Ex Deacon Convener Graeme Nicol accepted an invitation to visit an event at St Andrews town hall on Saturday 7th May entitled – Craftsmen of St Andrews Past and Present. The event was inspired by the early modern craft books, specifically the books of the Fleshers, Baxters and Hammermen – which are held within Special Collections at the University of St Andrews’ library.
Led by Dr Claire Hawes, and funded by a Cultural Engagement Award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the research is linked with the Medieval St Andrews project and run within the university’s Institute of Scottish Historical Research. Dr Hawes commented that: “In an age of mass production it is easy to forget the importance of craftsmanship. These skills have shaped our society for hundreds, if not thousands of years. This project gives a new perspective on the history of the town, and connects it to the exciting range of skilled crafts and trades in the area today.”
Three original craft books, recording the meetings of the craft guilds active in St Andrews from around 1550 up to the 1800s, a rich source for the history of the town, were on display in cases and facsimile pages were also available as were the staff from Special Collections will be available to discuss the books themselves.
A palaeography quiz allowed attendees to test their ability to read the Old Scots handwriting found within the books, and a number of maps, drawings and photographs depicting craft and life in St Andrews over the centuries
To complement and contrast the historical aspects of crafts in St Andrews, attendees were treated to displays of Traditional butchery, baking and blacksmith skills. The centrepiece of the event will be talks and demonstrations by three craftsmen.
Stuart Minick talked about the challenges of modern day butchery and demonstrated jointing a whole lamb, showing not only the skills of the flesher but also the changing styles of butchery by presenting half of the lamb in today’s cuts and those in vogue a century ago.
Mihai Cocris spoke about the craft of the blacksmith and demonstrated several skills and techniques of joining metal pieces in his lively metalwork display.
Finally Murray Barnett provided an interesting talk on the craft of baking while providing a delicious demonstration of his work.
The St Andrews Photographic Society used the topic of Craftsmen of St Andrews Past and Present as a focus for their members to find and capture craft skills of North East Fife in action. Their efforts were displayed in an exhibition of their work. There were around 40 such photographs and Ex Deacon Convener Nicol was asked to judge them and award prizes for pictures which best evoked the ethos of the craftsman and his skills.
The numbers of visitors to the event was around 80 – 100 across five hours representing all ages. Most stayed for quite a time and clearly found much of interest.