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One of the great things about cycling is that it gives you time to notice things that would be mere blurs when travelling by car. I am fascinated by the little pieces of history that can be found just off our highways. I hope that you will find this self-indulgent drivel interesting...

Fife

 

 

 

 

 

Auchtermuchty

Muchty was the home to three famous musicians; Jimmy Shand, Craig and Charlie Reid (The Proclaimers).

Sir Jimmy Shand will be forever remembered as one of the great Scottish musicians, even though it was Scottish Country dancing and playing the accordion.

The statue, off the Newburgh Road in `Muchty has a plaque which bears the following inscription, "Sir Jimmy Shand, MBE MA,Born 28th January 1908, died 23rd December 2000. Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again."

statue grave
The statue The grave

Bowhill

Bowhill is one of the ABCD villages: Auchterderran, Bowhill, Cardenden and Dundonald. All were mining villages whose mines are no more. One local lad John Thomson, managed to make a name for himself as a goal keeper, eventually playing for Glasgow Celtic and for his country.

It was during a football match at Ibrox on 5th September 1931, between Glasgow Rangers, that when diving for the ball he has accidentally kicked in the head and subsequently died of his injuries, he was 22 years old. Eighty years on from that fateful day his grave is still kept and visited by Celtic fans and curious cyclists.

More on John Thomson John Thomson

Another famous son is the novelist Ian Rankin, who was brought up in Cardenden.

john thomson's grave
John Thomsons grave

The colliery at Bowhill was demolished in the last 15 years and a monument has been erected to the men who worked and to the 300 or so men (one every three months for 70 years)who were killed wile working at the Lady Josephine Colliery between 1895 and 1965. The pit was named after Miss Josephine Haig, the daughter of the Chairman of the newly formed Bowhill Coal Company.

Amongst that number are 10 men that died in the pit disaster of 31 October, 1931. Nine of the men are buried side by side, the tenth man John Donaldson, was buried in Kingskettle Cemetery.

James Drummond Paterson, 19, Miner
James Smith, 35, Miner
Alexander Dempster, 51, Fireman
Charles Baxter Fernie, 19, Miner
William Ireland, 35, Overman
Thomas Smith, 33, Miner
James Martin Cairns alias James Anderson, 45, Fireman
William Bruce Dodds, 24, Electrician
Andrew Smith, 27, Miner
John Donaldson, 48, Overman

It is not know exactly what happened. The most likely cause it is thought to be firedamp or Methane gas, which possibly found a source of ignition in a miners lamp. A full description of the disaster and the subsequent inquiry can be found at the excellent Fife Mining Resource web site.

Fife Pits fife its

bowhill memorial
Bowhill disaster memorial
The old pit head wheel and coal hutch
The disaster memorial

Ceres

You know what is said about pride going before a fall? The monument to the men of Ceres who fought at the Battle of Bannockburn, 21st. June 1314 was erected by the good people of the town in 1914 on the 600th. anniversary of the battle. Little did they expect what the next four years would bring.

The curious toby-jug like figure is supposed to be the last provost of the local church. The Royal Commission for Ancient and Hysterical Monuments, only go as far as describing this as a Toby-jug figure probably 18th century. below the figure is a panel depicting a hunting scene, except it is a man that is being ridden down. Local tradition claims it is Duncan, earl of Fife, leading a decisive cavalry charge at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. However, he was really an prisoner in England in that year... never let the truth get in the way of a good story!

Another interesting thing to be found in the town is Bishops Bridge, which can be found beside the Fife Folk Museum. This is the only example of a packhorse bridge in Fife. The narrow bridge harks back to the days when goods were carried on the backs of horses.

ceres bannockburn mem toby-jug figure
The Bannockburn Memorial
The Provost

This roadside memorial is probably nearer Pitscottie than Ceres and can be found at a bend in the B940 road south of North Callanage Farm.

The memorial reads, "Vincenzo Lunardi, born in, Lucca, Italy, in 1759. He ascended in a hydrogen balloon on 5th October 1875 from the garden of Heriots Hospital, Edinburgh. He landed at Coalton of Callanage, in the parish of Ceres, having travelled 46 miles. This was the first aerial voyage in Scotland."

The story goes that he did not intend on going so far, but having drifted north of Edinburgh, he very little choice other than to overfly the Firth of Forth and land in Fife.

lunardi memorial
Lunardi memorial

Charlestown

This place must have looked like hell on earth. In its hey day great quantities of limestone was burnt in kilns like this. Coal and limestone were fed in at the top and the lime was raked out at the bottom with ships awaiting a stone throws away, to carry the lime to all "airts and pairts" (everywhere.) Great clouds of noxious gasses and flames errupted from the kilns, the process going on day and night.
kiln
The kiln

Collessie

Another pill-box on the Fife Stop Line, illustrating the proximity of the defences to the railway line. This pill box is built into the wall of the house which overlooks the railway, giving an excellent field for fire over the embankment and the field.
collessie pillbox
Collessie Pill-box, the perfect garden ornament
Near by, is the Collessie carved stone, the incised figure of a pictish warrior can be seen on one of the faces, though I could not see it when I took this picture. I was just grateful that the sun was shining.
collessie stone
The Collessie standing stone

Dogton Stone

Standing in the middle of a field, near Dogton Farm, is a rare example of a pictish carving. The cross can be visited by taking the B922 from Kinglassie heading for Cluny and Kirkcaldy. The road make a sharp bend to the right then a sharp bend to the left, go straight on at this bend down a rough farm track. Follow the track to the right then turn left onto another track. With a bit of luck you will be able to walk through the crops, to the stone following the wheelmarks of a tractor. Ask at Dogton Farm if you are in doubt.

Map Ref NT236968, OS sheets 58 (stone) and 59 (roads)

The inscription reads, "This stone is a free standing Celtic cross, probably 10th century AD. The top and arms of the cross have been destroyed, but the centre boss is still visible on the east side. A horseman is carved below it and there are entwined serpentine animals on the south face."

A view of the cross from the south-west, the serpents can be seen on the side of the cross.

dogton stone

The Dogton Stone

Cowdenbeath

Hill of Beath to be more exact, was the birthplace of a footballing legend — Jim Baxter. This statue was erected about a year after his death.

Apologies for the poor photograph, I'll need to get up early to get an image with the sun at my back.

Baxter memorial
Jim Baxter 1939 - 2001

I have a wee smirk to my self every time I see this stone, which is built into the parapet of the railway bridge across Cowdenbeath High Street.

Just what does "Laid with Masonic Honours" really mean and can you imagine that happening today?

I will find out one day, though I won't be able to tell you.....

Incidentally, the road that cuts diagonally across the High Street and underneath this bridge was once a railway line. Nowadays it is called Pit Road, the it was No.7 Pit Road, the swimming pool and Cowdenbeath FC's pitch are now on the site.

railway bridge
Cowdenbeath railway bridge

Dunfermline

This is not trivial nor is it funny.

You can find this memorial to the stillborn children in the Dunfermline Eastern Cemetery. The stone lists the names of the children and their date of birth / death.

This is the kind of thing every parent dreads, spare a thought for the parents.

You can find the memorial to the right after crossing the railway bridge.

For all our babies briefly known forever loved.

memorial
The memorial to the still-born

A quick glance over my shoulder and I knew that something was out of place. It turned out to be a house much older than the ones surrounding it. However painted on the wall were two civil defence symbols from WWII still there fifty years on.

The date 1838 appears on a small stone set into the wall to the left of the "FP" sign.

wartime symbols
Civil defence symbols - 50 years on

A year or so ago this headstone caught my eye, it commemorates the memory of William Hunter, 17, who died while attempting to save a Dunfermline lad from drowning in Townhill Loch, Sunday 23rd July 1886. The scene is depicted on a bronze panel on the memorial with three onlookers and a lone body in the water (the dot in the centre.

There is a quote from Andrew Carnegie, "False heroes of barbarous men are those who can only boast the destruction of their fellows. The true heroes of our civilisation are those alone who serve or greatly serve them. Young HUNTER was one of those and greatly deserves and enduring monument."

When I returned to the cemetery to take these photographs I was shocked at the condition of the cemetery. Fife Council must have done a risk assessment on the condition of the cemetery and decided that the headstones were in such a dangerous condition and that the only way to protect the public and save themselves from litigation was to fence off the oldest section of the cemetery.

It seems to me that Fife Council are very happy to take a lot of money for an interment then wash their hands of the matter once no one is around to get upset at the state of the graves. The morons that push over the headstones are another matter....

hunter memorial detail
Hunter memorial The drowning

Ferry Toll

Boundary Stone

In times past the War Department marked the land boundaries of military establishments by small rectangular stones, usually inscribed with a number and the initials or markings of the parent Ministry.

I have seen similar stones at the WW 1 airfield at Montrose and at Leuchars which also dates from the same period. These stones are marked with AM, while this stone is marked with an anchor, denoting the Admiralty, in connection with the then Royal Naval Dockyard at Rosyth.(I have also seen "modern" concrete Admiralty stones in Cromarty, c. WW 1)

The unusual feature about this stone is the directions of the land boundaries are indicated by arrows.

The stone was saved, when the wall in which it sat was demolished to make way for the Park and Ride facility at Ferry Toll. It sat somewhere along the fence on the opposite side of the road near the double gate. It is presently sited beside the roundabout outside the Park and Ride.

Compare this picture to the Cromarty stone Cromarty

boundary stone boundary stone
The No.6 boundary stone, with an anchor
The top of the stone with the indicators.

Cupar

Cupar,the covenanters grave.

The story so far — James VI (James I of England), Charles I & II and James II decided to run the church after a catholic fashion, after all they were the supreme rulers. But they did not reckon on a bunch of Scots Presbyterians who just wanted to practice worshiping God in the new "no frills" Protestant way. So they signed a Deed of Covenant and the doo-doo hit the fan.

These Covenanters — Laurence Hay,a Fife weaver and Andrew Pitulloch, a Labourer from Largo were signatories on a paper entitled "A Testimony against the Evils of the Times" and for that they were condemned. They were hanged at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh, 13 July 1681 and their heads severed from their bodies (they were lucky and got to die first) and affixed to the Tollbooth of Cupar. They stayed there until the Glorious Revolution, which brought William of Orange from Holland to the British throne, when they were taken down and buried in the church yard.

The third martyr, David Hackston of Rathillet, was captured after a brave fight at Ayrsmoss and was executed in a very barbarous way 30 July 1680, "at the cross of Edinburgh, and there upon a high scaffold have his right hand struck off, and after some time to have his left hand struck off, and then to be hanged up and cut down alive, and have the bowels taken out, and his heart to be shown to the people by the hand of the hangman, and his heart and bowels to be burnt in the presence of the people... and afterwards have his head cut off, and his body divided up into four quarters with his head to be affixed at Netherbow, and one of his quarters with both his hands to be affixed at St. Andrews, another quarter at Glasgow, the third at Leith the fourth at Burntisland."

David Hackston was one of the nine assassins of Bishop Sharp.

No chance of probation or community service!

Martyrs grave
cupar church
Two heads and a hand, shown at the top of their grave stone.
The old church steeple

Freuchie

Found this enamel sign on the wall of the Lomond Hotel.

The NCU (National Cyclists' Union) was the organising body for cycle racing in the UK.

Their opposition to massed start road racing except on closed circuits led to the creation of the BLRC (British League of Racing Cyclists') and the introduction of (open) road racing even though at first it meant you were banned from the NCU if you took part.
The two bodies merged to become the BCF

NCU sign
National Cycling Union - Official Quarters

Kincardine

A town that is more of an inconvenience to travellers these days as they make their way over the Forth was once a very busy port and ship building center. Until the advent of the bridge the only crossings of the Forth downstream of Stirling were by ferry at the Queensferries and Kincardine, the slip-ways for both ferries can still be seen.

With the buidling of the Kincardine Bridge, traffic was able to make their way into the Kingdom without hindrance. Until the fairly recient past the bridge was able to swing open to allow shipping to pass upstream to Alloa. The bridge was tested once a week on a Sunday morning and I am told that many an employee of BP & ICI used this as their excuse for arriving late for work! Nowadays the bridge has been fixed into position and the port of Alloa closed. The height of the electricty pylons testify to the size of ships that once visited Alloa.

Beside the bridge on an old pier is an anchor which serves as a memorial to the Ship builders, Masters and crews of ships registered at Kincardine, some 108 of them have been known to have lost their lives in ship wrecks.

bridge anchor
Kincardine Bridge Kincardine sailors memorial

Kingskettle

The Grave of John Donaldson, who was killed in the Bowhill Pit Disaster, 31 October 1931. He is buried along with his wife, Elizabeth Mitchel (75) and daughter Isabella (65).
Donaldson stone
John Donaldson, Bowhill Pit Disaster, 1931

This is the old school on the outskirts of Kingskettle, nothing much out of the ordinary except if you look closer you will see two dark coloured slots in the corner of the wall.

This is in fact a cleverly camouflaged pill-box bunker, built during WW2 as part of the Fife Stop Line, which was designed to slow an invasion force down until reinforcements could arrive. The railway from Kirkcaldy to Newburgh formed a major part of this Stop Line.

The eastern and western corners of the wall have pill boxes built into them.

The bunkers have a field of fire which covers the Cupar to Falkland Road and the minor road out of Kingskettle.

secret bunker
The Kingskettle Bunker

Kirkcaldy

"Pet" Marjory Fleming, was a remarkable girl,who died aged 8 years and 11 months after contracting meningitis. She is buried in the Abbotshall Church Grave yard. See Braepark in the Lothian section.

Between her grave and the main entrance to the church is what looks like a pile of stones heaped upon each other. On closer inspection you will find that this is the gravestone of a stone mason, with the tools of his trade being shown on the stone.

Pet marjorie stone masons grave
Marjory Fleming's grave stone
The stone masons tools shown on the grave stone

The "lang toon" as Kirkcaldy is known has an esplanade along the sea front... and when you think of it it is a very good place for it to be!

The sea wall, completed in 1922, was built as a project to relieve the serious unemployment of the time, which was over 14 per cent.

Money was supposed to come from central government to recompense the town for the £83,000 costs, but this turned into a long-running scandal as Westminster produced one excuse after another to avoid paying up.

In any case, the sea wall gave the town a defined sea front for the first time in its history.

Fife Free Press free fife press

esplanade memorial
Esplanade memorial

There is a delightful poem called The Boy in the Train, written by Mabel Campbell Smith, a Dumfries lady who was born in 1869. The poem was first published in April, 1913. It ends —

'I'll soon be ringing ma Grandma's bell,
She'll cry, 'Come ben, ma laddie!',
For I ken masel' by the queer-like smell,
that the next stop's Kirkcaddy.'

Fortunately the smell has gone but unfortunately so has the industry. There is now only one factory still making linoleum. (From the Free Fife Press web pages)

 

I found this relic of World War 2 on the rooftop of a laundry half way down St.Clair Street.

In the event that the Luftwaffe decided they would like to drop some incendiary bombs upon the good people of Kirkcaldy, a fire watcher sitting in this armoured shelter would have seen the fire and raised the alarm.

I would not envy that job in the winter time knowing how the wind rips into the town from the Firth of Forth.

Apologies for the photo, I forgot to compensate for the effect of the sky.

fire watching hut
The fire watching post

Lindores, Abdie Church

Tucked away down a narrow country road, on the western shores of Lindores Loch is the old parish church of Lindores.

The Lindores Pictish Stone and two other headstones can be found on display under the old mort house.

The pictish stone was originally on Kiam Hill, near Lindores, it was then built into a garden wall before finally coming to rest in the Old Mort Mouse. The stone has a cauldron symbol on the top and a crescent and v-rod beneath. Cut into the stone are roman numerals for a sundial and an Ordinance Survey Surveyors bench mark symbol.

A mirror sysmbol is cut into one of the sides.

The Lindores Stone
Also in the same place are two curious grave stones. One is a large carved stone with a cross which is surmounted by a floral design and the other is reminiscent of a mediaeval lady.
flower cross
the lady
The "flower" cross.
The medieval female

Lochore Meadows a.k.a. "The Meadies"

Tucked away in the shrubs near the entrance to the Ranger Office is a very small memorial to a momentous event which signalled the beginning of the end of the Scottish mining industry. The inscription reads: "Erected by the Scottish people in recognition of the struggle by Fife miners and their families during the year long strike, 1984- 1985."

Miners memorial
Miners memorial

"The site of the Mary No. 2 shaft... is marked by its reinforced concrete, pithead frame monument which is today a great attraction for all those visiting the Lochore Meadows Country Park. It is one of only two such structures in Fife serving to remind the public of the Kingdom's great mining history." Fife Mining Resource

You have to see the images on the Mary 1 & 2 pits, especially the one with Chapel Home Farm and the smoldering bing, which will give you an idea what this area was like before the reclamation project started.

Fife Mining Resource,Central Fife, M-N, Mary 1&2 Mining resource

Mary winding gear
The Mary pit

Magnus Muir

Murder most foul. By all accounts Archbishop Sharp was a nasty piece of work; he was an enthusiastic proponent of the Catholic faith, having found favour with the king, he had a meteoric rise "through the ranks" to become the Bishop of St. Andrews.

Sharp was instrumental in overturning the "quarter" given to the Covenanting rebels that surrendered after the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, causing many of them to die the typical horrible death of a judicial execution.

The assassins were out that fateful day in search of The Sheriff of Fife, an appointee of Sharp, who was equally vigorous in the persecution of Covenanters. Fortunately (for him) he was tipped off that a party of men were asking about him and he did not venture out that day. Unfortunately the group happened upon the Bishop and his daughter who were travelling to St. Andrews from Edinburgh and seizing the opportunity took their revenge by dragging him out of his coach then stabbing and shooting him.

It would seem that five prisoners taken at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge were to suffer for Sharps murder. They had nothing to do with the murder! They were taken to Magnus Muir from Edinburgh and hung, their bodies were hung in chains for all to see as a warning. Their bodies hung for a while before anyone dared take them down and give them a burial.

five martyrs grave
Sharp memorial
The Martyrs graves
"Here lies Thos Brown, James Wood, Andrew Sword, John Weddell & John Clyde who suffered martyrdom on Magnus Muir for their adherence to the Word of God and Scotland's Covenanted Work of Reformation. Nov 25, 1679"
The monument marking the spot where Archbishop Sharp was murdered, May 3rd 1679.

Only one of the nine assassins was ever caught, tried and executed specifically for the Murder of Bishop Sharp. Following the murder, Andrew Guillan escaped Fife and worked as a farm labourer near Cockpen. He was caught working on the Sabbath and questioned, he was unlucky enough to be recognised as one of the murderers. He was then taken to the Tollbooth in Edinburgh, where he self incriminated himself with the murder.

Following his trial on July 18th 1683, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Before he was hung, he had his hands cut off, he was then partially strangled, taken down from the scaffold where his head was cut off and then disembowelled. His head was taken to Cupar for public display and his body was hung in chains at Magnus Muir.

About six months later, one of his friends, at great personal risk removed the body from the gibbet and gave him a burial. His grave can be found in the grounds of Claremont Farm about half a mile from where the five martyrs are buried.

Gullian grave
The grave of Andrew Guillan.

The inscription reads:

The grave ston of Andreu Guilln who suffred at the Gallowlee of Edinburgh July 1683 & afterwards was hung upon a pol in Magnus Muir and lyeth hiar.

On the back:

A faithful martyr her doth ly, A witness against perjury, Who cruely was put to death, to gratify proud prelates wrath, They cut off his hands ere he was dead , And after that struck off his head, To magnus Muir they did him bring, His body on a pole did hing, His blood under the altar cries, For vengence on Christ's enemies.

 

Preston Island

One benefit from the nearby Longannet Power Station was the creation of the ash lagoons in Torry Bay. The lagoons made it possible to visit the ruins of the Salt Factory and collieries without the need to get ones feet wet. It is now possible to walk (or cycle) out to the island from Culross.

Salt was always a highly prized commodity and the Fife salt pans fulfilled the country's needs during the times when Britain was warring with its continental neighbours, and their supplies of high grade salt became unobtainable.

Low grade coal was mined in one of two pits on the island; the Mary and George. The coal was used to boil the sea water. Blood was added to the sea water to assist in the removal of impurities, which were skimmed off during the evaporation process. By law the salt was stored for a number of weeks before being placed onto nearby ships.

salt house george pit
The salt evapourating houses The accomodation and George Pit

Rossie

What is it about these stones?

I'm finding them everywhere!

This one is beside the road near Rossie Farm, on the Auchtermuchty Recreational Cycle Route. This one is unusual in the fact that it tells you what it is and on top is a representation of the boundary of Auchtermuchty Common.

An Ordinance Survey Benchmark symbol has been make at the base of the stone.

The Auchtermuchty Common boundary stone The Auchtermuchty Common boundary stone
The Auchtermuchty Common boundary stone

Strathmiglo

Pictish Stone

This stone was found to the west of the town in the late 60s and is displayed outside the church. Just visible on the top of the stone is a "tuning-fork" symbol. An deers head and another design also feature on the stone.

Strathmiglo pictish stone highlighted details
The stone mounted outside the church
The Tuning fork and deers head outlined
I hope no one ever sprays the stone with yellow paint or I'm done for!

Tentsmuir

Tucked away in the south western corner of Tentsmuir Forest and beside the Kingdom Cycle Route is another boundary stone. This one has the government property arrow symbol and the letter "E" inscribed on the southern face.

This stone is a mile away from the current boundary of RAF Leuchars, so the possibility exists that there are more stones out there waiting to be found. Find more and make a word from the letters.... so far I've found an "S" and an "A" and a "D"!

Tentsmuir stone
The Tentsmuir boundary stone

Valleyfield

This monument stands close to the site of the Valleyfield Pit, which opened in 1908 and closed in 1978.

"The total number of fatalities at Valleyfield Colliery during its working life was 83; 1 woman and 82 men; this latter figure including 35 miners killed in the 1939 disaster. Pithead girls "at least a dozen" were employed on the picking belts 'tables' and tiplers and it was on one of these devices that Annie Kelly, the only female fatality, was killed in 1919. Her father had lost his life at the pit in 1914."

Every time I read something like that I become grateful for the Health and Safety Executive. The report of the 1939 disaster, which can be viewed on the Fife Mining Resource web pages makes sobering reading. Look under Western Fife and "V" for Valleyfield.

Fife Mining resource

monument
Valleyfield Colliery Monument

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