January, 25th | Miss Duncan’s Legacy
Cupar Heritage is pleased to be continuing its activities, albeit largely limited to on-line events. On 25 January, we hosted the first of our monthly talks on ZOOM. The speaker was Andrea McMillan, who gave a very good talk on the “The Duncan Institute”, which we all know as Cupar Library. Andrea herself works in Cupar Library and is Local Studies Supervisor
Andrea began her talk with Miss Elizabeth Duncan, after whom the Building was named. Miss Duncan was the sister of Alexander Duncan and they both lived at Ednngrove House, Dairsie, about three miles east of Cupar. Miss Duncan died in 1867 and was buried in Kilconquhar graveyard. In her will, she left the substantial sum of £5000 for the building of a Museum and Mechanics Institute in Cupar, the county town, “for the improvement of the working classes”.
Miss Duncan’s Trustees took the design of the substantial project out to a competition, which was won by John Milne of St Andrews, who was known for his fondness for the Gothic style. The building was completed successfully and was the subject for a grand opening on 13 December 1870, when the inaugural lecture was given by Professor Tulloch of St Andrews University.
The building was operated as a Trust right through until 1972, when Fife Council took it over and undertook a substantial refurbishment, with the ground floor converted into Lending library for the town. The large Duncan Room became the Local Archives room, and most of the museum collection was transferred to the main Fife Council store in Glenrothes. The Duncan Institute building and the Library have continued to have a very special place in the heart of Cupar.
There was a lively discussion after the talk. Many drew attention to Miss Duncan as a fine local example of the Victorian benefactor. Cupar benefits from a number of others, including Duffus Park, Knox Cottages, and Nicholson Cottages. There was more discussion on the Cupar Museum material in Fife Council and whether some items at least could be returned to Cupar. Andrew McMillan received a warm vote of thanks for an excellent talk.