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The History of Burntisland
 Chapter X. Kingorn Magna and Kingorn Parva


The present Parish Church was built on account of the smallness and inconvenient situation of the church at the kirkton, and by agreement with King' James V. on his erecting the town into. a Royal Burgh that the burgesses should build a sufficient church. David I. in 1130 granted to Dunfermline Abbey “the Kingorn which is the nearer to Dunfevmlyng.” At this time the parish of Burntisland was called the Parish of "Wester Kingorn, and Speed says that in 1243 the two churches of Easter and Wester Kingorn and the double parish were dedicated to St Adanman. The Rev. Mr Chalmers, in his list of churches and chapels belonging to Dunfermline Abbey, describes the church of Wester Kingorn as being the Kirkton Church, Burntisland, and shows it to have been confirmed to the Abbey by Rope Lucius III. in 1184. he describes the church of Kingorn Parva (little) as being that of Kinghorn Easter, and by inference the Kirkton Church to be Kingorn Magna. Chalmers was conscientious and well acquainted with the old documents by which he came to this conclusion. Yet speed says the Kirkton Church was the church of little Kinghorn, and Sheriff Mackay calls it St Serf, parva, Kinghorn. These authorities differing as to whether Easter or Wester Kingorn was parva, in the hope of clearing the matter up, I consulted the Pontifical of Bishop (le Bernam, edited by Charles Wordsworth, M.A., the original of which, in the Bibliotheque Rationale, Paris, was used hy the Bishop in consecrating or re-dedicating 140 Parish Churches in Scotland. On the fly-leaves of it are written the names of these churches and the dates on which they were consecrated. In Wordsworth's translation, under the year 1243, appears the following :—

“Eccl. de magna Kingorn. eodeni anno xv j. Ival. •Tun ij (17th May) '
Keel, de parua Kingorn. eodeni anno xiiij. Ival. •Tun. ij (19th May)”

The Pontifical, therefore, does not show that parva was Wester, hut the editor explains that “Kingorn parva was Burntisland without indicating his source of information. nor does De Bernam say that either church was dedicated to St Serf.

Dr Janies Cainmack, of Druinlithie, was an authority on early Scottish church dedications, hut I could find nothing about St Serf in his “Lecture on Hagiology before the Diocesan Club, Aberdeen.” However, 1 have no doubt lie had something to do with fixing on the Kirkton Church as having been dedicated to St Serf. He addresses his printed lecture to Alexander Penrose Forbes. D.C.L., Bishop of Brechin. Many years ago I photographed a page of an illuminated Irish Gaelic prayer-book which Bishop Forbes said was about 1000 years old. Bishop Forbes was a brother of the Rev. George Hay Forbes, incumbent of St Serf’s, Burntisland, who certainly was the first to apply or restore, in modern days, the name of St Serf to the original church at Burntisland. Wordsworth gives Forbes the credit of first editing the text of the Pontifical; and Dr Lockhart, in his “Church of Scotland in the 13tli Century/’ says Forbes had printed the Pontifical in his own press at Burntisland, called the Pitsligo Press. I have a list of 41 classes of type used in this press, including Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic, and Greek. Mr Forbes once told me of the delight he had experienced on perusing the original Pontifical in Paris, the very book used in 1243 by De Bernam in consecrating the church at the Kirkton, little dreaming that one day I would have to puzzle over it. (I may here point out that some authorities on church architecture think the present ruinous church was built in the 10th century on the site of the one here referred to). No doubt Gammack or Forbes decided that the Ivirkton Church was St Serf on the ground that it was parva Kingorn Church, supposed to have been dedicated to St Serf. we must return then to the question, which cf the two churches was parva. The extract from the Pontifical shows that Bishop de Bernam was at Kingorn Magna on the 10tli of the calends of June (May 17th), and at Kingorn parva on the 14th of the calends of June (May 19th). The reason for the first appearing in the Latin to he at a later date than the second is because the Romans, instead of saying “the 17th of the month of May,” said that day was the 16th day counting backwards from the 1st of June. If the reader takes an almanack and ticks off June 1st and the last lo days of May he will arrive at the 17th of May; and taking June 1st and 13 days of May, he gets 19th May. De Remain visiting Kin-gorn Magna first, it may have some bearing on whether magna was Kinghorn or Burntisland. David Bernham, Bishop of St Andrews, did not begin this special work in 1243 at St Andrews. Lockhart shows that he commenced at the Borders in March, and worked his way gradually north, consecrating many church, until he arrived at Rat ho, from whic h he continued along the south of the Forth westwards to Carriden (May 7th), and was at Airth, near Stirling, on May 10th. Seven days afterwards (May 17th) he was at Magna Kingorn, and at Parva Kingorn on the 19th. Where was he on the six days between May 10 and 17th. Did he go round by Stirling and Dunfermline, where he had not yet been, to reach Burntisland and Kinghorn; or did he retrace his steps on the south side of the Firth to cross to Burntisland, or Kinghorn!-' Judging from his methodical character, he would come by Dunfermline, and, even if lie came by Edinburgh, tlie direction of his journey favours the idea that lie would take Burntisland on route to Kinghorn. In which case Magna Kinghorn would be Burntisland.

The two Kinghorns occur very frequently in the Chartulary of Dunfermline, but only at one place could I see anything to favour the view that parva Kinghorn was Burntisland. In a list of the Abbey's possessions made for taxing purposes, parva is given before magna in an apparent passage Eastward. But this may be accidental, as the method does not seem to be followed throughout.

There is a tradition that St Serf met his superior St Adamnan on Inchkeith, and was directed to convert the land of Fife. He would land at Kinghorn as being so much nearer than Burntisland, and if either of these places received his name it should have been that he began his missionary labours in.

As already seen, the Kirkton Church was confirmed to the Abbey by the Pope in 1184. Why, then, «hould De Bernam, on 21st Dec. 1240 (only years later) grant it agaiu to the Abbey. Lockhart says Little Kingorn was granted on that date. Little Kinghorn must be Easter Kinghorn.

Sheriff: Mackay thinks there would be a church at the Kirkton before 11-30, and it has been thought that its site would be a little to the west in the adjoining glebe, as there are foundations there several feet under the surface. These, however, are move likely to be the foundations of the manse. The minister lived at the Kirkton till 1607. Many coins of Charles I. and Louis XIV. have been found in and around these foundations. .Recently Mr Ednie, gardener, came on a pile of them rusted into a mass ol about 2 inches high, as if they had been made up so in paper. 1 have seen a coin obtained here about 20 years ago, which is a turner or bodle of Charles I. This coin continued in use during the Commonwealth, and it is possible that though the chief part of Cromwell’s army, previous to the fall of Burntisland, was encamped higher up near Place House, a portion may have been here (the Roundheads looked on occupying and pillaging manses or churches as merely spoiling the Egyptians), and have left unintentionally these relics of their conduct. The presence of coins of the Georges must be accounted for otherwise.

On the night variously given as the 12th, lGth, and 19th March, 12SG, King Alexander III. passed through Kirkton on his way from Inverkeithing to his Castle at Kinghorn. He would stop and perform his devotions in the church, an invariable custom with travellers in those days. A storm was raging and darkness had fallen when the King reached the Kirkton, and his retinue are said to have tried to persuade him to proceed no further. But Joleta, daughter of the Count de Drenx, his new Queen, to whom he had been married only a few months, was expecting him. Xo one now believes the King fell over the cliff. Had the party crossed the hills, the accident and the King’s position would have been guessed when the Castle was reached and the King then discovered absent. The route followed on such a night of storm and darkness would be the usual one, direct from the Ivirkton to “No Thoroughfare," and by the beach to the shoulder of the Kinnesswood hill, where the old track ascended to the height of the present road. In the darkest night the shoulder of the hill would be seen from below against the sky, and on seeing it the impetuous Alexander must have ascended the slope about 90 yards to the left of the usual place. His horse would fall and in some way kill the King, just in rear of the rock called the “black stane.” His companions would not know where he had separated from them, and even in daylight his body would be invisible from the track below. The tide was probably searched for him. A burgess of Kinghorn, but outlawed, Murdock Schanks, wandering on the hills above in the early morning, observed some unusual object behind the “black stane,” and, descending, discovered it to be the body of the King. He carried the news to the Castle, and for this service Robert the Bruce bestowed on Schank’s descendants' the lands of Castlerig, Kinghorn, which still belong to the family. This “black stane,” before the road behind it, and the railway embankment in front of it, were constructed, stood 10 or 10 feet out of the slope.

Anciently the road from Aberdour, after ascending Mains Hill (Le Maine was an early name of the district east of it), passed the front of Dalachy Cottages, Newbigging, and Place House, and turned at right angles down to the Kirkton Kirk. The road thence to Kinghorn proceeded first to Meadowfield and skirted the foot of the slope in front of Binn House to Cotburndale. Portions of this road were substantially built of stone, being round the edge of a marsh. The road appeared again along the foot of the Delves, and crossed the shoulder of the black rock east of Xo Thoroughfare. Later, when the road came from Meadow-field through the gap between Black Jock’s Hill and the Knaps, there was still a wide stretch of water on both sides of the road. I have seen this on a map probably drawn prior to 1800. In the 18th century and till 1843 the road from Burntisland to Kirkcaldy passed almost exactly over the road in front of Craigholm, by Gladstone Place, Kirkebank, and up the defile to the Golf Course, through which it passed over the present road there. A road to Kirkcaldy hy the School Meadows or Hailey Shot and Binnend is indicated in Watson’s will of 1684.


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