Adam Smith Halls
No historic figure is more synonymous with Kirkcaldy than Adam Smith.
His fame and influence were truly worldwide - and yet it was almost 100 years after his death that a memorial to him was raised in Kirkcaldy.
Even then it took some 13 years from conception to completion.
Our story follows the sometimes tortuous process to create the building we still know today.
In depth written study
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ADAM SMITH HALLS
Kirkcaldy born Adam Smith was one of the most celebrated figures of the period known as the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’. Although in his grave for over two centuries, Smith’s work in the fields of economics, philosophy and moral philosophy, live on. He is widely recognised as the “Father of Economics”.
Kirkcaldy’s major tribute to Smith is the hall named after him on Bennochy Road. Our narrative this month looks at the planning, construction and difficulties, associated with the Hall’s erection.
While it might have been anticipated that his native town would be the first to erect a monument to his memory; this was not the case. It was close to the centenary of his death before a memorial was proposed. This was led by a private individual as opposed to the Town Council, although the individual concerned was Provost at the time.
Smith had died in 1790 and it was only in 1886 when the first steps were taken towards a commemorative building in Kirkcaldy.
Michael Beveridge was the then Provost and the centenary of Smith’s death would fall during Michael’s term in office. He had always considered Kirkcaldy to be the rightful place for a national landmark. He called both private and public meetings with the intention of raising funds by subscription for the intended tribute, which was to take the form of a hall and free library. Without question this was warmly welcomed and the Adam Smith Memorial Committee was formed, with both local and national figures of repute in their ranks. Men of such stature as the Duke of Buccleuch, Lord Rosebury (who became Prime Minister), and Lord Elgin were all associated with the project.
The intention was to secure subscriptions in the Kirkcaldy area and then extend the net as far and wide as possible. Beveridge never wanted a statue – his wish was something tangible and useful – hence the idea of a hall and library.
Subscriptions had reached over £8,000 towards the £15,000 target when tragedy struck. Michael Beveridge, after a brief illness, died in March 1889. Very quickly it became known that he had left £50,000 in his 1888 Will for the provision of a park, hall and library. Given this news – subscriptions had to cease.
Subscriptions could not be expected to continue when this sum was available. A potential difficulty was that the Memorial Fund had control of the subscriptions, while the Town Council were the trustees of the Beveridge legacy. This did indeed prove problematic.
The Committee knew that their £8,000 could not build a hall. The Council, as Trustees of Beveridge’s legacy, bought and equipped the park then invested £15,000 to meet the ongoing maintenance of both the park and proposed hall. This left the sum of around £11,000 which again on its own was insufficient for the intended purpose.
The answer was to form a joint committee and amalgamate the funds. After much deliberation and rancour this was achieved in 1892.
As we know however nothing is ever straightforward and easy in Kirkcaldy! Arguments over sites, plans, even over the name, all held up progress. One of the difficulties at the outset was that this joint committee could plan and make recommendations, but the full Town Council had the final say in any decision making. This most assuredly caused frustration, and made decision making a lengthy and unwieldy process.
The site was the major stumbling block. The preferred location was not central for the bulk of the population. The Beveridge Park had been opened at the western extremity of the town. With no Victoria Viaduct or trams, it was a lengthy walk to and from the park for many. This led to unrest and resentment that the new buildings should again be a distance away from the most populated parts of Kirkcaldy. Impasse!
Only the eventual use of part of the bequest (£2,000) to provide a branch library in the Pathhead Halls broke the impasse. As the Beveridge Will had stipulated ‘a library’ an opinion of counsel had to be sought to ensure it was possible to provide more than one.
With this obstacle overcome, it was now possible to set about designing and building the Halls. A competition was then held to select the design and the architectural practice of Dunn and Findlay of Edinburgh won the day. The completion rules and maximum cost set by the Council led to further issues, arguments and delays. One of the last major problems was the Council overturning the joint committee’s recommendation as to the colour of stone to be used.
However, while progress was slow, and with more questions being asked about the delays, in October 1899 the halls were opened by Andrew Carnegie. In recognition of Michael Beveridge’s philanthropy, the smaller hall and free library were named after him. The large hall was named after Adam Smith, meaning the town finally had a memorial to its famous son and the task was completed without funding from the public purse.
While not central to this story, Smith was the first Scotsman to appear on a Bank of England note. He also had earlier featured on a Clydesdale Bank note. His bust is also on display in the “Hall of Heroes” at the Wallace Monument.
His grave in the Canongate in Edinburgh had fallen into a poor condition and a £10,000 restoration was funded by Kirkcaldy born oil tycoon – Bob Lamond. A paving stone plaque was also laid outside the kirkyard with bronze bricks leading to the grave. Lamond, who in his business world attributes his success to following Smith’s principles, funded the work after comparing the condition of Smith’s grave with that of Karl Marx.
The Adam Smith Institute sought and secured public subscriptions to erect a ten foot bronze statue of Smith on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The sculptor was Alexander Stoddart and it was unveiled on the 4th July 2008.
It has been hailed as the world’s first major public monument to Adam Smith – is that really the case and were Michael Beveridge’s labours in vain?