One of the last wood-burning stoves in student accommodation has been extinguished. With the end of this final flame a part of St Andrews past has been lost. The chimney is one of Britain’s universal and quintessential features. For millennia it has been the constant for poor, rich, bourgeois and worker, whether you struggled under the constant belch of Victorian fumes or lived under the picturesque eves of those aristocratic crenellations. What was once essential is now obsolete, the quaint annoyance now a hazard in an ever-changing world.
It seems a tragedy of sentiment that in this small golden town I shall never again see the smoke of civilisation caught in a zephyr curl and form mirages of imagination. This miasmatic fog, both the burden of oppression and a badge of industry, will become the forgotten memories of a lost past. The chimneys from which it billowed will be but austere forlorn sentinels cursing the very warmth for which they hunger. Their black damask death mask will be the only ugly reminders of a primal past, merely gaunt tombstones haunting the streets below with recollection of another age. Doubtless even these tumuli will in time succumb to modernity and practicality.
With this demise the sound of St Andrews is forever transformed as the crackling calumny from the roof-tops shall fall silent, a deathly silence now to be replaced by the monotonous noise of the 21st century. Rather the interest of a deceitful murmur than the monolithic din of today.
These ancient figures were not however simply icons for romantic fervour but were the beating heart of the hearth and home. A place of industry and warmth in a cold world, a focal point around which the family gathered. It should not come as a surprise then that a student town has no need for such familial features, not surprising maybe but still deeply saddening.