- KIRKCALDY, a royal burgh, a sea-port, and parish, in the district of Kirkcaldy, county of Fife, 14 miles (E. by N.) from Dunfermline, and 10 (N. by E.) from Edinburgh; containing 5275 inhabitants, of whom 4785 are in the burgh. This place derives its name from an ancient church founded here by the Culdees, and annexed, in the reign of David I., to the monastery of Dunfermline, into which that monarch had introduced an establishment of Benedictine monks from Canterbury. The origin of the town is very obscure, neither is there any authentic history of its early progress, though it is supposed that its proximity to the sea, and the abundance of fuel in the vicinity, induced numbers to settle here at a remote period, for the cultivation of commerce and manufactures. The first notice of the town occurs in a charter of David II., erecting it into a burgh of regality in favour of the abbot of Dunfermline and his successors, in whose possession it remained for more than a century. In 1450, it was granted by the commendator and convent to the bailies and community of the burgh, together with the harbour, the burgage acres, and common pastures, with all the tolls, customs, and other privileges pertaining to it, to be held by them for ever. This tenure, however, was subsequently altered; and instead of being one of the burghs of Dunfermline, the town was constituted a royal burgh, and invested with all the immunities enjoyed by royal burghs in their fullest extent; but, the original charter being lost, the date of this change cannot be precisely ascertained. Under these rights the town continued to flourish, and in 1622 contributed 1030 merks towards the relief of the French Protestants. It had, about this time, not less than 100 vessels belonging to the port, and had attained a degree of importance which placed it next in rank after St. Andrew's. In 1644, the privileges of the burgh were confirmed and extended by charter of Charles I., who created it de novo a royal burgh and free port; and the government, which had been previously exercised by two bailies and a treasurer, was vested in a provost, who was also admiral of the port, two bailies, a dean of guild, treasurer, and council.During the war in this reign the inhabitants embraced the cause of the parliament, and zealously subscribed the solemn league and covenant. They sent large numbers to join the army of the Covenanters; and at the battle of Kilsyth, in which they were defeated with great slaughter by the Marquess of Montrose, not less than 480 of the men of Kirkcaldy were killed. In the progress of the war the town suffered repeated injuries; and under the usurpation of Cromwell it continued to languish and decline. According to the burgh records, from the commencement of the civil war to the restoration of Charles II., as many as ninety-four vessels belonging to the port were captured by the royalists, or lost at sea; and in 1682 the town was reduced to such distress, that an application was made to the convention of royal burghs to take its poverty into consideration, and administer to its relief. At the time of the Revolution, the inhabitants, in the zeal of their attachment to the cause of William III., apprehended the chancellor of Scotland, the Earl of Perth, and, after detaining him for some time in custody under a guard of 300 men, delivered him to the Earl of Mar at Alloa. William, in return for their loyalty, granted the inhabitants an abatement of their annual assessment; and the town, with the trade of the port, now began to revive, and continued to prosper till the Union, when, in common with all the other sea-ports on the coast of Fife, it fell into decay. It then and afterwards suffered so much, indeed, that its shipping, in 1760, was reduced to one coasting sloop of sixty tons' burthen, and two ferry-boats of thirty tons each. From this time, however, the trade began to increase; and though it was much impeded by the disputes with America, it continued to advance, and at the conclusion of the war there were twelve vessels belonging to the place, which is now one of the most flourishing sea-ports in Fife.The town is situated on the north of the Frith of Forth, upon a narrow strip of level land at the base of a ridge of rising ground, and extends for a mile and a half along the shore, consisting principally of one street of, to a large extent, old ill-built houses. Towards the centre of this line, the street expands for some distance into greater width, containing numerous modern well-built houses of handsome appearance, and a few good inns. Considerable improvements have been for some time in progress; and the town has recently been enlarged by the formation of several streets diverging from the main line towards the sands on the south, and others built on the acclivities of the hills towards the north. The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas by a company who have erected works for that purpose; the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. Numbers of the ancient houses have been taken down, and rebuilt in a better style; and the town generally is in a state of progressive improvement. A subscription library is well supported, and contains a collection of more than 4000 volumes; a mechanics' library has also been established, in which are 1500 volumes; and there are two circulating libraries, comprising together nearly 3000. An institution has been formed within the last few years, in which lectures on literary and scientific subjects are regularly delivered during the winter months. Two public reading and news rooms are supported by subscription, and are well supplied with newspapers and periodical publications; and a weekly journal is published in the town. An agricultural association has also been founded, which holds meetings twice in the year, and awards premiums for samples of seed, the finest specimens of live-stock, and the best crops of every description raised in the district.The chief manufactures carried on are those of the various kinds of coarse linen, consisting of checks, striped holland, dowlas, ticking, sail cloths, and other articles, in which great improvements were some time since made by Mr. James Fergus, who adapted the manufacture of ticking, which had previously been made here for the manufacturers of Glasgow only, to the use of the English markets, and introduced the making of checks of cotton and linen mixed, drills, and ducks. The gross value of the linens manufactured is now estimated at £80,000 per annum, and, including the different descriptions of linen goods, £200,000 per annum, affording occupation to more than 1100 weavers, exclusively of hand-looms in private dwellings. Connected with the factories are extensive bleaching-grounds and dye-houses. There are several mills for the spinning of flax, in which about 6000 spindles of yarn are produced daily, and of which quantities are exported to France and other parts of the continent to the value of £60,000 annually; these mills are driven by steam-engines of twenty-horse power, and give employment to considerable numbers of females. The manufacture of steam-engines and the various kinds of machinery for the use of the mills, for which there are three establishments in the town, engages about 200 men. The manufacture of salt, formerly very extensive, is still carried on, but upon a limited scale; there are also two tanneries, two breweries, a distillery, and several collieries in the parish.The trade of the port consists chiefly in the exportation of yarn and various manufactured goods, coal, and agricultural produce; and in the importation of flax, timber, and other merchandize. The foreign trade is with North and South America, the Mediterraneant France, the Baltic, Norway, Denmark, Prussia, the Hanse Towns, and Germany: about ninety vessels from foreign parts annually visit the port. The coasting-trade is also considerable. The number of vessels registered in 1842 as belonging to the port was ninety-one, of the aggregate burthen of 8911 tons, and employing about 800 seamen. A couple of vessels are engaged in the whale-fishery, which was formerly much more extensive. Two smacks sail regularly from Kirkcaldy to London, and trading vessels to Leith and Glasgow; steam ferry-boats ply four times a day between this place and Newhaven, and contribute greatly to facilitate the trade of the town. The jurisdiction of the port extends over fifty-two miles of coast, from Aberdour, in the Frith of Forth, to the upper part of the bay of St. Andrew's, including the sub-port of Anstruther and various creeks. The harbour, which is under the direction of a number of trustees appointed under an act of parliament in 1829, is situated at the eastern extremity of the town, and is inclosed by two stone piers at the east and west ends. Though capacious, however, it is very inadequate for the trade of the port, being accessible to vessels of any considerable burthen only at spring tides. Attempts are consequently now in progress for its improvement, by the extension of the eastern pier under the superintendence of Mr. Leslie, civil engineer, of Dundee; the cost is estimated at £10,000, and further improvements are in contemplation, which, when carried into effect, will render it safe and convenient, at an expense of £40,000. The shore dues, from which the corporation derive their chief revenue, amounted in 1842 to £1715. The custom-house establishment consists of a collector, comptroller, land-surveyor, three land-waiters, and fourteen tides-men; and the amount of duties paid in 1842, according to official returns, was £4766.There are branches of the Bank of Scotland, the Commercial Bank, the National Bank of Scotland, and the Union Bank of Scotland, the buildings for which add much to the appearance of the town. The post-office has two deliveries daily; and in addition to the facilities of communication by steam-boats, the roads to Dundee, Perth, St. Andrew's, and Glasgow pass through Kirkcaldy. The chief market, which is amply supplied with corn, is on Saturday, and is attended by dealers from all parts; the average quantity of grain sold is about 35,000 quarters, of which 10,000 only are disposed of by sample, and the remainder in the stock market. Fairs for horses and cattle are held on the third Friday in February, the third Friday in July, and the first Friday in October. The government of the burgh, since the passing of the Municipal Reform act in the reign of William, has been vested in a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, and a council of twenty-one members, including the provost, bailies, dean of guild, and treasurer. The provost, who is ex officio a justice of the peace for the county, and the other officers of the corporation, are elected by the council, and the council are elected by the constituency at large. There are seven incorporated trades, the smiths, wrights and masons, weavers, shoemakers, tailors, bakers, and fleshers, all of which, except the weavers, possess exclusive privileges of trading. The magistrates hold courts for the adjudication of civil causes to any amount; in criminal cases their jurisdiction is limited to misdemeanors. The town-hall and gaol form one building in the High-street, surmounted with a spire: the hall, in which the courts are held and the public business transacted, is spacious and handsomely fitted up, and contains a portrait of Walter Fergus, Esq., of Strathore. The gaol is under excellent regulations; proper attention is paid to the health and comfort of the prisoners, who are profitably employed, and its management is well adapted for their reformation. The whole buildings, which are in the Norman style of architecture, were erected at a cost of £5000. The burgh is associated with those of Dysart, Kinghorn, and Burntisland, in returning a member to the imperial parliament.The parish formerly included the chief part of that of Abbotshall, which was separated from it in the year 1650; but it is now of very inconsiderable extent. It is only two miles and a half in length, and scarcely one mile in breadth; and comprises little more, besides the town site, than the burgh acres, and the common lands once belonging to the town, not exceeding in the whole 1050 acres, of which 160 are woodland and plantations, and the remainder arable. The soil near the town is rich and fertile, from the abundance of manure; in other parts less productive. The surface rises from the shore of the Frith, a level sandy beach, towards the north into a bold ridge, which has an elevation of 300 feet above the sea: the only stream is the Eastburn, which, after receiving some tributaries in a course of less than three miles, flows into the frith at the extremity of the parish bordering upon that of Dysart. The substrata are principally sandstone, slate, and coal, which last occurs in several seams varying from nine inches to three and a half feet in thickness; one mine only is at present in operation, and the coal is raised from a depth of forty-six fathoms. Iron-ore is found in the coal district, in globular masses; but the price obtained does not remunerate the trouble of working it. The rateable annual value of the parish is £18,239. Dunnikier House, the seat of James Townsend Oswald, Esq., a handsome mansion erected about 1790, is beautifully situated in a richly-wooded demesne; and in the town and immediate vicinity are some pleasing villas.The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Kirkcaldy, of which this is the seat, and the synod of Fife. The minister's stipend is £200, with a manse and glebe valued at about £50 per annum; patron, the Crown. The parish church, situated upon rising ground in the High-street, is a handsome structure in the later English style, erected in 1807, on the site of the ancient building, which had fallen into a state of dilapidation. A portion of the old tower, however, is attached to the west end, and detracts greatly from the appearance of the church; but its removal, and the erection of a tower or spire of corresponding style, are in contemplation. The interior is well arranged, and contains 1480 sittings. A church to which a quoad sacra district was till lately annexed, containing a population of 1977 persons, has been erected near the east end of the town, at an expense of £2000; it is called East Port Church, and has 840 sittings. There are also places of worship for members of the Free Church, the United Secession, Episcopalians, Independents, Bereans, Original Burghers, and Scottish Baptists. The Burgh school is supported by the corporation and by the fees, and is under the superintendence of a rector, to whom they pay £50, and an assistant, who has a salary of £40; it is attended by 170 children, who are instructed in the classics and in the various branches of a commercial education. The fees produce £50 per annum to each master; but neither has a dwelling-house. Schools have been erected in the town and in Pathhead, Kinghorn, and Abbotshall, and teachers appointed, under an endowment by Robert Philp, Esq., who, in 1828, bequeathed £74,000 for the education and clothing of 400 of the most needy children of the district. To each of these, on leaving school, are allowed from £7 to £10, according to merit, to enable them to acquire a trade, or to introduce them into creditable employment. The master of the Kirkcaldy school, under this trust, has £100 per annum; and a mistress to teach the girls to sew has a salary of £15. There are numerous other schools, partly endowed, and partly supported by the fees; and the number of children attending them is about 700. Mr. John Thomson, in 1810, bequeathed £780, of which he appropriated one-half of the proceeds to the payment of school fees for poor children, and the remainder to the relief of the aged. An institution for the benefit of old and disabled mariners belonging to the port, and for their widows and orphans, was established about the year 1590, to the support of which the masters and crews of the various vessels long contributed a per-centage of their pay. This institution is called the "Prime Gilt-Box of Kirkcaldy," and has funds amounting to nearly £3000. There are also a ladies' benevolent society, a clothing society, and a fund for supplying the poor with coal. In 1828, the gallery on the north side of the church, which was densely crowded to hear the Rev. Edward Irving, of London, fell down; and many lives were lost. Dr. Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations, and one of the most illustrious men, as a writer, to whom Scotland has given birth, was born at Kirkcaldy in 1723. After an absence of many years, which were occupied in literary pursuits, and, for some time, in discharging his professional duties in the chair of moral philosophy in the university of Glasgow, he returned to Kirkcaldy, where he composed his most celebrated work. He died in 1789; and it is not a little remarkable that, to this day, no monument to his memory has been erected in his native town.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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