrangement, so this is a great opportunity. I for one am already looking forward to it.

Remember that non-members are also welcome to book on EFMC holidays, so feel free to pass the information leaflet to friends you think may be interested. If you have any questions, email me at or call 01333 310153.

Wildflower walk at Balmarino Abbey.

A small group met for an interesting walk on a Saturday afternoon in early May looking at wildflowers around Balmarino Abbey. The walk was led by Mr Harry Lawson from the Balmarino History Group offering a fascinating insight into the local plants. Evidence that some of the more unusual plants had been used by the monks from the Abbey for medicinal purposes. Wild juniper bushes along the shoreline of the Tay left us wondering about the possibility of an early Gin and Tonic !

Branklyn Gardens and Scone Palace.

A bus trip first to Branklyn Gardens on the outskirts of Perth and then on to Scone Palace. Branklyn boasts a rare collection of meconopsis (Blue Himalayan Poppies) and these were in bloom during our visit. There was a short talk on the history of the Garden before a stroll along the paths looking out for some impressive flowerings. Lunch was at Scone Palace after which there was an opportunity to visit the Palace and wander round the grounds, admiring the peacocks. The double portrait of Dido Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray, recent re-attributed to David Martin, was of particular interest.

Japanese Garden at Cowden and Kinnell House & Museum

This involved a bus trip round the Forth, stopping first at the Japanese Garden at Cowden, just outside Dollar. There was a short talk on the history of the garden and how it was being restored to its former glory, and then an opportunity to walk round the garden and take in the impressive vistas. Lunch was at Falkirk FC’s stadium with views overlooking the pitch, before continuing to Kinneil House at Bo’ness. We were met by Amy Mack from Historic Environment Scotland who gave us a full guided tour of the property, including the impressive painted rooms and the unfinished cartoons.

AGM and the Annual Coffee Morning.

We had a well attended AGM with lunch at the Old manor Hotel, Lundlin Links. The guest speaker was Mr Brian Robertson who spoke about Silverburn Park at Leven and its fascinating history as a Flax mill in the 19th Century. There has been significant redevelopment of the old mill building including a cafeĢ and tearoom and there are on- going plans for further sustainable developments.

The Annual Coffee Morning had Mr Tom Reid (‘The Doocot Man’) as the guest speaker. Tom gave a fascinating and very well illustrated talk on the Doocots of Fife, looking at different building styles and different periods. He looked at the keeping of pigeons, particularly valuable as a food source in winter, in earlier periods. The talk looked at some of the different uses that Doocots are now being put to.

Other Activities during 2019

‘Stagestruck’ Musical evening.

We were delighted to welcome ‘Stagestruck‘ to Hill of Tarvit for an evening of music and song in early September. With a number of popular songs, some accompanied on the Tarvit piano, it proved to be a hit with the audience even offering the opportunity to singalong to some of the numbers.

Running a Modern Diversified Estate October talk, Hill of Tarvit

Fascinating illustrated talk by Toby Anstruther on how the Balcaskie Estate has diversified into a number of different business areas and how this diversification is becoming ever more important for survival of rural estates. A look at a range of different activities on the estate including the Bowhouse food weekends, the micro-brewery and the various themed event evenings. Importance of locally sourced produce for the Kinneuchar Inn at Kilconquhar and building a solid reputation for quality dining.

Conservation Report

During November the Hill of Tarvit conservation sewing group worked for a few mornings on site at Kellie Castle.

There is a cover on a single bed in the Children’s Bedroom at Kellie Castle made of a wool fabric that has been embroidered with a bold crewel work design highlighted in places with gold thread.

The embroidery on the cover is very faded at the top of the bed but not so at the bottom. It must have, for some period of time, been partially exposed to light which would have caused this quite dramatic difference in colour from one end of the bed to the other. It’s interesting to note that the fabric of the cover is not faded just the embroidery. The Textile might not always have been a bedcover it could possibly in the past have been a curtain.

We re stitched the loose braid and piping on upholstery, the fringing and corners of the altar cover and the hem of dressing table skirt. As we looked around the Castle it was then we noticed that some of the gold thread on this bedcover had become detached and so the cover was removed to Hill of Tarvit where it could be laid flat on a large table to be worked on more efficiently.

Margaret May, Conservation Committee Member

Dates For Your Diary

  • Ø  Friday 13th March, Annual Lunch and AGM, Old

    Manor Hotel, Lundin Links

  • Ø  Wednesday, 22nd April, Annual Coffee Morning, The Scores Hotel, St Andrews

  • Ø  Tuesday, 2nd June, Outing to the Hill House and Box, Helensburgh. Bus pick-up points at St Andrews, Cupar and Glenrothes.

  • Ø  Wednesday 2nd – Saturday 5th September, Annual Residential trip to Bute, Gigha and Loch Fyne

    I look forward to meeting many of you at the lunch and AGM in March, and I hope you are able to lend your support to our 2020 programme.

    ....and finally would you be interested in editing to the Annual Newsletter for next year? If so could you please let me know, or advise one of the Committee members.

    Keith Otto, Treasurer EFMC, 15/1/2020, 07754706197