By Dr Duncan Comrie, Secretary of Falkirk Made Friends
It may be of interest to the public to know the significance of the regeneration of the red phone box, a solid example of public service and Scottish engineering skill.
Since 1937 the model K6 red telephone box in Burntisland High Street has helped Fifers through good times and bad times. In this case a phone box that served the public throughout World War Two, and up ‘til 2020, with an open all hours phone service. It would have been a 'local hero' to many, an ever ready access point to the 999 emergency services. Now, a tonic to the pandemic, it makes a new connection with the public.
The mobile phone has displaced the K6’s original role as a key worker - providing universal public access to telecommunications and the emergency services - yet it has now been saved from removal and regenerated as a time machine, a repurposing, in a new creative way connecting the public with the history of the town.
Ian Archibald and the Burntisland Heritage Trust, with the input of BT and working with the Evolve Group, a print, sign and marketing business who are sympathetic neighbours, have, in the space of a year, between them transformed the K6. They have repaired, repainted and installed innovative graphics which celebrate both its historic role as a public pay phone kiosk, reconnecting it with a new purpose; displaying a time line of the area’s innovations and heritage.
Marking significant events and achievements from 2000BC: In 1652 the Highland Games; in 1786 a malt whisky distillery; and many engineering achievements, including the British Aluminium alumina works, a shale oil refinery and fifty years of shipbuilding. The phone boxes were made possible by locally quarried lime stone from Newbigging, Burntisland, which was shipped to Carron Co’s foundry in Falkirk where it was an essential ingredient in making pig iron, which was sold to foundries, including the maker of this phone box, the Lion Foundry in Kirkintilloch. The General Post Office paid a great compliment to Scottish engineers because almost all cast iron phone boxes were made by four central Scotland foundries, the Lion, Carron Co, MacFarlane’s Saracen and McDowall Steven over the period 1927-1983.
Burntisland Heritage Trust, a voluntary group of local enthusiasts, sets an excellent example for the new role a regenerated phone box can play, reused as a communicator of the achievements of a place, as a testament to the beginnings of an equalising public service, and maintaining in use a great product of Scottish engineering achievement.
Below - three photos of the Burntisland phone box outside the Public Library in the High Street, in its new role in 2021.
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