MARKINCH, a parish, in the district of Kirkcaldy, county of Fife; containing, with the villages of Coaltown of Balgonie, Dubbieside, Balcurvie, Burns, HaughMill, Milton, and Windygates, and part of Star, Thornton, and Woodside, 5965 inhabitants, of whom 1315 are in the village of Markinch, 7 miles (N.) from Kirkcaldy. This place is supposed to have derived its name, signifying in the Celtic language "the island of the forest," from the site having been at a remote period surrounded by water, of which, notwithstanding the land being drained, and partly covered with buildings, there are still evident traces. The parish is about six miles in length, and varies from two to five miles in breadth, comprising an area of sixteen square miles, or 10,200 acres, of which nearly 8500 are arable, 800 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. The surface is pleasingly diversified, sloping gradually towards the south and east from the Lomond hills, by which the parish is skirted on the north. It is divided into four distinct valleys, inclosed by ranges of low hills, and watered by as many streams, which unite towards the east, and fall into the Frith of Forth; the principal rivers are the Leven and the Orr.
   The soil is various. On the north bank of the Leven is a gravelly and clayey loam, dry and fertile; but a wet loam, sand, and clay prevail in the district between the Leven and the Orr, and also in the south and eastern portions of the parish. The crops are, wheat, oats, barley, potatoes, and turnips, with a small portion of peas, beans, and flax. The system of agriculture is in an improved state; the lands are well drained, chiefly by furrow drains; and the farm-buildings are generally substantial and commodiously arranged. Bone-dust has been introduced for manure, and lime is used upon most of the lands. The hills afford good pasture for the cattle, usually of the Fifeshire breed. The plantations, which are chiefly around the seats of the several proprietors, and of the more ornamental character, are in a thriving state, and add greatly to the beauty of the scenery. The substrata are mainly sandstone of every variety, abounding with organic remains; ironstone is found in different parts, but, though containing eighty per cent of ore, the working of it has long been discontinued. Coal is abundant on the lands of Balbirnie and Balgonie, and is extensively wrought at both places. The coal in the former lies at a depth of twenty-five fathoms, and occurs in three seams, of which the uppermost is eighteen inches in thickness, the middle seam fifty-four, and the lowest twenty-four inches; the coal on the lands of Balgonie occurs in two seams, at a depth varying from twenty-five to thirty-five fathoms, the upper seam nine feet six inches, and the lower seven feet, in thickness. The mines at the village of Thornton were discontinued in 1743, but re-commenced in 1785, when powerful steam-engines were erected; they are still in extensive operation. The rateable annual value of the parish is £16,081. The castle of Balfour, once the family-seat of the Balfours, situated near the confluence of the Orr and Leven, has been the property of the Bethunes for nearly five centuries. To the west of it is the ancient castle of Balgonie, one of the seats of the Earl of Leven: the oldest portion is the keep, a square tower eighty feet in height, crowned with battlements, and having circular projecting turrets at the angles; and communicating with it is a house of three stories, erected by the first earl of Leven, to which a wing was added by one of his successors. The estate was purchased in 1823, for the sum of £104,000, by James Balfour, Esq., brother of General Balfour, of Balbirnie; and the family purpose to restore the castle. Balbirnie House, now the property of John Balfour, Esq., about a mile to the west of the church, is a handsome modern structure, erected by General Balfour, ornamented in the principal front with a noble Ionic portico, and situated in a park of 200 acres, richly wooded. Kirkforthar, the seat of George Johnstone Lindsay, Esq., is an ancient mansion. There were formerly numerous other resident proprietors in the parish, of whose houses scarcely any traces are now left.
   The village of Markinch is built partly on the southern acclivity of the hill of that name, which has a height of about 100 feet, extending in a ridge from east to west for 300 yards: on the northern side, the precipitous ascent is cut into terraces twenty feet in breadth, rising above each other to an elevation of ten or twelve feet, and supposed to have been formed by the Romans under Agricola. The water-power afforded by the Leven and the Orr, the abundance of coal and freestone in the neighbourhood, and the facilities of communication, have greatly encouraged the establishment of manufactures in the parish, among which are the Rothes papermills, erected in 1806 by Mr. William Keith, and now the property of Messrs. Tullis and Company. The chief articles manufactured here are brown and grey wrappingpapers, in which twenty men and ten women are engaged. The Auchmuty mills, belonging to the same firm, for the making of cartridge, coloured, printing, and writingpapers, afford occupation to 100 persons, of whom onehalf are women, and produce about 500 tons of paper annually. The Balbirnie mills, established in 1816 by Messrs. J. Grieve and Company, for coarse and fine wrapping-papers, give employment to thirty persons, of whom fourteen are women; and the quantity annually produced averages 250 tons. The woollen-manufactory at Balbirnie-Bridge was erected in 1835, by Mr. Drysdale, for the weaving of plaidings, blankets, and shawls, principally for the Glasgow merchants: in this factory are ten power-looms employing twenty-seven persons, and four hand-looms employing ten persons, of whom a considerable proportion are females. The linen-manufacture (of silesias, and holland for window-blinds) was till 1810 confined to about fifty persons, who sold their webs to the merchants of Auchtermuchty and Kettle; but since that time the weaving of dowlas, sheetings, and towellings has been introduced by Mr. Robert Inglis, and the number of persons employed has increased to nearly 900. who work in their own houses, and of whom many live in the adjoining parishes. The spinning of flax and tow is extensively carried on at Milton of Balgonie, and in the village of Haugh, which see. There are also bleachfields at Rothes and Lochty; the former affording occupation to 110 persons, of whom eighty are women and children; and the latter employing about 100 persons. At Cameron-Bridge is a very extensive distillery; and at Thornton are some vitriol-works, connected with a similar establishment at Glasgow.
   The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Kirkcaldy and synod of Fife. The minister's stipend is £267. 17., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £30 per annum; patron, the Crown. The church, a very ancient structure with a lofty tower and spire, situated on an eminence in the village, was partly rebuilt and enlarged in 1806, and contains 1360 sittings. Churches to which quoad sacra parishes were formally annexed have been built at Milton and Thornton; and there are places of worship for members of the Free Church and United Secession. The parochial school is numerously attended; the master has a salary of £34, with a good house and garden, and the fees average about £70 per annum. There are nine other schools, of which two, on the Balgonie estate, have endowments, the one of £10 per annum, with a house and garden, and the other of £5 only; one at Balbirnie has simply a house for the master, and a female school in the village is supported chiefly by a subscription of some ladies of the Balgonie, Balbirnie, and Barnslee families. About two miles from the mouth of the Leven are the remains of some ancient fortresses, of which the origin is not distinctly known; and in the westward portion of the parish have been found, at various times, Roman relics consisting of military weapons and other antiquities. On the highest point of the ridge near the village, at an elevation of eighty feet, are the remains of Maiden Castle, a quadrilateral intrenchment, supposed to have been one of the strongholds of Macduff, Thane of Fife; and to the east of the village is Dalginch, another of his castles, from which there is said to have been a subterraneous communication with the former. The latter, now called Barnslee, is the residence of Mrs. Paston.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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