One of the unexpected joys of Amberley Publishing's "Through Time" series is just how flexible the formula proves to be in practice. The aim is to bring the past to life in a very immediate way, by showing old photographs of the place being covered, and allowing the reader to compare them directly with modern photographs of the same locations. The flexibility comes in through the way different authors interpret the brief: and in the scale of the subject being covered, which can range from individual buildings such as railway stations, through to entire large cities.
Walter Burt's photographs will be familiar to anyone who has read his books on buses and trams in different parts of Fife. Now he has turned his attention to the town of Kirkcaldy, and the result is a lovely evocation of a place that has in some ways changed a great deal during the photographic era. Kirkcaldy is also known as the "Lang Toun" (Long Town) because it stretches for over four miles along the north shore of the Firth of Forth, yet for much of its history it extended not much more than a quarter of a mile inland. Development in the past century has pushed inland, but the sheer length of Kirkcaldy remains its most striking feature.
"Kirkcaldy Through Time" takes the reader on a photographic tour of Kirkcaldy, starting at its most south westerly point, and progressing up the coast from there. The author has taken a fairly strict interpretation of the brief, assembling old photographs of parts of the town, then setting out to take photographs to show what the same scenes look like today. The effect of this can be striking: as we see the Raith Ballroom converted into the Rhema Church for example; or the way excessive ash tipping from a local colliery changed the currents along the shore and, as a result, the very shape and character of the coastline itself. And it is very tempting to wonder whether the book will be picked up and browsed by any of the householders whose modern houses are shown in the very first pair of images to be directly on the site of the large tower that carried the winding gear of Seafield Colliery. In some places it is striking how much continuity there has been over the decades, with many pairs of images of the centre of the town showing remarkably little change beyond an increase in the size of the trees and the number of vehicles on the road. This book is essential reading/viewing for anyone with an interest in Kirkcaldy.