- SCOONIE, a parish, in the district of Kirkcaldy, county of Fife, 9 miles (N. E.) from Kirkcaldy; containing, with the town of Leven, 2836 inhabitants. This place, which is of considerable antiquity, and of which the church at a very early period was granted by Malduin, bishop of St. Andrew's, to the Culdees of Lochleven, was formerly in part the property of the family of Gibson, who held the lands of Durie. Of their descendants, Lord Durie was one of the commissioners sent in 1652 to treat with the English parliament on the projected union of the two kingdoms; and another of the family sat in the first Scottish parliament after the restoration of Charles II. to the throne. The parish is situated on the Frith of Forth; it extends for four miles in length from north to south, and two miles in breadth from east to west, and comprises about 4000 acres, of which 3250 are arable, 250 woodland and plantations, and 350 pasture and waste. The surface is gently undulating, rising from the south to the north till it attains an elevation of about 700 feet above the level of the sea: from the higher grounds is an extensive prospect of the Frith and the country on the southern shore, embracing numerous objects of romantic appearance and much beautifully varied scenery. The river Leven, which washes Scoonie on the west, has its source in the loch of that name, and, after flowing through a luxuriant valley, and receiving many streams in its course, falls into the bay of Largo near the town of Leven. The river abounds with trout, pike, and eels; and near its mouth was formerly a lucrative salmon-fishery, which, from some alterations that prevented the fish from ascending the river, and owing to certain deleterious substances from some bleach-works in the town mingling with its waters at this place, has been destroyed, and for many years totally discontinued. There are few good springs in the parish, and only one deserving of notice, "the boiling well." The general scenery is agreeably diversified; the surrounding country is richly cultivated, and the plantations on the demesnes of the principal seats add much to its embellishment. The soil of the parish is fertile; and the system of husbandry, which consists of successive rotations of white and green crops, is in a high state of improvement. The crops are, wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and turnips, of which large quantities are grown; and considerable exports of grain and potatoes are made from Leven for distant markets. Great attention is paid to the rearing of cattle, which are generally of the black Fifeshire breed; and formerly great numbers were sent in a lean state to London, but at present they are all fattened in the parish, and mostly sent to Edinburgh and Glasgow, with only a few occasionally to London by the Dundee steamers. Several oxen of the Old Fifeshire kind bred in the parish have gained the prizes at the Highland Society's cattle-shows. Few sheep are reared; but many are purchased by the farmers at the neighbouring fairs, and fed on turnips during the winter. The farm-buildings are generally commodious, and some, of recent erection, are very superior; threshing-mills are attached to most of the farms, one of which is driven by steam; and the latest improvements in agricultural implements have been adopted. Much progress has been made in draining; and from the advanced state of agriculture, and the vicinity of the town and port of Leven, which affords a facility of disposing of the produce, the lands have greatly increased in value. The rateable annual value of the parish now amounts to £8988.The substratum is chiefly whinstone, of inferior quality, and consequently not quarried to any extent; the materials for building are generally brought from the quarries of Inverkeithing and Blair. Strata of coal are found in various parts, especially on the lands of Durie. The mines were formerly wrought on a larger scale, and great quantities were shipped from Leven to Holland and other continental ports; the quality is very superior, and it was once in such high repute that the best description of Scottish coal is still called Durie coal. Upon the death of the proprietor in 1802, the works were for a time discontinued: and coal, even for the supply of the parish, was sometimes brought from the pits of Wemyss and Kilmux. There is a bed of ochre four feet in thickness on the lands of Durie, which has been wrought for many years, and of which great quantities are exported. Several mills are in operation for spinning flax and tow, one for crushing bones for manure, and one for grinding ochre; and about 150 persons are employed in weaving with hand-looms at their own dwellings. The chief seats are, Durie, the property of C. M. Christie, Esq., a handsome mansion erected in 1762, and situated in an extensive demesne embellished with thriving plantations; Kilmux, the residence of J. B. Fernie, Esq., erected in 1832, in grounds tastefully laid out, and sheltered with some fine trees; and Montrave, a handsome mansion erected in 1836, and also pleasantly situated in improved grounds. Scoonie is within the presbytery of Kirkcaldy and synod of Fife, and in the patronage of the Crown: the minister's stipend is £257. 19. 5., with a manse, and the glebe is valued at £50 per annum. The old church, situated about a quarter of a mile from Leven, has been for some time a ruin, and the only part of it which is still preserved forms the family vault of the proprietor of Durie. The present church, erected in 1776 near the town, and repaired and enlarged in 1823, is a neat and well-arranged edifice adapted for a congregation of 996 persons. There are places of worship for Independents, the Free Church, and Relief Church. The parochial school affords a liberal education, and is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with £70 fees, a very good dwelling-house, and an allowance of £2 for deficiency of garden-ground. A society for religious purposes, under the management of a committee of ladies, distributes about £20 per annum in promotion of its object; and there is also a ladies' charitable society, which distributes about £24 per annum. Several friendly societies existed formerly; but from injudicious management few of them were able to become permanent establishments. Numerous stone coffins, supposed to have been deposited after a severe conflict between the Scots and the Danes, have been dug up in various parts of the parish; and within the last thirty years, a cairn on the summit of a hill, about forty yards square at the base, was opened, and found to contain twenty stone coffins, rudely formed of slabs placed on their edges and covered with a superincumbent slab of stone. In two of the coffins were small urns of clay, rudely ornamented, and five of them contained each a larger urn, fourteen inches in diameter and twenty-four inches high; great numbers of human bones were scattered about, and in one of the smallest coffins were found beads of charred wood. The urns were all in an inverted position, with their mouths resting upon a square slab of stone. Mr. Jerome Stone, an eminent linguist, was born in this parish in 1727; he died in 1757, leaving an unfinished work entitled An Enquiry into the Original of the Nation and Language of the Ancient Scots, and a finished manuscript of an allegory entitled The Immortality of Authors.
A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. Samuel Lewis. 1856.
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