Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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."