- MAY, an island, forming part of the parish of Anstruther Easter, in the county of Fife; containing 22 inhabitants. It is a small isle, lying at the mouth of the Frith of Forth, about six miles south-east-bysouth from Crail, the nearest part of the coast; and is a mile in length and three-quarters of a mile in breadth. The island was formerly the property of General Scott, of Balcomie, and afterwards of his daughter, the Duchess of Portland, from whom it was purchased, with the right to the duties, by the Commissioners of Northern Lights, for the sum of £60,000. It has had a lighthouse at least since 1635; but a more commodious edifice was erected in 1816, and the present light, which is fixed, is seen at the distance of twenty-one nautical miles. There was at one time a village, at which divine service was performed once a month; but at present the only inhabitants are the lighthousekeepers and their families. The pasturage for sheep here is of the finest kind, and a well supplies excellent water; the island, however, is much exposed to cold bleak winds: it is visited by immense numbers of various kinds of sea-fowl. There are ruins of a religious house that belonged to the priory of Pittenweem; and in the chapel of it, which was dedicated to St. Adrian, who is said to have been killed upon the island by the Danes in 870, or 872, that saint is supposed to be buried. In January 1791, a melancholy accident occurred at this place. For two evenings no light was exhibited, and the weather was so tempestuous no boat could be put off from the shore to ascertain the cause. On the third day the storm abated, and a boat was manned from Crail, the crew of which upon landing were assailed by a strong sulphureous smell; and on proceeding directly to the lighthouse, they found the door closed, and no one answered to their call. Forcing an entrance, they discovered the keeper, his wife, and five children all suffocated to death, and a sixth child, an infant, sucking the dead mother. In another room were two men almost expiring, who were providentially recovered by the timely assistance rendered to them; two cows in a byre under the building were dead. It was supposed that this lamentable disaster was caused by burning coal having been blown among some refuse which lay at the bottom of the lighthouse.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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