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Annals of Dunfermline
A.D. 1701 - 1801 - Part 12


1781.—the old west road TO the netherton disused.— >From a MS. we learn that "the old narrow road, which proceeded from the west pillar of the old Abbey Gate, foot of Gibb Street, down in a straight line by the west back of Hoodie Street houses to the Netherton Brig, was shut off this year."

The new road (Moodie Street)—This New Road, from Gibb Street to the Nethertown, was opened up, and houses began to be built on the line of road during the summer of 1781.

The Bank OF Scotland..—A branch of this bank was established in the Collier Row in August, 1781; John Dickie, agent. (Note from Secretary of the Bank of Scotland, Edinburgh.)

Provost OF dunfermline.—David Turnbull, merchant, re-elected Provost. (Burgh Records, 1st Oct, 1781.)

The north queensferrY battery was erected on the Dunfermline Guildry Lands, in 1781, for the protection of ships which may proceed higher up the Forth.

Weaving.—An old manuscript note states that "the snow-drop pattern," introduced in 1781, was then greatly in vogue in Dunfermline. •

Winter, it seems, set in much earlier than usual this year. On 26th October the streets of the town had a covering of snow several inches in depth.

1782.—Distillery, St. Margaret Street.—-According to several MS. Notes "a distillery was established- on a limited scale this year at the east end of Bee Alley Gardens" (St. Margaret Street), site of St. Margaret's Works.

Chapel-kirk.—Rev, Allan M'Lean was inducted minister of this Church on the i6th May, 1782. (Ses. Record.)

The Fire at Comely Park.—The house of Mr. Rolland, writer, Comely Park House, New Row, Dunfermline, was destroyed by accidental fire in May, 1782. "This fire, and the fury of the wind during its continuance were long remembered; burnt papers, and the leaves of burnt books were flying about the streets in all directions." (MS-Note.)

"The Terror" OF dunfermline and neighbourhood!—At this period, according to several MS. Notes, "Geordie Drummond, commonly called the 'King of the Gipsies,’ and also the 'Terror of Dunfermline,' used to walk about the town. with his three women to the great terror of the lieges when refused alms. Each of this terror-party had an alms-dish; and those who refused alms to them were told that 'at kirk and at -market they would cry them out.' Geordie had besides his aims-cap an immense pock, swung round his neck to hold his sundries in. When his wives did not bring him anything in their dishes to put into his pock, he thrashed them unmercifully on the street with a loaded staff. The very town's officers were afraid of this gipsy gang." Another Note says, that "instead of the magis­trates being a terror to evildoers, oor Geordie and his tribe were a terror to them" This is inserted as a specimen of " one of the great characters in the town and of last century, and how such a lawless gang were permitted to disturb the peace of the community."

. Provost OF Dunfermline.—David Turnbull, merchant, was re-elected Provost. (Burgh Records, 30th Sept., 1782.)

1783.—the ruin of St. Mary's chapel, Netherton.—A M.S. Note states, that "one of the walls of this old ruin was blown down during a tempest of wind early In 1783." (See An. Dunf. 1814.)

Printing press.—"Mr. Crerar, Bookseller and Stationer, High Street, bought a large Dutch Printing Press, and commenced printing." (MS. Note. 

The Indigo Mill.—William Dickie, dyer and manufacturer, Collier Row (Bruce Street), erected an indigo mill, which was set in motion by a large dog within a wheel. The dog kept stamping up on the interior circumference of the light wheel, and thus put the wheel and other apparatus in motion. "As this was the first indigo mill ever set up in Dunfermline, it caused a deal of talk far and near, and many a one came to see it." (See also An. Dunf. for Mr. Dickie, date 1781.)

  Provost of Dunfermline.—John Wilson, merchant, elected Provost. {Burgh Records, 29th Sept., 1783.)

Agriculture— Rotation of Crops.—"Previous to the year 1783 Agriculture was in a very low state. Very few understood farming use and wont being the rule." About 1783 the system of "the Rotation of Crops was introduced into the west of Fife, and a new order of things began, and was ever after followed with success." (MS. Note.)

1784.—the dunfermline curling club was established in 1784- (Dunf. Regist. p. 32.)

The Charlestown friendly relief society was established early in 1784. (MS, Note.)

The thorn tree in the Churchyard Blown Down.—At the period of the Reformation, "Popish Crosses" -were cast down, as well as Cathedrals, Abbeys, and Churches. Shortly afterwards a religious mania set in for planting Gospel Oaks and Gospel Thorns on the sites of a great many of the Crosses. Dunfermline had a Funereal, or Weeping Cross in its Churchyard, which had been in 1560 thrown down. A Gospel Thorn was planted on its site. This aged thorn was blown down, during a great thunderstorm, in 1784, when the present thorn, a branch from the old one, was set-up. Sir William Wallace and his mother were in Dunfermline in 1303, and it is stated that his mother died there during their short sojourn; that, as his enemies were closing in. all round him, he, according to tradition, interred his mother the Churchyard; and that he had this thorn planted to commemorate the site—an absurd idea. It is highly probable that the mother of Wallace was interred in Dunfermline. If so, her remains would assuredly be deposited within "the sacred fane "—the church. Many years ago, when a deep grave was being dug near the thorn, a stone-wall of a circular form was discovered—evidently the base-wall of the cross alluded to. (See An. Dunf, date 1303.)

  Provost OF dunfermline.—John Wilson, merchant, re-elected Provost. (Burgh Records, 27th Sept., 1784.)

School-Books.—From a great many accounts rendered to parents in Dunfermline for school-books, it would appear that the books then generally used in schools were the " Catechism," the " Proofs," " Read­ing Made Easy," the "Testament," the "Bible," and "Dilworth's Arithmetic " for the " coonters."

Limekilns secession church was built in the year 1784. {Femie's Hist. Dunf. p. 38.)

The town Muir "began to be planted with trees in 1784, and the job was completed in the following year." {MS. Note; also Fernie's Hist. Dunf. p. 25.)

Grand magic lantern exhibition,—This exhibition was made in a large empty garret of a house in the horse market [East High Street], in .November, 1784. Views of the Cities in the Holy Land, and Solomon's Temple, also many Views of London, were shown—"all which gave overwhelming satisfaction to the sight-seers." This was the first exhibition of the kind in- Dunfermline. It was held every night for two weeks.   Gentle and sempel went to see it. Prices for chairs, 6d each; for forms, 3d ; stools, id. Upwards of 500 visited the grand sights. "They were long held in remem­brance and talked of." (Printed Bill by Mr. Creer, and J. A.)

A woman murdered—Dunfermline in Great Commotion.—The following has been condensed from several old notes, and which is now all that is known of this murder:—

Near the end of the year 1784, " Pye Betson," who resided in a small but of a house, on a rising ground, a few hundred yards to the east of the East Port, Dunfermline, was a baker of mutton pies, which he hawked about the streets in the evenings, bawling out, "Hot mutton pies, a hapenny a-piece!" He also took in lodgers for the night. A woman took lodgings with him and his wife one evening, end of 1784. Nest morning she was found, not far from Betson's house, lying on the road murdered. Betson and his wife were arrested, and, after a preliminary examination in Dunfermline, they were sent to Perth to be tried for the crime.  They were tried as usual by the Circuit Judge and a jury of fifteen. The verdict given was culpable homicide (instead of murder), which very much excited the minds of the inhabitants of the town. The sentence dealt out to them was, that '• they should ^publicly whipped and banished." Many were so exasperated at what was considered "a gross failure of the law," that it was seriously proposed by many to go to Perth, take them out of prison by force, and hang them before the door of the lone house where the murder was committed. But a calmer judgment set in, and after a time the excitement subsided. (See also Penny’s Traditions of Perth, p. 98.)

It was a favourite amusement, for some length of time after the trial, with some of the inhabitants, to write with chalk on the walls of the Tolbooth and other public places, the following couplet:—

" There were fifteen jurymen and an ass, Who hanged a thief, and let a murderer pass.

This was in allusion to the hanging of Ramsay, in Dunfermline, for theft, in the year 1732. (MS. Notes.)

A flour mill (Heugh Mills) was erected in 1784-5 for grinding' wheat by water power. In 1819 steam power was applied, which has been the moving power ever since. (MS. Notes.)

1785.—great snow storm and frost.—"There was a great storm of Snow in January this year; it began about the middle of the month, and continued falling' even on for two weeks; the streets were quite chok'd up. This storm was followed by a frost that continued for 133 days." (J. A.)

Limekilns Church.—"On the 8th day of February, 1755, the Rev. William Haddin was ordained minister of the newly built kirk at Limekilns." (MS. Notes)

COWS grazing IN THE town's parks.—"30thl April, 1785:

There were 64 cows grazing in the Town's Parks at 24s, each. Revenue, £76 16s." (Burgh Records.) These grazing revenues were a great help to the town's funds; notices of these grazings occur as early as 1697, and come down to Dechie-Om's time in 1822.

Garvock house OR castle.—A MS. Note states that as late as the year 1785, "there were to be seen near the top of Garvock Hill, the remains of a massive wall, which terminated in a circular stair or tower, in which were narrow slits of swivel arrow ports."

"Fire machine-"—In the Burgh Records, of date 10th May, 1785, there is a minute notifying that the inhabitants were much in favour of having a fire machine for Dunfermline, to be used in cases of fire, and the Council offered a donation of ten guineas towards defraying the expense.

Diving bell.—An ingenious diving bell was invented and con­structed by Mr. Andrew Angus, a townsman, in his cellar, opposite the New Inn, Bridge Street.  It" was made for the purpose of-descending to and searching through the great war ship, the "Royal George," which sank at Spithead in 1782. It is not now known whether Mr. Angus made trial of his diving apparatus or not, as nothing is known of its after history. Note.—When Mr. Angus's house in Kirkgate was being removed, for the Kirkgate Improvements, in 1876, the remains of the diving bell or jacket, with breathing tubes of spiral wire, were discovered. The writer has in his possession a small portion of these ingenious spiral-wire air-tubes.

Secession church, Queen Ann Street.—Rev. James Macfarlane was ordained colleague to Rev. Mr. Husband in 1785.

Water.—A supply of water was proposed to be brought into the town from the "Back of the Coalton." {Burgh Records, 15th Aug.)

  Provost of Dunfermline.—John Wilson, merchant, re-elected Provost. {Burgh Records, 26th September, 1785.)

1786.—flesh market TO be built.—The Magistrates pur­chased the large open area called "Gibb's Square Yard," a little to the west of the Cross, for erecting a Public Flesh Market thereon, and agreed with Robert Young and William Chalmers for the mason work, and Thomas Bonnar for the wright work. {Burgh Rec., 16th May, 1786.)

    Weaving.—"As late as this period, 1786, the weavers of Dunfermline, in order to procure dressing for their webs, generally took oatmeal seeds, and steeped them for some days in water; afterwards, the water was strained off the seeds, and mixed with flour, and then . the mixture was boiled till it came to a proper thickness. This was not only expensive, but tended to harden the yarn too much. Since this period potatoes have been used, which, besides being cheaper, answer the purpose much better." {Fernie's History of Dunfermline  pp. 58, 59)

Literature.-—The Rev. Thomas Fernie, minister of the Second Charge of the Parish Church, published a volume of sermons in 1786.

"Ancient Society of Weavers" established.—The Society, called "The Ancient Society of Weavers" (a Friendly Society), was "established in 1786, and started with about 100 members; in 1814 had 454 members." {Fernie's Hist. Dunf. p. 52.)

Rates OF Provisions AND Wages in 1786.—A manuscript note states that "the peck of oatmeal, Dutch weight, sold at 8d. to 1s at the Tron; and that beef sold at 21/2d. to 4d. per lb.; butter, per lb. Tron weight, 6d. and 8.,; eggs, 6d. to 9d. per doz.; a hen, 6d. to 9d., &c. A ploughman in the parish had £5 a-year, with lodgings a victuals; maid-servants, £2 a-year; day-labourers, 10d, to 1s. a-day.

  Provost OF Dunfermline.—John Wilson, merchant, \ re-elected Provost. {Burgh Rec., 30th Sept., 1786.)

Umbrellas introduced into Dunfermline IN 1786.—"One of our manufacturers, being in London, brought home with him an umbrella, which caused great wonder and gathering round him in the streets to see him with it. It was of huge dimensions, and made of gingham." (MS. Note.)

Measuring the streets.—Payment of three guineas was given to John Durham for his trouble in measuring the streets of the to at different times. {Burgh Records, 11th November, 1786.)

1787,—earthquake.—" There was a very sensible shock of earthquake felt in Dunfermline early in the forenoon of 26th January; it had a long rumbling sort of noise with it." {MS. Note. slaughter house.—"To compleat the Scheme of the Public flesh market, the council resolved to build a public Slaughter Hot close to the East end of the Seceding Meeting House [in Queen Ann Street], The associate congregation object to this site being taken for such a vile purpose. Another site is chosen, and purchased from Bailie Blaik, be south of Tho'. Bisset's door [comer of Knabbie Street], where the building of a Slaughter House, to compleat the Flesh Market Scheme, was immediately proceeded with.".  (Burgh Records, l6th March, 1787.)

  Tremendous flood OF RAIN—A Woman Drowned.—On 11th August, this year, there was a very heavy fall of rain, which lasted for about fifteen hours; all the burns were in high flood; at Dry Mills the gathered rain was something tremendous, and the flooded rain made all the low level ground down there about to look like a large loch. A poor woman from Limekilns, with a bag of salt on her back (suspended from her neck), on her way up to the town, could not get through the flood; she lost her balance, and was drowned. Every one lamented the death of the town's poor salt carrier, (Newspapers and MSS. Notes.)

Robert Burns IN Dunfermline.—Robert Burns, the Poet, visited Dunfermline on 20th October, 1787, when he went to the Old Church, and, on being shown the site of Bruce's grave, "he knelt down and kissed the stone with sacred fervour.'' Afterwards, he ascended the pulpit of the church, and a friend, who was with him, having mounted the stool of repentance, he rebuked him in the style of a west country clergyman, by whom he had himself been admonished more than once for his youthful indiscretions. There is a print by David Allan, representing a real occasion of this sort as it took place in this church in the time of the Erskines. (Dr. Waddle’s Life of Burns; Chambers's Pict. Scot. Art. Dunf.) Charlie Shorthouse was grave-digger and beadle at this period, and he would, no doubt, point out to Burns one of "the six large flat stones," now under the northern transept, as that of King Robert's reputed grave. It is well that these misleading stones are now buried, as they never were connected with the royal tombs.

Pittencrieff estate.—The estate of Pittencrieff was purchased by Captain George Phin, of Southend, Kent, for £17,600 sterling, in. July,1787.

  Provost of Dunfermline—1st Oct., 1787: The Council, by a majority of votes, elected Mr. Adam Low, merchant, Provost." (Burgh Records.)

Pavements (or Plainstanes) were first laid this year in the High Street, and partly in Bridge Street. (MS.)

The flesh market and slaughter-house scheme was completed 3d November, 1787, "on which day, the Council, Con­sidering that the Town's flesh market and slaughter-house is now ready to be Occupied, lay down the following rates, to be paid by the Dunfermline Butchers to the Council for the use of these Houses," viz.:—

£ Sh. D.

" For each Cow, Ox, Bull, or Heifer killed, Sixpence,        0  00   6

each Sheep or goat,     .    .    .    .  . 0 00 1

each Lamb, a halfpenny, .    .    .    .    . 0 00 0 1/2

each Sow, twopence,    .    .    .    .    .           0 00 2

each Calf, a penny,.    .    .    . . . 0 00 1"

This "Flesh-market and Slaughter-house Scheme" was an unfor­tunate speculation. The slaughter-house was continued to 1869. (See An, Dunf. dates 1819, 1869.)

1788. "severe winter.—An old note refers to the-intense frost of January, 1788, and adds that the Dam and the Tron Burn were covered with ice to the depth of from 8 to l8 inches, and that the frost continued all January and part of February.

Death of THE Rev. Thomas FERNIE.—The Rev. Thomas Fernie, minister of the second charge in the Established Church, died on the 5th April, 1788, in the forty-fourth year of his ministry. {Fernie's Hist. of Dunf . p. 33.)

Roman Catholic Bill.—At this time there was "great com­motion amongst the members of the several churches in Dunfermline on the subject of the repeal of the Roman Catholic Bill. The incor­porations of the burgh, the Society of Gardeners, &c., petitioned Parliament against the repeal." (Thomson's R. C. B. Memoranda.)

The Old Bachelor Society.—The friendly society known by this name was established in the summer of 1788. {Fernie's Hist. Dunf. p. 52.) It began with about twenty members.

Weavers' LOOMS.—In the year 1788 there were about 900 looms at work in Dunfermline. (Fernie's Hist. Dunf, p. 55.)

Pitfirrane coal privilege.—In the year 1788 Government purchased the Original Privilege, obtained by charter in 1707, for the sum of £40,000 sterling. {Chal, Hist. Dunf, vol. i. p. 21.)

Debt OF the burgh.—In an old Scotsman newspaper, it is stated that the debt of the .burgh was £3000, and that the income exceeded the expenditure.

  GENERAL FAST IN SCOTLAND.—“As in other places, the 20th of May this year was held in Dunfermline as a Solemn Fast in all the Kirks, in commemoration of the Success of the Revolution of 1688." (J. A.) This was the Centenary period.

The tower bridge rebuilt.—This is a bridge "of two stories" • -arch above arch. It is not known if this was the original plan of the bridge. Probably it had but one arch at first, which in the Register of Dunfermline is styled the Gyrtkt Bow, and consequently would be connected with an Abbey boundary. (See Regist. Dunf. p. 253.) The upper arch would be built above the lower one, to raise the road above to a more convenient level. Above the upper arch there is a shield cut in stone, having on it the proprietor's [Captain Phin] arms, viz., a pelican erect, and above it a pelican pecking at its breast for blood for its brood. Under the shield there is a "date stane," having on it— "rebuilt, 1788;" this date is also cut on the lower arch, and above this lower date is a stone, with the initials, "A, R., l611," indicating that it had been rebuilt by Queen Ann in that year. "The roadway of the bridge is about 30 feet above the rivulet below, and is about 40 feet long by 17 feet broad." For many centuries the road over a bridge here was the only way into Dunfermline from the west (See An. Dunf. date 1611.) The author of the Rhyming History of Dunfermline, page 8, thus alludes to it:—

" This Bridge most gothic-like appears ,

It is of ancient date.
I'm sure it is some hundred years
Since the same was built."

  Provost of dunfermline,—Adam Low, merchant, re-elected Provost. {Burgh Records, 29th Sept., 1788.)

Breweries.—According to an old note, there were still in Dun­fermline, m 1,788, as many as seven breweries for the brewing of "Dumfarlin nut-broon ale."

Stoneware shop.—An old note mentions that the first regular pig-shop (stoneware shop) in Dunfermline was opened this year in the east end of the High Street, by " John Lootit" (Loutfoot).

Cardonnel's views of Dunfermline Monastery.—Adam de Cardonnel appears to have been in Dunfermline in the autumn of 1788 taking views and notes for his work, entitled, Picturesque Anti­quities of Scotland. in this work, under the article on Dunfermline, there are two small views—both of the monastery—one from the north-west, the other from the south-east.  The great west window in the “Frater,” seen in the north-wast view, appears to have been drawn from memory.  The rest of the view will pass.  The south-east view shows the half of the Fratery wall enclosed within a dyke.  The view is not altogether correct.  The text part is meager—only about sixteen lines in all—notifying that “this noble monastery was begun by King Malcolm III., surnamed Canmore, and finished by King Alexander I,; that King David I. changed it into an abbey; that it was dedicated to St. Margaret; that Gosfridus was the first abbot; and that King Charles I. was born in the adjoining palace,” &c.

  QUEEN ANN OF DENMARK’S HOUSE.—Several old notes inform us that “the Queen’s House,” and the two constabulary houses between it and the steeple, had this year become so ruinous that the last resident in them had to remove.  His name was Patie Murrie.  Another note says, “Murrie did not leave too soon, for, within a week or two after his leaving, the great heavy roof of the said house fell, in and destroyed everything.  About the same time the two constabulary houses adjacent to it on the east also became a ruin.”  Still, for some years after, “Hansel Monday cock fights were held in it; admittance, 1/2d., 1d., and 2d. each!  In 1797 the Queen’s House and Constabulary became dangerous ruins, and were removed to prevent the loss of life or any disaster.  (See An. Dunf. date 1797; also Grose’s Antiq. Scot. vol. ii. p. 288, for a view of the unroofed Queen’s House, drawn in 1790).


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