Friday, 11 October 2013

“From our Photographic Collection”, by Pat Harvey



  The first time I saw this photograph it was on display in one of our exhibitions some years ago. I was horrified and couldn’t believe the Curator was displaying a dead bird in a dog’s mouth!

   The exhibition was “Every Home Comfort” and was about St Andrews Hotels, past and present. The picture was with information on West Park Hotel which was in St Marys Place where the Students’ Union now stands. It was built in 1866 by David Bryce, an Edinburgh architect, presumably as a house.  It became a hotel in the 1900s and was run throughout its history by the Stewart family.  During the First World War it was used to billet officers.  The Stewarts originally leased the hotel, but with the money made from accommodating the officers, they were able to buy the property.  It had over an acre of beautiful gardens and was known as a popular place for quiet afternoon teas. There are some good photographs of the hotel and grounds in the Museum’s Collection.

  The answer to the photograph was as follows:-  Ross, the dog, and David, the pigeon, belonged to the Stewart family and “performed” for hotel guests.  The pigeon, which was very much alive, was perfectly safe in the retriever’s soft mouth.  They were the best of friends.  Sometimes David perched on Ross’ head or sat on his back. The photographs (we have another five) were probably taken by Mr Cowie. They appeared in newspapers of the day c. 1936.

  The University bought the hotel in 1967, demolished it and built a new Students Union on the site.  There was considerable objection at the time.