The Whyte-Melville fountain on Market Street will soon be returned to working order, as Fife Council plans to restore it to its former glory.
It has been many years since water last flowed through the 134-year-old fountain; local accounts suggest it was last active in the 1930s. Fife Council’s North East Fife Area Committee aims to change that, however, having unanimously backed the reinstatement of water to the St Andrews landmark at a recent meeting. Work began on the monument at the end of last month.
The council itself will not be splashing out on the fountain, with funds arriving from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the Pilgrim Foundation, alongside £10,000 from the St Andrews Common Good Fund.
Plans for a spouting fountain ran into hot water when a risk assessment by Fife Council officials found that a high water flow rate could lead to an increased risk of Legionnaires’ disease. The disease thrives in fine mist conditions at temperatures between 20 and 45 degrees centigrade. Consequently, a lower water pressure will be used to minimise the mist created and a sterilisation unit will be installed.
Speaking to The Courier, St Andrews councillor Dorothea Morrison questioned whether such a compromise might mean that “the water is going to be more of a drip than a gush”.
She also questioned whether the presence of water could lead to students bathing in the structure: “At Raisin Weekend, there was a lot of student activity around the fountain. We’ll need to make sure that in future there are not people splashing around.”
The Whyte-Melville fountain is named after Major George Whyte Melville. Born in 1821 at Mount Melville near St Andrews, he was educated at Eton and went on to become a captain in the Coldstream Guards in 1846. After retiring from British Army service, he began to translate the works of Roman poet Horace from Latin.
Melville subsequently published his first novel Digby Grand in 1853, which was a notable success. He went on to write 21 novels, amongst them the famous historical work The Gladiators. Many of his books were written on the topic of hunting, owing to Melville’s experiences as an accomplished horseman.
Although hailing from Scotland, he spent much of his life in England, and died in a riding accident in Oxfordshire in 1878.
After Melville’s death, his mother Lady Catherine decided to commemorate his legacy by erecting a fountain in his honour. Funded by public subscription, it was completed in 1880, occupying a position in the centre of Market Street where it stands to the present day.