Andrew Young

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Andrew Young
Burntisland photographer, artist and historian

Andrew Young

This photograph of Andrew Young was taken in 1887, when he was about 32 years of age. It is a reduced version of one of three photographs of Young which are displayed on the EdinPhoto website - well worth a visit anyway, and it also has a significant collection of material about Young's photographic work, together with some striking examples.

Born on 25 April 1854 in Burntisland, the son of Thomas Young and Elizabeth Herd.
(Young's memorial plaque in Burntisland Burgh Chambers has the wrong date, 1855.)
Married Janet Leitch on 29 December 1884.
Died of cancer on 22 January 1925 at 1 Bentfield, Burntisland.

(Since this article was written, two of Andrew Young's paintings ("The Bridge of Life" and "The Magistrates' Seat") have been restored. Please click here for details.)

AndrewYoung was a professional photographer in the relatively early days of commercial photography. He lived and worked in Burntisland, and his main studio was in a close off the High Street - the one which still bears the name of the now defunct Archway Joinery. His home was at 1 Bentfield. (Bentfield is now part of Kinghorn Road, and Young's house is the one immediately to the east of Lochies Road.)

His reputation as a photographer spread far beyond his native Burntisland, and he was a significant contributor to prestigious publications such as Cassell & Company's 'Sights and Scenes in Scotland' - a circa 1900 subscription-only publication in four volumes with around 225 large scale photographs, 'Dedicated by Special Permission to Her Majesty Queen Victoria'.

He was also a distinguished artist, and a number of his paintings are currently on display in the Burgh Chambers, High Street, Burntisland (see video on YouTube). And he was a keen student of local history, which led to his writing what was at the time the definitive work on the history of the town: 'History of Burntisland: Scottish Burgh Life More Particularly in the Time of the Stuarts' - the 1st edition in 1913, and the 2nd edition in 1924.

Young also took his civic responsibilities seriously. He had a great interest in Burntisland's historic Parish Church, and from 1907 he painstakingly restored many of its old and intricate panels. Among his other interests, he was a member of Burntisland School Board.

Regrettably, it is impossible to do justice to Andrew Young's work within the limitations of a website. The following examples (particularly the paintings) can therefore do no more than give an indication of what the originals are like.

Ginnett's Circus Procession (undated)

Ginnett's Circus Procession

Here Young has captured on film the day the circus came to town, with a traditional parade along Burntisland High Street. Copy courtesy of Fife Council Museums: Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery.

A Scottish Fair (1910)
Copy courtesy of Fife Council Museums: Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery.

This painting from 1910, while called "A Scottish Fair", is based on the annual summer fairground on Burntisland Links. Young is reputed to have created it as a wedding present for the couple who are pictured centre stage (with some of their relations also appearing). It has been suggested that it was later on display in the Crown Tavern in Links Place until the early 1980s. The late Cathie Watson believed it was eventually sold to a buyer in the United States.

The whereabouts of the painting remained unknown until October 2007, when Cathie's information proved correct. The painting appeared in the catalogue for a sale of Victorian and Traditionalist Paintings to be held by Christie's at their London salerooms the following month. Christie's said that they were acting for a seller on the west coast of America, and their pre-sale estimate for the painting was £40,000 to £60,000. The general opinion in Fife was that this was an unrealistically high estimate for a painting by a relatively unknown artist. Christie's had the last laugh, however. At the sale on 15 November 2007, "A Scottish Fair" sold for an astonishing £61,700. Already a photographer of national importance, Andrew Young joined the big league of painters. Although the name of the buyer of the painting is not being revealed, Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery were able to borrow it in 2009 and put it on public display as the centrepiece of their exhibition of Andrew Young's work.

Burntisland grocer and wine merchant Thomas Thomson, who had shops in the High Street and Hampden Place, chose the painting as the main feature on his 1917 calendar with the title "All the Fun of the Fair". It is possible that was Andrew Young's original title. The calendar was on strong card and the print of the painting was of good quality. Copies of the calendar still survive. A number of local folk went a step further - they cut out the print and had it framed, and these copies also come to light occasionally.

We are grateful to John Burnett for unearthing the following two stories about the painting. The first is that it was offered for sale to Burntisland Town Council at some stage and that the Town Council didn't take up the offer; it was then sold to a Mr Harrower, proprietor of the Crown Tavern. The second is that the model for the dancing sailor (right foreground in the painting) was Thomas Huntley Wood, whose principal claim to fame was that he was also the model for the famous sailor on the old Player's cigarette packets. After serving in the navy for 24 years, Thomas Wood joined the Coastguard service and served at Queensferry, Burntisland, West Wemyss and East Wemyss. When he retired from the Coastguard service he worked in the Grange public house in West Wemyss; and eventually moved to Sussex where he died in 1951, aged 83.

The Magistrates' Seat (1906)

This painting of the Magistrates' Seat of Burntisland Parish Church is in the Burgh Chambers, Burntisland. It is valued, not only for its intrinsic merit, but also because it records for posterity some of the town's personalities of the day. It was completed at the end of 1906 (Fifeshire Advertiser, 5 January 1907).

Provost Robert Livingstone of Burntisland, in his series 'Burntisland Past and Present' (published in the Fife Free Press in January-March 1955) had this to say about the painting:

"The painting ... includes many members of the congregation who are or have been well-known in the community.

In the Magistrates' seat the figures are, reading from left to right:- Mr Robert Kinnell, Town Officer; Dean of Guild Archibald Stocks; Bailie J.C. Wallace; Provost Duncan Ferguson; Bailie C.W. Dallas; and Treasurer John Paterson.

Members of the congregation on the left downstairs are:- First seat - Mr James Bissett and Miss Jessie Bissett (later Mrs Mackenzie Dallas); third seat - Mrs Inglis and Mr John Young. Right downstairs:- Front seat - Miss Walls and Miss Dolly Pickherd (later Mrs Crow); second seat - Miss Kate Macleod; back seat - Mr George Kinninmonth (later Provost of Burntisland) and Mrs Andrew Young (wife of the artist). Upstairs [not shown in the detail above]:- Left side - Mr Fred Young, Miss Maggie Erskine, Mr Andrew Anderson and Miss Agnes Melville (later Mrs Dan Gow); right side - Miss Mina Erskine (Mrs John Isles), Mr Wm. Crow, Mr W.D. Painter and Miss Arnott.

This fine painting with all the colours of the Provost's and Magistrates' robes and the bright colours of the ladies' dresses makes a fine centre piece for the long plain wall just above the old fireplace."

The Bridge of Life (1923)

Andrew Young's inspiration for this painting was "The Vision Of Mirza", an allegorical essay by Joseph Addison (1672-1719). The painting brings to life Addison's allegorical symbolism - the bridge is human life, the valley is the vale of misery, and the water is the tide of eternity. There are trapdoors on the bridge and the bridge is crumbling.

Andrew Young used local people as the characters in the painting. We discovered a key to the characters which identifies many of them and this is reproduced below.

85 John Smith; 84 Rev. Hardie; 83 Meg Erskine; 82 Baillie Bruce; 81 Unknown; 80 Davy Saunders; 79 Rev Snow (St Serfs); 78 Andrew Young (painter); 77 Andrew Lawson; 76 Unknown; 75 Unknown; 74 Gurkha servant of Mr Young (number 72) ; 73 Mrs J Clark; 72 Mr Young (from India); 71 Unknown; 70 Unknown; 69 Alex Fowler; 68 Mr Laidlaw; 67 J Ross; 66 F Duncanson; 65 Kate Alexander; 64 Unknown; 63 Mr Gilmour (Town Clerk); 62 Unknown; 61 Davy Saunders; 60 Andrew Young (painter); 59 A D Leslie; 58 M Duncan; 57 Unknown; 56 M Rool; 55 Ben Alexander; 54 W Duncanson; 53 George Stocks; 52 Willie Duncanson; 51 M Douthwaite; 50 Mrs E Douthwaite; 49 George Lumsden; 48 Girlie Wilson; 47 Bunty Brown or Meg Robb; 46 Robert Brown or Al Robb; 45 Magnus Robb?; 44 Evelyn Graham.

Miniatures (1905 and 1925)

Provost Duncan Ferguson

Provost Duncan Ferguson (1905)

Unknown gentleman

Unknown gentleman (1925)

Inscription on the reverse

Inscription on the reverse

All photos courtesy of Pete Cashman

Pete Cashman, an antiques dealer in Bath, Somerset, emailed us in December 2005 about a pair of Edwardian miniatures which had found their way to his part of the world and which he had acquired. It was only when he dismantled them for cleaning that he discovered that they were by Burntisland’s Andrew Young. Young had signed both on the back, and added brief details. The left hand picture is “Portrait drawn on ivory of Duncan Ferguson, Esq., Provost of Burntisland (1905) by Andrew Young.” The right hand one is “Jan. 1925. Painted by Andrew Young, Artist.” Young died on 22 January 1925, so the January 1925 miniature could well have been his last work.

Pete commented: “Both are identical in size which is 73mm high by 60mm wide excluding the frames. They are very well painted (in watercolour on ivory) by a known artist. Incidentally Andrew Young is catalogued and mentioned in Daphne Foskett's book, Miniatures (Dictionary & Guide), which is the bible for collectors. We will be asking £180 for Mr. Ferguson and £150 for the other gentleman, or £300 the pair. These well executed Edwardian miniatures are quite sought after these days.” Pete can be contacted at or at 11 Percy Place, London Road, Bath.

For historical reasons, it would be interesting to know who the gentleman in the right hand picture is. If anyone recognises him, perhaps they would be kind enough to contact us.

The other 'A Young'

Alexander Young's signatureOn a couple of occasions, people have contacted us about pictures of Fife locations which they have and which are signed 'A Young' in the distinctive form pictured right. They wondered if the signature was that of Andrew Young of Burntisland. One of the enquirers was Graham Main. We weren't able to help him, but he eventually found the answer himself. The pictured signature is that of Edinburgh artist Alexander Young (1865-1923), who lived in Pittenweem in his later years and who painted many village scenes in the East Neuk of Fife - some of which were reproduced as prints and postcards. We're grateful to Graham for the information and the copy of the signature.

Webpage by Iain Sommerville;
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