After last week's visit to South Queensferry we cross the Forth to the
former Royal Burgh of Dysart, which merged with its larger neighbour
Kirkcaldy in 1930. Hugging the Forth, many of Dysart's links with its
historic past, eg vernacular architecture and carved lintel stones
marking marriages or safe deliverance from the Plague, can still be seen
by 21st century visitors. The Tolbooth has been standing since 1576, and
the adjacent Town Hall, built 1887, was the meeting place for the
Provost and Councillors until the Burgh amalgated with Kirkcaldy. In
1656, troops from Cromwell's invading English army were billeted in the
Tolbooth and dropped a lighted torch into a barrel of gunpowder, blowing
off the roof.
The availability of coal saw Dysart, in times past, playing a major part
in the Scottish salt industry. The 'Saut Toun' and 'Little Holland',
descriptive names applied to the Burgh, are indicative of the industry
of the community and also of its Continental commercial links. Fine
vernacular buildings near the early 17th century harbour at the Pan Ha
(the haugh where the salt pans once stood) are physical reminders of the
prosperity once enjoyed in the heyday of the 'Saut Toun'. The
picturesque row of pan-tiled houses at Pan Ha, some dating back to the
16th century, were restored by the National Trust for Scotland in the
1960s. The privately owned houses, sitting below St Serf's Tower and its
ruined Kirk, include The Anchorage, once home of a wealthy shipowner,
and Bay House, used in the 19th century as an inn which was patronised
by visiting sea captains. A visit to the attractive harbour is a must.
Nearby Dysart House was once the seat of the Earls of Rosslyn, whose
tenure came to a dramatic end when the 5th Earl's love of gambling and
beautiful women drove him into bankruptcy and loss of virtually all the
family's huge estates. Now the house is a Carmelite Monastery.
The birthplace in Rectory Lane of John McDouall Stuart (1815-1866), the
first explorer to cross Australia from south to north, has been restored
and now houses the John McDouall Stuart Museum, a small seasonal museum
dedicated to his achievements and well worth a visit.
Reminders of more recent industries can be seen in the Normand Memorial
Garden, on ground gifted by a linen manufacturer's family; Meikle
Square, named after the family-owned carpet business which employed
generations of local people; and the winding gear of the Frances
Colliery, 'The Dubbie', part of which stretched under the Forth and had
one of the highest production rates in Britain until it closed in 1985 -
a victim of the Miner's Strike.
Sixty years ago in Dysart, if you looked across the Forth it was filled
with masses of shipping prior to the D-Day landing on 6 June 1944. It is
war-time rationing which inspires this week's recipe - Eggless Fruit
Cake. Food rationing was introduced on 8 January 1940 and houswives had
to be very inventive as they only had tiny weekly amounts of core
ingredients (4oz bacon and ham; 2oz of butter; 4oz margarine; 8oz
of sugar; one egg). There was a points rationing system for tinned
goods, cereals and biscuits. A far cry from today's packed supermarkets
and the problem of obesity!
Eggless Fruit cake
Ingredients : 10 oz self-raising flour; 1 tsp mixed spice; pinch salt; 1
tsp bicarbonate of soda; 1/2 pint weak tea; 3 oz margarine; 3 oz sugar;
3 oz dried fruit
Grease and flour a 7 inch cake tin. Sift the flour, spice, salt and
bicarbonate of soda together. Pour the tea into a saucepan, add the
margarine, sugar and dried fruit. Heat until the margarine and sugar
melt, then boil for 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, pour on to the
flour mixture, beat well and spoon into the tin. Bake in the centre of a
moderate oven, 180C/350F, Gas Mark 4, for one and a quarter hours.