“Daft Archie” has returned home.
The 19th Century Dunfermline lads was thrust into the spotlight 200 years after he was a fixture on the town’s streets, thanks to Dundee University graduate Rachel McGarvey, with a bit of help from The Courier.
Archie Flockhart was one of two local characters described as “imbeciles” in annals.
The son of a shoemaker, Archie was born in Dunfermline in 1801 and died in Fife and Kinross Asylum in Cupar, at the age of 76.
After his death his skull became part of the phrenology collection of a Dr Spurzheim in Edinburgh.
Phrenology was based on a belief the measurement of bumps on the skull could predict mental traits.
Earlier this year his skull came into the hands of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design student Rachel, who used it to carry out an archaeological facial reconstruction for her MSc in forensic art.
Archie’s waxwork head was part of the university’s 2019 Masters Show.
The story in The Courier caught the eye of ONFife’s local studies officer Sara Kelly who got in touch with Rachel and asked if her piece could be displayed at Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries.
Archie will take up residence of the Reading Room for the next six weeks.
“We were so impressed that an artist had chosen to reconstruct the face of a Dunfermline character and were absolutely delighted when Rachel agreed that he could come ‘home’ for a short while,” said Sara.
“Archie’s story, although very sad, tells us a lot about the social situation of the times he lived in and seeing a face from the past helps to make the history more accessible.”
Archie was included in the book Reminiscences of Dunfermline from 1889, which will also be on display.
“Daft Archie” was described as “a man of huge bulk, whose features proclaimed him to be the victim of a gross appetite”.
Apparently he hated all kinds of work, on one occasion knocking over two pails of milk when his mother asked him to carry them to the top of a hill.
“He did not want to be anything else than ‘Daft Archie’, fed and feted by the hard-working people, who half pitied and half feared him,” the book recalled.
He was described as being distressed and violently angry when taken to a newly-opened workhouse and was only appeased by temporary liberation on Handsel Monday, the day of feasting.
By accounts he had no interest in snuff, tobacco or money but “a bit of beef-steak pie or a chunk of ham was of more value in his eyes than any number of golden sovereigns”.