Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Royal Burgh of Kirkcaldy 2


From the earliest records we have the following figures for population: [in 1792] Pathhead, 2,089; Dysart, 1,736; Gallatown, 432; and [in 1802] in Kirkcaldy proper, 3,248. The growth that took the population to 40,000 in 1910 was therefore phenomenal. Birth rates and death rates were both declining rapidly at this point. (For comparison's purposes, the current population stands at 46,000.)

The author notes dispassionately, but with a note of satisfaction that in comparison with other towns, "Kirkcaldy has generally a higher birth rate and lower death rate. Kirkcaldy's birth rate is 23 per 1000, while Kilmarnock's is 23.9, Dunfermline's is 20.8 and Perth's 21.7. Kirkcaldy's death rate is 10 per 1000, while Kilmarnock's is 33, Dunfermline's is 14 and Perth's is 10."

The Royal Burgh of Kirkcaldy 1

Kirkcaldy is well used to its rounds of 'renewals' and regeneration projects. Evidence that this is far from being uniquely a contemporary feature of our civic life may be discovered from the pages of the post-war volume, 'A Civic Survey of the Royal Burgh of Kirkcaldy' by the Burgh Engineer, R Meldrum. Its justification, it says, may be best encapsulated by the dictum of r Unwin that the city which "seeks to plan its own destiny must first know its own needs and capabilities." In this blog entry, I shall attempt to preserve the most vital of the data left to us, although I conceed that the choice is highly subjective and that at one point I have omitted a reference on grounds of taste and nothing nobler.


The population of the time (1947) is listed at 49,200, the burgh acreage 4,890, 210 of which are under water. The towers raised or 'terraced' beaches are early remarked upon [once more clearly visible with the absence of the sea-wall constructed in the 1930s.] The burgh sits mostly on clay, with gravel, stones, sand, dolerite rock outcrops, peat, limestone, sanstone and, of course, coal, all appearing in patches. "The Raith Estate rising to a height of 500ft is a mass of igneous outcrops, extremely hard volcanic rock."

Drainage occurs through the East, Invertiel, Tyrie and Kingslaw burns, the latter running north into the River Ore.

By some unknown authority, Meldrum claims that the earliest settlement was founded at the mouth of the East Burn. The East and West Ports [not uncommon defensive structures, where port simply indicates a gate] were built at Port Brae and Louden's Wynd respectively, with the town's ecclesiastical centre being founded at the Old Kirk on Kirk Wynd. The town was defended by a wall and a third gate, the Kirk Wynd Port, defended its vulnerable central section.

"The Kirk Wynd led by way of the Loaning to the Town Lands. Small patches were allocated to townsmen for private cultivation as Burgh Acres, but the moors beyond the present Victoria Road as far as the Templehall and Dunnikier Policies were held by the townspeople in common, so that all householders had a right to pasture their cattle there, and to cut peat for fuel."

The last of the Burgh lands appear to have been feued by public auction to meet the expense of repairing the harbour after a severe storm in 1717.

"The Burgh has been governed from earliest times by magistrates and council elected by the Burgesses. Kirkcaldy Burgesses were so proud of their right do this, that in 1588 they agreed "never to have a Provost lest they should be reduced to the servitude suffered by the people in other burghs."" [...]

"Pathhead ... was originally a Burgh Barony."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ephemera - Motor Claims

To be read very carefully. The following is a selection of motor claims, made in all innocence by the Insured:-

The accident was due to the other fellow narrowly missing me.

Cow wandered into car; I was afterwards informed that the cow was half-witted.

She suddenly saw me, lost her head and we met.

The car in front stopped suddenly and I crashed gently into his luggage grid.

I ran into a shop window and sustained injuries to my wife.

I knocked over a man; he admitted it was his fault as he had been knocked over before.

Dog on road applied breaks causing skid.

I collided with a stationary tramcar coming in the opposite direction.

I misjudged a lady crossing the street.

I collided with a stationary tree.

I was scraping my nearside on the bank when the accident happened.

My husband was unwell so I had to get another man.

I heard a horn blow and was struck in the back - a lady evidently was trying to pass me.

Coming home I drove into the wrong house and drove into a tree I haven't got.

I left my Austin Seven outside and when I came out later to my amasement there was an Austin Twelve.

One wheel went into ditch, my foot jumped from brake to accelerator pedal, leapt across land to other side, and jammed into trunk of tree.

I thought the side window was down, but it was up as I found out when I put my head through it.

To avoid a collision I ran into the other car.

I blew my horn, but it would not work as it was stolen.

I thought the garage had only four posts, but my car backed into a fifth.

Accident was due to road bending.

The witness gave his occupation was a gentleman, but I would be more correct in calling him a garage proprietor.

I consider that neither vehicle was to blame, but if either was to blame it was the other one.

On entering Wales I blew my horn at the left hand corner.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ephemera - Poem

In c. mid-late eighties, Scott and Paterson Ltd. published a 16-page booklet of poems by Prue Guild, entitled 'Just An Idea'. The setting is clearly Borders, and there is an interest throughout in hunts and the Ridings, but the interest with our particular copy, which has the word 'Elise' scrawled on the front cover is in the autograph poem contained within. Can you identitfy the author or authoress?

"I saw a child who couldn't walk,
Sit on a horse and laugh and talk,
Then ride it through a field of grass
And hush to feel the wind go past.

"I saw a lass (her brain was slow)
Ride on a horse and make it go,
Up mountain track, thro' lumbling stream
And places she had never been.

"I saw a man who couldn't crawl
Mount a horse and sit up tall;
He put it through the dessage pace
And smiled at wonder on our face!

"I saw a child, born into strife,
Take up and hold the reins of life,
And that same child was heard to say
"Thank God for showing me the way!""