A very good friend of mine, Alan Dawson, is some what of an art buff. In my humble opinion he has terrific taste and an eye for the artistic merits of all that is, well, art. Which is probably why he owns and runs an art gallery.
I took advantage of the recent fabulous sunny weather to visit Alan, on the opposite side of the Forth from my house, in a little Fife coastal village called Aberdour, where he lives and his art gallery also calls home. From the beach I could look across on the clear day to the impressive skyline of Edinburgh.
Aberdour started life as a harbour, a mini port, which is situated at the point where the River Dour enters the Forth. Aber is a Pictish word meaning confluence, and so evolved the name Aberdour.
The village also boats its own castle, now mostly a ruin and in the hands of Historic Scotland, but it is one of the earliest surviving castles on mainland Scotland, dating from around the 13th century.
Aberdour was beginning to feel like a medieval hot spot, as what felt like quite literally a stones throw from the beach, is the island of Inchcolm. In the centre of island is an Abbey, founded by the Bishop of Dunkeld in the 12th century, and at one time linked to St Columba.
Alan likes a project, and a couple of years ago he bought over the old butchers shop, with it's curved facade taking up a prominent corner site. It was just begging to be an art gallery in my opinion. Such is his eye for detail, he made sure that the renovation kept a hold of a lot of the original features of the old butchers shop. Don't worry, I'm not talking about pigs hanging from hooks, but certainly the hooks themselves are still there, now with pictures hanging from them.
But none of pigs sadly.
I am always impressed at the content of his gallery, as it is not your typical art house. The layout is reminiscent of someone's living room, and you feel comfortable as you wander around admiring pieces of original sculpture, jewelry, furniture, and of course, paintings.
When he first started negotiations for the shop, to his great surprise and delight, hidden away overlooking a small cobbled courtyard to the rear, was a small stone-built house adjoining the back of the property. He rolled his sleeves up and took on the challenge to bring it back to its former glory and the end result is impressive. He re-purposed old outbuildings, and with cleverly designed glass atriums and cunningly hidden connecting doors, brought these outbuildings into use of the main house.
Though this gallery is not even two years old yet, he has had a gallery in Aberdour for many years. That started life down at the harbour, which is where it got its current name, The Quay. Though he has moved location up onto the main street, he has remained on the original side of the Dour burn, so historically he remains in Wester Aberdour, for back in its early life, this now small town was actually two villages, separated by the Dour burn.
That changed in the late 19th century, when the railway reached the villages, with the building east of the line from the newly opened Forth Rail Bridge, and the ferry service to the harbour came to an end. It was now far quicker and safer to take the train across the Forth.
The ticket inspectors aboard the train crossing the bridge were known to sing, "half an hour, half an hour, half an hour to Aberdour, tickets please".