Panoramic peacocks: a Dunfermline discovery

On a recent trip to Dunfermline I took a stroll through the abbey graveyard and stopped to admire the diverse architecture surrounding me, from where I stood I could see the City Chambers, Dunfermline’s oldest building Abbot House or ‘The Pink Hoose’ and the award winning Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries. I thought I would capture the scene by taking a panoramic photograph using an app on my smartphone but with a wobbly horizon and an unsteady panning technique my results left a lot to be desired!

My experience of panoramic photography might have been more successful had I been in possession of the ‘Al Vista Panoramic Camera’, a camera donated to the museum in 1969 by a resident of Dunfermline.

Released in 1902, the Al Vista camera allowed the photographer to take panoramic photographs with relative ease. Instead of the photographer panning the scene, the camera is held in a fixed position, the film is exposed by the lens sweeping across the film mounted inside the camera. This short video gives a demonstration of it in use:

Looking in the object folder for the camera I discovered that the donor had supplied several photographs that his brother had created in the 1920’s using the camera now in our possession.

The scenes will be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with one of Dunfermline’s best assets, Pittencrieff Park:

The ‘Louise Carnegie Gates’ at the entrance to Pittencrieff Park or ‘The Glen’ as it is more commonly known by the local population. In 2019, Pittencrieff Park was voted as the best public park in Scotland and was shortlisted for the ‘UK’s Best Park’ award organised by Fields in Trust.

Pittencrieff House and the spire of Dunfermline Abbey in the background, the park remains popular with dog walkers today and the benches in front of the house still provide a place to sit and enjoy the beauty of the park.

It’s possible that this photograph was taken in the park on the annual Gala day. We can see the Glen Pavilion in the background, I love the men in their plus fours on the right.

My favourite photograph is this one, taken outside the Glen Pavilion with the catering staff posing in their starched aprons and hats.

When I zoomed in closer it cheered me to see one of the famous peacocks of Pittencrieff Park!

The park and the rest of Dunfermline still offers a home for a growing number of peacocks (they’ve all been awarded freedom of the city status) but what sets the 21st century birds apart from their predecessors is that of course they have their own social media account.

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