IN THIS week’s trip down West Fife’s Memory Lane, we look at some of the venues that once provided entertainment for the people of Dunfermline.
The first is the ‘Music Hall and City Theatre’, situated off Guildhall Street, which opened with a grand concert on December 30, 1852. The Main Hall held 1,500 people, and in 1860 a large gallery holding a further 500 patrons was added with its entrance in Fishmarket Close (now called Music Hall Lane).
Our first image shows the pyramidal roof of the building as seen from the Abbey graveyard. The venue attracted variety companies from around Britain, as well as dioramas, concerts (including the Dunfermline Philharmonic Society), minstrel shows, lectures, exhibitions, dinners and balls. A ball was organised for the annual trades holiday in August 1865 with newspaper reports praising it as being able to “catch the various excursionists as they enter the city and prevent them mauling their bodies and brains in the public houses. A very good conclusion too for us to be able to carry on the fun in jigging and strathspeying till cock-crow”. The building was converted to a picture house, La Scala, in 1913 (known locally as ‘the Scratcher’) and was later destroyed by fire in 1924.
Our next photograph shows St Margaret’s Hall which was built in 1878. Comprising three storeys, it had a large hall with a gallery, as well as an orchestra and organ gallery holding 1,400 people. A lesser hall for lectures held 600 and it also had committee rooms and a reading and library room, with the top floor having two large billiard rooms. In January 1904, the Carnegie Trust started its first series of concerts in the venue by engaging the Scottish Orchestra of 80 players. Such was its popularity, hundreds of people had to be left outside. It later became a dance hall. The building was damaged badly by a fire in 1961 after a boxing tournament organised by the rival Kinema Ballroom proprietors. It was later demolished and the site taken over for an extension to the Carnegie Central Library.
In the next photograph, the entrance to the cine-variety hall, the Olympia, in Canmore Street can be seen, just along from the Alhambra, that opened in 1911 holding around 1,350 people (it developed from the Central Rolling Skater Rink which had opened in 1909 with a balcony, tearoom and a gallery for the orchestra). By 1914, the Olympia had been enlarged, with a new entrance on the High Street. It was demolished in 1929 and our final photograph shows the Regal Picture House which replaced it, opening in December 1931. The Regal closed in June 1976 and the site was later used for the construction of a Littlewoods Store, which today is home to Primark.
More photographs like these can be seen in the Local Studies Department of Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries when it re-opens, and also at facebook.com/olddunfermline. A series of ‘Old Dunfermline’ DVDs featuring old images and archive footage of Dunfermline is available online at olddunfermline.com/shop