Fife Did You Know?

A piece of pottery made in Kirkcaldy fetched an amazing £9,600 at auction. It was a figure of a sleeping pig, a rare piece of the world famous Wemyss Ware. It’s not record for Wemyss Ware though that belongs to an oriental style garden seat, sold in 1996 for £12,650. Record prices have probably been achieved since the year listed. Many stately homes throughout Scotland and England and the centres of their capital cities bear the hallmark of two of Kirkcaldy’s sons, the famous architects Robert and James Adam.
Cowdenbeath was once known as ‘The Chicago of Fife’, It got the name because of its mushroom growth when it was a thriving mining town. Businesses were set up, communities grew rapidly, and there was a lively dance hall and cinema as well. The last of Scotland’s Celtic Kings- Alexander III died after his horse plunged over a cliff between Burntisland and Kinghorn one night in 1286. A memorial by the side of the road connecting the towns commemorates the monarch.
(from fiferiain 01 Oct 2012)
When he died Alexander was on his way to Kinghorn castle to see his second wife, Yolande of Dreux.
King Alexander III’s first wife Margaret of England, daughter of Henry III, died at Cupar castle on 26 February 1275.
Seafield Colliery in Kirkcaldy, which opened in 1965 and closed in 1987, was supposed to have had a life of 150 years, with reserves of 60 million tons. Much of the coal was won from deep under the bed of the Firth of Forth. A Dysart man, John McDouall Stewart, was the first man to cross Australia from south to north, travelling on foot and on horseback through the arid centre of the continent. As if that wasn’t enough, he then had to turn around and walk back to the south coast. It was a total journey of about 4000 miles.
Kirkcaldy’s sea wall has endured more than 85 years of high tides and powerful wave action. Built in 1922 to solve severe flooding problems and to provide local jobs during the dark days of the Depression, the structure is a mass of concrete founded on rock. The ‘real’ Robinson Crusoe was a Fifer. Daniel Defoe wrote his book after hearing the story of Largo born sailor who had been marooned on the island of Juan Fernandez in 1703 and stayed there for over four years.
Fife is renowned for its many golf courses, dotted all around the ‘Kingdom’. St Andrews alone can boast at least six courses. The ancient Kingdom of Fife has given birth to several kings – King David I, King James I and King Charles I.
Kirkcaldy’s nickname The Lang Toun originates from the days when it was little more than one long street, its length emphasised by the long straggle of the adjoining Linktown. It is only in the last 100 years or so that the town’s shape has significantly changed. Back in the 1970’s Fife was almost split into two, and divided between Tayside and Lothian, but the folk of the Kingdom led a successful campaign to retain their unity.
Fife saw some of the first aerial action over Britain during the Second World War, when German bombers flew up the Forth to attack the Forth Bridge and Rosyth. Fighters saw them off, but many people were unaware of anything happening – even when a stray bullet hit a house in Kirkcaldy. The film ‘The Winter Guest’, directed by Alan Rickman and starring mother and daughter team Phyllida Law and Emma Thompson, was filmed in the East Neuk of Fife. But the scenes where the sea freezes over were done with special effects: Fife isn’t that cold.
Ravenscraig Castle, in Kirkcaldy, was probably the first castle specifically designed to be defended by cannons. And oddly enough, almost 500 years later, it became an ammunition store for the Royal Navy during the First World War. Historic Burntisland Parish Church was where the General Assembly met in 1601 when they proposed to King James VI that a new translation of the Bible be made.
He agreed and the King James Authorised Version of the Holy Bible was published in 1611.
Sir James Black a central figure in the fight against heart disease, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, was born in Cowdenbeath and went to University at St Andrews. The Fife Free Press has been printing since 1871. It was preceded by the fortnightly Fifeshire Advertiser, which opened in Kirkcaldy in 1838, but The Press was the town’s first weekly paper.
A Lochgelly Lass was instrumental in the creation of the Open University. Jennie Lee, or Baroness Lee of Asheridge, was Britain’s first ever Arts Minister. The first public water supply in Auckland, New Zealand, was pumped by a steam engine made in Kinghorn, by John Key.
In the great days of the steamships as the 1800s turned into the 1900s, no less than 20 of Australia’s finest vessels were manufactured in Kinghorn, by John Key. Kirkcaldy once had its own bomb factory. During the Second World War, Nairn’s shifted production from linoleum to war material – including giant bombs.
The small village of Charlestown in the west of Fife once contained the largest group of limekilns in Scotland. It played an important part in the agricultural improvements of the 18th and 19th centuries by providing lime for improving the soil and constructing new farm buildings. Auchtermuchty changed its name to get on the telly. It was used for the fictional town of Tannochbrae in the filming of a new series of Dr Findlay’s Casebook. It is also the home town of The Proclaimers and its real name means ‘field of pigs’.
Around the coast of Fife salt making used to be a major industry. It was made by evaporating seawater in large pans, but it must have been an expensive business: It was said to take six tons of coal to produce one ton of salt. Some of the earliest traces of Stoneage man from about 6000 years BC have been found in Fife, at the farm of Morton, near Tentsmuir Forest.
Kirkcaldy’s famous Wemyss Ware pottery owes its decorative style to a Czech. Karel Nekola, born in Bohemia, was one of several artists tempted to Kirkcaldy from Germany by pottery owner Robert Heron in the 1880s. The famous Wemyss Caves with their pre-historic carvings, were little thought of until their importance was recognised by Professor James Young Simpson who is better known for poineering the use of chloroform in surgery.
Canada’s first postage stamp was designed by Kirkcaldy born Sir Sandford Fleming. Talk about builders overstaying their welcome ! St Andrews Cathedral was begun in 1160 AD, but wasn’t completed until 1318.

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