IT was built with a bequest of £5000 from Elizabeth Duncan and now more than 150 years on the benefactor has been featured on a mural to marks her contribution.

The Duncan Institute in Cupar, Fife, is due to reopen its doors today following a period of lockdown and at the end of last year it celebrated a milestone anniversary since it first opened in 1870.

In 1867, Miss Duncan left £5000 – worth around £600,000 today – for the building of a ‘Mechanic’s Institute’ in her home town.

A special mural to mark the anniversary was created by Scots artist Celie Byrne and will greet those returning to the historic library for the first time today.

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Visitors will be to view a newly completed mural, spanning three floors, described as being vibrant, colourful and fun.

Byrne, the daughter of artist John Byrne, has created a fresh new look for the inside entrance that celebrates the joy of reading and the generosity of the building’s benefactor.

The giant mural features a painted red ribbon, adorned with stars, that mimics the course of the River Eden, which flows through the town. The ribbon leads visitors upstairs to the reference and local studies room.

Inscribed in the ribbon is a quote by the Turkish writer Mehmet Murat Ildan: “The bright stars of the skies are far to touch; but there are other shiny stars that you can touch easily: the books of the libraries.

Visitors can also put a face to the name of the person who brought the building into being. Beside the door to the main library, Byrne has created a striking portrait of Miss Duncan.

Generations of local people have enjoyed Miss Duncan’s legacy since the building’s official opening on December 13 1870.

The Duncan Institute was established for the workers of Cupar, Dairsie and Kilconquhar parishes. Miss Duncan, born in 1782, was the daughter of Alexander Duncan, a shoemaker from Kilconquhar in Fife. A shrewd business woman who never married, she left a large estate and provided the funds for the building that would later become the home to library.

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Byrne's inspiration was an oil painting of Miss Duncan that is normally kept in storage. The mural also features a quote from the benefactor’s will and a detail from one of the library's stained glass windows.

For Byrne, who predominantly paints portraits but also produces large-scale murals, it has been a labour of love. The Kelty artist has known the building for many years as her uncle Robert Simpson, was a science teacher at Cupar’s Bell Baxter High School.

“I’ve really enjoyed working on the project,” says Byrne, who first gained a UK-wide profile in the 2011 BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

“I’m pleased with all of the mural’s different elements. Painting Miss Duncan’s portrait allowed me to capture the essence of someone who was dedicated to the wellbeing of her community.”

Byrne has also recently completed a hand-painted vase for the Art in Mind project, one of 46 unique designs, which will go on display at the Glasgow Print Studio next month ahead of being auctioned in aid of mental health charity, the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

Susan Allan, OnFife Libraries' facilities and services supervisor, is delighted that a new look entrance will welcome visitors when the building reopens after lockdown.

Ms Allan said: “We’re so pleased with the joyful work that Celie Byrne has created. After 150 years, this iconic building is still serving people in a way that would surely have pleased Elizabeth Duncan.”

Such institutes were a popular response to an increased interest in education and served to provide classes in science and technology, as well as access to books for the working classes.

A design competition was won by John Milne of St Andrews, an architect with a love of Gothic, whose entry was described as ‘an embellishment to the town’ and a ‘great improvement to the locality’. Fife had not seen anything quite like it before.

The Institute’s Scots baronial style, with turrets, grotesques, stained-glass rondels, different window styles on each floor, and 114-foot twisted “broach” spire certainly stood out. Perhaps a little too much – for, in January 1874, strong gales knocked three feet off the top.