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Guide to the East Neuk of Fife
East Anstruther


“Gin ye should come to Anster fair,
Speir ye for Maggie Lauder.”

Anstruther is cut in twain by the Dreel Burn. Each portion is’ a distinct burgh, and is managed by a separate Town Council. East Anstruther is a parish as well as a burgh; but the parish is exceedingly small, containing barely 57.5 acres, of which nearly 32 are fore-shore. As its name implies, it lies on the east side of the burn. It, again, is divided from Cellardyke by Caldies Burn, which, being now covered in, flows under­neath a wynd at the far end of the East Green beyond the Baptist Church.

Name and Antiquity.—This town, like most others in the olden time, had its name spelt or mis-spelt in many ways. Indeed, there may be said to be two ways yet; for locally, at least, it is commonly called Anster. Some of the former spellings were :—Eynstrother, Aynestrothir, Ainestrother. and Ansteruthyir. Struther is said to signify a place lying in a valley, as Anstruther does. Others have held that it means a low marshy place, and although it is “now tolerably dry, there are proofs that at one time it must have merited such an appellation.” Wood, in his East Neuk of Fife, says that, “the ancient form of the name Anstruther is Kynanstruther, the meaning of which is, ‘the head of the marsh,’ or, as some say, ‘the head of the shoulder.’” And Conolly, in his Fifeiana, states that the earliest form in which it is written is “Kin­strother,” and that it occurs in the Chartulary of Dry. burgh, in a passage dated 1225. Wood does not say where he got the ancient form of the name. Perhaps it was from the same source as Conolly. The latter writer is certainly right to some extent. The name does occur in the Chartulary of Dryburgh, under the year he men­tions, and is there begun with a K. The MS. of that Register, however, is written in a hand of the sixteenth century, and in it there are numerous errors in the names of persons and places. It was printed for the Bannatyne Club, and the learned editor refers to the deed in question, in a foot-note to his Preface, where he says that the name “has been erroneously written Kinstruther, instead of Einstruther.” The same document occurs in the Chartulary of St A ndrews Priory, where it is written in a fourteenth century hand, and there it is spelt, not Kinstrother, but Eynstrother! The origin of the town is unknown, but it goes back for more than six centuries, for in or about 1280, Henry of Anstruther gave three booths in his town of Anstruther to the monks of Dry-burgh.

Royal Burgh.—Anstruther Easter was only a burgh of barony, until James the Sixth erected it into a free royal burgh, in, it is said, 1583. The bailies, council, and community of Anstruther be east the burn sent in a supplication to the King and Parliament, in 1585, praying that—as his Majesty had erected their town into a royal burgh, and “dotit” it with sundry privileges and liberties—this Parliament might ratify the charter, so that it would stand in all time coming. Their petition was granted, with the provision that it would in no way be prejudicial to the rights of Crail, or to the action which they already had or intended to bring against Anstruther before the Lords of Council and Session. In 1587, the King and Estates considering how profitable the erection had been to the common-weal of the realm, and especially to the royal burghs in paying “extentis and imposts” with them, confirmed the erection anew, that their privi­leges and liberties might be “bruikit” by the present inhabitants and their successors as freely as any other free burgh royal. On the same day, James Geddy, a burgess of Crail, protested before King and Parliament that this confirmation should not be prejudicial to the rights of Crail.

James Melville’s Manse.—In the old Statistical Account of East Anstruther it is stated that formerly, although “the church was at Kilrennie, the minister re­sided at Anstruther, and was styled the minister of that town.” From Melville’s Introduction to his Diary, which is dated at Anstruther the 10th of August 1600, we learn that “Mr Wilyeam Clark, of maist happie memorie for godlines, wesdome, and love of his flok,” died, in 1583, “leaving four congregationes, ‘wharof he haid the charge, destitute of ministerie — viz., Abercrombie, Pittenweim, Anstruther, and Kilrynnie.” Patrick Adamson obtruded Robert Wood on them, of whom, says Melville, “they lyked nathing.” At the earnest desire of the Presbytery, and the congregations, Wood was succeeded by Melville, who “enterit in the simmer seasone, in the monethe of July 1586, to teatche at the kirk of Anstruther, situat in the middes of the said congregatiounes.” This kirk was, of, course, the Parish Church of West Anstruther. No congregation was ever blessed with a more conscien­tious or painstaking pastor. Although he had taken Robert Dury with him as a fellow-labourer, he soon found the four congregations “a burding intolerable and import­able, with a guid conscience ;“ and therefore set himself to separate them, and provide each with a minister, “re­solving to tak him self to Kilrynnie alean.” This he managed to accomplish in three years. The stipend of Kilrenny at that time was only £80 Scots, without either manse or glebe, but the people raised it to 400 merks, and obliged themselves to build him a house on a piece of ground, which the Laird of Anstruther had freely given for that purpose. “This,” he says, “was undertakin and begoun at Witsonday in anno 1590, bot wald never haiff bein perfyted, giff the bountifull hand of my God haid nocht maid me to tak the wark in hand my self, and furnisched stranglie to my considderation all things neid­full; sa that never ouk (i.e., week) past bot all sort of warkmen was weill peyit, never a dayes intermission fra the beginning to the compleitting of it, and never a soar finger during the haul labour. In Junie begoun, and in the monethe of Merche efter, I was resident thein. It exceides in expences the soum of thrie thowsand and fyve hounder marks; and of all I haid nought of the paroche, bot about a thrie thowsand sleads (i.e., sledges) of steanes, and fourtein or fyftein chalder of lyme; the stanes from the town, and lyme from the landwart, skarslie the half of the materialles, lyme and stean, and thairfor justlie I may call it a spectakle of God’s liberalitie.” After get­ting into his manse, Melville “becam mikle in deat,” as his 400 merks fell far short, and a great part of it was “unpleasandlie peyit, and out of tyme.” But although Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee, and St Añdrews eagerly de­sired him, he would not leave his attached flock. The Commissioners of the Plat, in 1590, gave him an aug­ mentation of £80, and next year four chalders of victual. By a most unselfish bargain, which he made with the Laird of Anstruther regarding the teind fish, he relieved his parishoners and secured the stipend for his successors. “His whole conduct in this affair,” says M’Crie, in his Life of Andrew Melville, “exhibits a rare example of ministerial disinterestedness, which, in this calculating age, will be in danger of passing for simplicity, not only with the secular clergy, but with those whose spirituality is so exquisitely sensitive as to shrink from the very idea of a legal or fixed provision for ministers of the Gospel.” In speaking of the manse, David Swan, the writer of the New Statistical Account of East Anstruther, says :—“ It remains to this day, with very few alterations, and these only in the interior, if we except a paltry addition made to it by a former minister, not at all in the substantial style of the original building. The situation is remark­ably well chosen; the walls are of great thickness ; the lower storey consists of three vaulted cellars; the ceiling of the apartments in the second storey is as lofty as in most modern buildings; that of the third much less so. A staircase, in the form of a round tower, is carried up the whole height of the building, at the top of which there is a small apartment, commanding a very fine pros­pect, and having on the outside, chiselled in stone, these words—’ The Watch Tower.’” The manse is enclosed by high walls; but from the wynd, which passes on its west side, the panel bearing the inscription can be seen high on the square tower.

As has been already mentioned, under Kilrenny, Beat, who wrote 46 years before Swan, claimed Melville as the builder of his manse, and affirmed that “The Watch Tower” was also hewn on one of its upper windows. It is difficult to see why lie should have built two manses in what was then one parish, and he himself only men­tions the building of one. Beat’s manse was probably erected after East Anstruther was disjoined from Kilrenny. Hew Scott says, that Colin Adam, who was appointed minister of Kilrenny in 1634, lived like his predecessors in East Anstruther; and he was the first minister of it after it was made a separate parish, and there he died in 1677. He was succeeded in Kilrenny by Robert Bennet in 1642. Conolly, who from his official position had the best means of clearing up such a point, says, that about 1637 the old manse was sold by Melville’s eldest son Ephraim, to the Laird of Anstruther, for a manor house; and after Anstruther Hall or “The Place” was built, the manse was occupied by the dowager ladies, and other relatives of the succeeding lairds, until 1713 when, under the name of “Lady Melrose’s House,” it passed into the hands of the Town Council, being excambed for an old tenement in the Pend Wynd, which had served as a manse for the new parish ; and ever since then it has continued to be the property of the burgh and to he occupied as the manse. Although it is well nigh three centuries since the vener­able house was built, yet it is ever associated with him, who was its saintly occupant for its first sixteen years. His was not a long life, but there was much active service and much patient suffering crowded into it. He was born in 1556 or 1557, and began to preach when he was only 18. One year afterwards he was a regent in Glasgow University, and was the first regent in Scotland to read the Greek authors with his class in the original language. In 1580 he was chosen Professor of Oriental Languages. in St Andrews University; and in 1587 he removed his wife and family from St Andrews to Anstruther, which was the twelfth time he had flitted since he was married four years before. Having been invited to London by James the Sixth, he and his famous uncle Andrew sailed from Anstruther on the 15th of August 1606. The treacherous and unworthy conduct of the King towards them is well known. James was warded at Newcastle and afterwards at Berwick. His bereaved parishioners earnestly petitioned that he might be allowed to return, but in vain. As he would not give way to the plans of the King, even though tempted by the offer of a bishopric, he was forced to remain in exile, where he married a second wife, and where he died in 1614. When minister of Kilrenny, “he paid the salary of the school­master out of his own purse; and as the parish was popu­lous, and he was often called away on the common affairs of the church, he constantly maintained an assistant.” His diary has been printed both by the Bannatyne Club, and the Wodrow Society; but as it is extremely interest­ing, and valuable in many ways, it is to be regretted that no edition has yet appeared with the spelling so far modernised that it would be thoroughly intelligible to the great body of the people.

A Brush with Pirates.—An Anstruther crear, or sloop, returning from England, was pillaged by pirates and “a verie guid honest man of Anstruther slean thair­in.” The same piratical English craft was afterwards audacious enough to come to “the verie roade of Pitten­weim,” and there to spoil a ship and abuse the crew. This was more than the Anstruther folk could stand. Having, therefore, purchased a commission, they speedily rigged out a swift-sailing vessel, which was manned by nearly all the honest and best men in the town. The captain is described as “a godlie, wyse, and stout man.” After sailing they met their Admiral, “a grait schipe of St Androis, weill riget out be the burrowes,” and which was also a fast-sailer. These two vessels made every ship they met strike and do homage to the King of Scotland. One proud, stiff Englishman refused to do reverence until his main-sail was carried away by a shot, and then it turned out that he was only a merchantman—not a pirate. But proceeding to the coast of Suffolk, they found “the lown” they were seeking, in the very act of plundering another Anstruther crear which he had just taken. The pirates seeing that they were pursued, ran their ship on land. The Anstruther fly-boat dashed after them, fired a broadside at “the lownes,” and landed a party who captured six of them. The gentlemen of the country and neighbouring towns, alarmed by the shooting, supposed that the Spanish Armada was upon them, for this happened in 1587. But, when the Justices of the Peace saw the Scottish arms, with “twa galland schippes in war-lyk maner,” they gave reverence, and allowed them to take their prisoners and pirate ship, which, with flags, streamers, and ensigns fly­ing were brought to Anstruther, within ten days from the time they had set out. Four of the pirates were hanged at St Andrews, and the other two on the end of Anstruther pier. James Melville winds up his account of the event by saying that it passed off “with na hurt at all to anie of our folks, wha ever sen sync hes bein frie from Einglis pirates. All praise to God for ever. Amen.” In course of time, however, the pirates grew as bold as before.

The Spanish Armada.—It is impossible now to realise the anxiety and terror that the threatened Spanish invasion inspired in Britain three centuries ago. The news of the “Invincible Armada” was long blazed abroad. Terrible, says Melville, was the fear, piercing were the preachings, earnest, zealous, and fervent were the prayers, sounding were the sighs and sobs, and abounding. were the tears, at the Fast and General Assembly, kept at Edinburgh in August 1588, when the news were credibly told, sometimes of their landing at Dunbar, sometimes at St Andrews, and the Tay, and now and then at Aberdeen and Cromarty. At that very time, the Lord of Armies, who rides on the wings of the wind, and keepeth His own Israel, was convoying the monstrous ships round our coasts, and dashing them to pieces on the headlands and islands of the country they had come to destroy. Early one morning, one of the Anstruther bailies came to James Melville’s bedside, saying, “I have to tell you news, sir. There is arrived within our Harbour this morning a ship full of Spaniards, not to give mercy but to ask it.” The commanders had landed; but the bailie ordered them to their ship again until the magistrates had considered the matter, and the Spaniards had humbly obeyed. Melville hastily arose, and, assembling the honest men of the town, came to the Tolbooth. After some consultation, “a verie reverend man of big stature, and grave and stout countenance, grey-heared, and verie humble lyk,” was brought in, who, “efter mikle and verie law (i.e., low) courtessie, bowing down with his face neir the ground,” and touching Melville’s shoe with his hand, explained that King Philip, his master, had fitted out a navy and army to land in England for just causes, to be avenged of many intolerable wrongs he had received from that nation ; but God for their sins had been against them, and driven them past the coast of England ; and he, being the general of twenty hulks, had been wrecked at the Orkneys. Those who had escaped from the merci­less seas and rocks, had suffered great hunger and cold for more than seven weeks, until now they had come here to kiss the hands of the King of Scots—at this point he “bckkit” even to the earth—and to find relief and comfort to themselves. Melville’s staunch Protes­tantism and kindly nature were alike conspicuous in his reply. The commander said that he could not answer for his Church, but he had shown kindness to several Scots­men at Calais, and some of these, he supposed, belonged to Anstruther. The bailies resolved to let the commander and his captains get refreshments on shore, but told them that their men were not to land until the over-lord of the town had been consulted. Next morning, the Laird of Anstruther, accompanied by a goodly number of the country gentlemen, entertained the general and captains in his house, and allowed the soldiers, to the number of 260, to land. Melville’s description of the latter is quaint, pithy, and expressive. They were, he says, “for the maist part young bcrdles men, sillic, trauchled, and houngercd !“ The Wodrow Society editor has in a foot­note translated this :—“ Young beardless men, feeble, dragging their limbs after them with debility.” The rendering is woefully deficient, but that is the fault of the English language, not of the editor. Melville’s advice was like that of Elisha to the King of Israel, in Samaria, and, so, for a day or two, “keall, pattagc, and flsche,” were given to them. Those who had come to punish the heretics abjectly begged alms in the streets. Meanwhile, they knew not that the remainder of the ficet had been lost, but supposed that they had all reached home again in safety. One day, however, Melville was in St Andrews, and there he got, in print, an account of the wreck of the Galleons, the names of the principal men, and how they were used in Ireland, the Highlands, Wales, and England. When he told Jan Gomcs, the commander, how his friends and associates had been treated, “he cryed out for greiff, burstcd and grat.” No wonder, for he too though one of the cruel Spaniards and persecuting Papists, had a kindly heart. He afterwards showed that he was truly grateful ; for, when he found, on his return, that an Anstruthcr ship had been arrested at Calais he rode to Court, greatly praised Scotland to his King took the crew to his house, inquired for the Laird of Anstruthcr, the minister, and his host, and sent them home with many commendations.

Parish. Swan in the Ncw Statistical Account, Leigh­ton, in his history of Fife, and Conolly, in his Fifiana, all state that East Anstruther was disjoincd from the parish of Kilrcnny in 1636. But they are certainly wrong with the date. They were probably misled by the “friend to statistical enquiries,” who drew up the old Statistical Account of the parish. From the Acts of Parliament, it appears that, in 1641, our Sovereign Lord and Estates of Parliamnent considered a petition, which had bccn given in to the General Assembly, at Edinburgh, on the 21st of August 1639, at the instance of Sir William Anstruther, and the bailies of East Anstruther, for themselves, and in name of the remancnt inhabitents of the barons of An­struther, and burgh of Anstruthcr Easter. Im which petition it was mcntioned that the burgh was populous and distant from the Kirk of Kilrenny “be the space of ane myle of deepe evil way in the winter tymc, and other raynie tymes in the ycre;“ and the rest of the people of the parish being quite enough for the size of the church, the supplements had “ causit bigge ane kirk with ane kirk— zaird” on the said Sir William’s heritage, within their burgh. They intended to provide a stipend for the minister, if the Assembly granted their desire by erecting the burgh into a separate parish, and by ordaining the inhabitants to repair to the new kirk as their parish kirk in all time coming, and to use the kirk-yard thereof for burial of their dead. They were so reasonable, that they wished it to be provided and declared that the dis-membering and erection per sc should not be prejudicial to the kirk of Kilrenny, nor its minister and parishioners, anent the implementing of the decreet of the Lords Commissioners of Parliaments for surrenders and teinds, dated 29th June 1635, and of the contract betwixt the minister of Kil­renny on the one part, and Sir William Anstruther and the Council of East Anstruther on the other part, dated 19th May 1636. The Assembly were pleased with the petition, and referred it to this Parliament without pre­judicing the rights of the Presbytery and parishioners, and others having interest. The King, with consent of the Estates, granted the petition on the 17th November 1641. A protest was lodged, on behalf of the Kirk and patron of Kilrenny, that the Act should not prejudice their rights; and on the same day the Kirk of Anstruther protested against the ratification of the Kirk of Kilrenny.

The Parish Church is said to have been built in 1634, and exactly 200 years afterwards it was thoroughly repaired internally. It was then described in the New Statistical Account as being, “probably, one of the most elegant country churches anywhere to be seen !“ Now, it is dingy enough, and looking from the pulpit it somewhat resembles a dismal cavern. There are two mural monuments inside the church, one of which is in memory of Rear Admiral William Black, a distinguished native and benefactor of the parish; and the other, which is of a considerable age, bears the monogram M. I. D. The stair-case in the steeple seems to have been the result of an after-thought. Two doors on the south-west side of the church have been built up. Over the smallest of these, the date 1634 is cut in modern figures, and under the arch of the other, there are the dates 1675 and 1834. The tombstone of the Chalmers’ family stands at the south-east end of the church, and the genial Tennant’s is near it. Colin Adam, the first minister of the church, was translated from Kilrenny in 1641. He gave 100 merks towards “levying ane regiment of horse for the present service” in 1650, and two years afterwards the English soldiers challenged him for praying for Charles the Second, and carried him as a prisoner to Edinburgh for persisting to do so. At the Restoration of Charles, he declined to conform to Episcopacy, and was confined to his parish, while some who had truckled to the Usurper were advanced to place and power. The staunch old man died in 1677. He was succeeded by Edward Thomsone, whose fate was more tragic. “Being left a widower, he ‘became very sad and heavy,’ and on Saturday, the 19th December 1686, he went to make a visit at night, and stayed late. As he returned, the servant girl that bare his lanthorn affirmed it shook as they passed a bridge, and that she saw something like a black beast pass before him. After he returned, and had been a while in bed, he rose early next morning and threw himself into the Dreel, and when found he was dead.” His successor, William Moncrieff, “demitted voluntarily in 1689, after disobeying the pro­clamation enjoining prayer for their majesties, William and Mary and praying for King James.” The two Nairnes, father and son, James and John, discharged the pastoral duties for 78 years. Their monument is in the south-west wall of the church. The one died in his 90th year, and the other in his 85th. Both were lairds of Claremont, near St Andrews.

Trials and Troubles.—In July 1641, East Anstru­ther gave £2511 Scots to the factors at Campvere, as their part of the price of arms and ammunition sent home. This with the interest was ordered to be repaid in August 1644, but the money does not appear to have been refunded by Government. Like their neighbours at Crail, they had borrowed it from Sir James Murray, and like them they found him to be an exacting creditor. Much light is thrown on their sufferings by three Acts of Parliament passed in their favour in 1649. From the first of these we learn that they were still due Sir James the principal sum of £2511, and £907 12s of interest. A small committee, appointed to consider their supplica­tion, found their loss “to be extraordinarie great both in men and shiping ;“ that their burdens were also great, and that these were partly contracted by building their new church, and partly by paying a considerable part of the Kilrenny stipend, as well as the whole of their own minister’s, without any help, they having no burgh acres. The great burdens had caused many of the inhabitants to desert the town, and that, of course, told all the more against those who either could not or would not do the same. On the suggestion of the committee, Parliament, on the 23d of February, ordained that the monthly main­tenance and excise of the town should, for 18 months, be applied to the payment of their debt; and recommended two of the committee to speak to the University of St Andrews, that with their consent a part of the excres­cence of the rents of the Priory and Bishopric of St An­drews might be appointed for paying one of the stipends. But this Act was insufficient to relieve them. For Sir James Murray, determined to have his pound of flesh, put them to the horn, which rendered them unable to borrow money wherewith to repay him. The Bailies and

Council again petitioned Parliament. And, on the 29th of June, the Estates recommended the Commissioners of the Treasury and Exchequer to grant them their own escheits gratis, and ordered the Lords of Session to grant suspension without caution or consignation; but the Bailies and Council were to satisfy the debt with which they were charged in the former Act. In a few days they had to present another supplication to Parliament, showing, that besides all their former losses, there “is presentlie takin from them, by ane pirot, neir the Iland of Maij, ane schip perteining to them, loadine with corne, coming to them from the eist countrie, and ane vther vessell coming from Noroway; lykas, the samyne pirot hes also takin tuo fisher boatts, and forcit vther tuo to rune aground whair­by they are lost.” Indeed, the pirates, who always lay near the coast, had brought them to such a condition that “they dare not goe out to tak ane fish for thair inter­tainement, though the most pairt of them have not ane bite of meat to put in thair mouthis, whill (i.e., until) first it be gottin out of the sea.” These calamities were rendered more intolerable by the continual quartering of troops upon them, and caused their neighbours daily to desert the town. And so those who remained had either to starve or ask “remeid” from Parliament. They had chosen the latter alternative, and now pled that they might be relieved from quartering for 18 months, as they had been from maintenance. Their desire was granted by the Estates on the 9th of July 1649. They had likewise sent a joint petition with Pittenweem to Parliament that year, which was also favourably received by the Estates on the 22d of June; and from which it appears that they were actually selling their clothes and household plenishing for meal. Twenty years later they had again to petition Parliament, and their circum­stances now appeared to be more desperate than ever. Through the execution of the law against the persons of Magistrates for public debts, no one would accept the office, and many disorders had arisen in consequence. The burgesses and inhabitants, therefore, offered their humble supplication, in which they stated that, before the late troubles, the burgh had 22 or 23 sail of good ships, and many barques or small vessels; that the chief employ­ment by which the burgh subsisted was the Orkney and summer “bushing fishing,” and the Lammas herring drave, which had altogether decayed; and, that they had only 3 vessels now, the greatest of which did not exceed 20 or 24 last. Further, for their loyalty and affection to his Majesty, they were, in 1651, beyond all places of the country, “totallie plundered by the last usurpers, nothing immaginable that wes transportable or moveable (being) left them,” and some of the inhabitants were killed at the same time. By the insupportable burdens, many of the families were brought to ruin and beggary, and the burgh was involved in debt to the amount of 15,000 or 16,000 merks. Besides their own minister’s stipend, they had still to pay 430 merks yearly to the minister of Kilrenny. To meet these debts, they had no common good, except customs and anchorages, which did not amount to 400 merks, and that was not enough for maintaining even the har­bour. A great part of “the most considerable inhabi­tants” had removed to other places, which was like to bring this poor burgh—which for 86 years had borne all public burdens—to utter ruin; and, as there was not “a furr of land within the paroch bot the meer precinct of the towne,” the parish kirk would also decay altogether if some speedy remedy were not granted. The poor in­habitants who remained, however, knew of a remedy, which they believed would be effectual. Like Mr Glad­stone, they prayed Parliament to allow them to impose a duty on ardent liquors; but unlike him they were suc­cessful. On the 1st of December 1669, the Lords of the Articles recommended their petition; and on the 22d of August 1670, Parliament empowered the Magistrates and Council to be elected, to impose on each pint of Spanish, Rhynish, and Brandy wine, sold within the burgh, a duty of 2s Scots; on each pint of aquavitae and French wine 1s; and on each pint of ale or beer 2d. This was to en­dure for 7 years, and the duties were to be employed in paying the town’s debts. Verily, the starving inhabitants were not Good-Templars!

Fishing.—As there was a dispute between the Abbot of Dryburgh and the Prior of May in 1225, concerning the teind of the fish landed in the Dreel Burn, there must have been fishing in the district for more than six cen­turies; but, like other industries, it has had many ups and downs during that time. On the 22d of March 1661, Parliament considered a supplication from East Anstruther and Pittenweem, in the same terms as that from Crail and Kilrenny (see page 5), and similar liberty was granted. In both cases it was to endure until the first of January 1662.

Writing in 1710, Sibbald says :—“They have good magazines and cellars for trade, and are pro­vided with all accommodations for making and curing of herrings; which is the staple commoditie of this town, and of all the towns in this east coast of Fife. And this town sends about twenty-four boats to the fishing of her­ring, formerly they sent yearly about thirty boats to the fishing of herring at the Lewis.” Anstruther is now one of the 26 fishery districts into which the coast of Scot­land has been divided. In the newly published Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, it is stated that, “Anstruther is head of all the fishery district between Leith and Mon­trose.” That work, however, is singularly inaccurate regarding Anstruther. The First Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland was issued in 1883, and there the boundaries are defined as only extending “from Buck-haven to south side of Tay both inclusive.” The foregoing table, taken from that Report, shows the number of boats and fishers in each of the fishing villages and creeks of the dis­trict. From another table in the same Report it appears that the first-class boats of this district have an aggregate ton­nage of 9646 tons, the second-class 838 tons, and the third-class 179 tons the total tonnage of the 830 boats being 10,663 tons. The number of fishermen and boys employed that year was 3491, there were 46 fish-curers, 76 coopers, and other persons connected with the industry were estimated at 2362, bringing up the total number of persons employed to 5975. The value of the boats was estimated at £66,960, the nets at £95,584, the lines at £14,132 — making a grand total of £176,676. To show the relative position of the Anstruther district, a few more facts may be gleaned from the same table. Only two of the other 25 districts surpass it in the number of boats, viz., Buckie, which has 863, and Storno­way, which has 1091. But while the tonnage of Buckie is 11,805 tons, that of Stornoway is only 7282—that is, fully a third less than Anstruther. Only five of the 26 districts have a tonnage of more than 7000 tons, and 15 of them are under 4000. In the total value of boats, nets, and lines, Anstruther district stands first. Next comes Buckie with £175,550, then Peterhead £117,536, Fraserburgh £114,177, Wick £92,404, and Findhorn £77,774. Fifteen of the others are under £50,000, and of these ten are under £30,000. In short, the number of the boats in the Anstruther district is an eighteenth, the tonnage an eleventh, and the value of boats, nets, and lines nearly an eighth, of the whole in Scotland. To show the importance of this industry, it is enough to mention that there is good reason for believing that about a seventh of the entire population of Scotland is more or less dependent on the fisheries.

Harbours.—The ports of Pittenweem and Anstruther were mentioned seven centuries ago by William the Lion. In those ancient times, the mouth of the Dreel Burn served as a harbour for both Anstruthers. No doubt, Dr John Stuart says that the dispute, between the canons of Dryburgh and the monks of May, in 1225, re­spected the tithes of the ships and boats fishing in this burn. And Dr J. F. S. Gordon, who takes the same view, makes merry over it in his Monasticon. This river, he says, “is such a mighty Amazon that it is now capable of floating a covey of ducks—the only fishers to be seen at the present day looking after the tithes in the Dreel, for behoof of the monks of May.” As Mr David Cook, how­ever, has pointed out, it is not only difficult to believe that ships and boats could have fished in the Dreel even six centuries ago, or that the tithes of the fish caught there were worth contending about; but the document in question bears that the dispute turned on the mooring of the ships and boats, on the Kilrenny side of the so-called river. The fish caught in the open sea would be landed there. This also seems to be the opinion of the editor of the Dryburgh Chartulary. In a charter, granted in 1544, reference is made to the ports of Anstruther within the parish of Kilrenny, as well as to the new port of Kilrenny. Little is now known about these several ports or havens. But, in 1 669, the harbour of East Anstruther was spoken of as the most useful and necessary in the mouth of the firth, for all natives and strangers, and as the only sub­sistence and safeguard of the burgh against the ocean. And, in 1710, Sibbald said that it was the best harbour in Fife, except those at Burntisland and Elie, and that the pier was very convenient for loading and unloading ships. It is stated that, in 1710, Anstruther was changed from a creek of the custom-house of Kirkcaldy into a port, a custom-house being established here; that, in 1753, a new quay was built on the west side, extending nearly as far as that on the east, to defray the expense of which, Parlia­ment sanctioned a tax of twopence Scots on every pint of ale brewed or sold in the burgh; and that the tonnage, which, in 1768, only amounted to 80 tons, rose before the end of the century to 1400. Shipbuilding at that time was carried on to a considerable extent. Government began to construct the Union Harbour, on the eastern side of the other, in 1866. The task was an arduous .one in itself, and was rendered more so by violent storms. It was not finished until 1877, and the total cost exceeded £80,000. Yet, in a gale, the boats are not safe in the outer harbour. The Chalmers’ Lighthouse on the end of the long pier was inaugurated on the centenary of his birth. It, the safety-rail, and the life-boat “Admiral Fitzroy,” were the gifts of Hannah Harvie. The 4th verse of the 93d Psalm has most appropriately been inscribed on the granite slab over the doorway of the Lighthouse.

Maggie Lauder’s House.—In spite of the favourite song, written by Francis Semple of Beltrees 240 years ago, some people are incredulous enough to doubt whether there was ever such a personage as “bonny Maggie Lauder.” It need hardly be said that the folk of “Maggie Lauder’s toun” have no scruples on the subject. They can still point out the “snug wee house in the East Green,” which “shelter kindly lent her.” To them, Mr Conolly must have appeared fastidious indeed, when he threw doubt on the identity of her dwelling. What matters it though the house does not look so old? Is a precious tradition to be ruthlessly sacrificed to propitiate the misgivings of a few prying antiquaries? It will be long before they bring such renown to the ancient town. Away with them! Professor Tennant, like a true born native, knew better when he wrote his rollicking poem on Anster Fair, and carried his heroine back to the days of King James the Fifth. Beltrees made her say to Rob the Ranter—

“I’ve lived in Fife, baith maid and wife,
These ten years and a quarter.”

But Tennant with more gallantry speaks of her as—

“A young fair ]aay, wishful of a mate ;“

and according to him—

 “Rob is a Border laird of good degree,
A many.acred, clever, jolly squire,
One born and shap’d to shine and make a figure,
And bless’d with supple limbs to jump with wondrous vigour.”

Unfortunately, the East Green now belies its picturesque name and romantic traditions, having been turned into a prosaic, narrow, long, low-lying street, connecting Anstruther and Ceilardyke. But there, towards its eastern end, the house can still be seen.

“In th’ East Green’s beat house fair Maggie staid, Near where St Ayle’a small lodge in modern day Admits to mystic rites her bousy masons gay.”

Those who are not satisfied with such evidence must remain unconvinced, for no other can be produced.

Anster Loan, on which the famous Anster Fair was annually held, is on the northern side of the town near the St Andrews Road. Seventy years ago Tennant said that although “at present its limits are contracted almost to the highway,” it “must, in those days, have been of great extent.” In another of his notes, he states that “Anster Lintseed Market (as it is called) is on the 11th of April, or on one of the six days immediately succeeding.” In 1696, it was changed by Parliament from the 1st of May to the 24th of June.

Town Hall. — The old townhouse which stood in Shore Street was a very plain, common-place building. It is believed to have been nearly three centuries old, and was repaired in 1806. Latterly, the upper floor served as the council chamber and common hall, while the under portion was used as a manure store! Now, however, it has been swept away. The handsome and commodious new Town Hall, which has been built near the church, is dated 1871.

The Market Cross, which is a conspicuous object in Shore Street, bears the date 1677.

Dreel Castle, which stood near the sea on the eastern side of the Dreel Burn, was long the seat of the Anstruther family, the descendants of William de Candela, who owned the lands of Anstruther in the days of David the First. It is said that Henry, the son of this William, was the first to assume the name of his lands. The castle, it is stated, was one of the old square massive towers, with walls of enor­mous thickness, and which, in the olden times, were almost impregnable. The name is still so far preserved by Castle Street. Balfour, in his A nnals of Scotland, says that Charles the First, in his visit to Fife, six weeks after his coronation at Scoone (1651), stayed a night at Anstruther. And Lamont, in his Diary, states that, on the 14th of February 1651, “he came alonge the coast by Levin, Largo, Ellie, and lodged att the Laird of Ensters house all night.”

Alas! for the old castle, its princely visitor is said to have been its ruin. For Conolly has preserved the tradition, that, after enjoying the sumptous repast, Charles was ungallant enough to exclaim :—“ Eh, what a fine supper I’ve gotten in a craw’s nest !“ And that “the sensitive knight was so much stung by the royal remark, and the loud laugh of the courtiers which followed it, that he resolved to erect a new mansion more in accordance with the altered state of the times.” Shortly after the Restora­tion, he therefore began to build the house which was known as

Anstruther Place, and which Sibbald briefly describes as “a stately house . . . overlooking the town.” Conolly says that:- "The original contract for this house, made with Alexander Nesbit, deacon of the masons in Edinburgh, provides that it shall be 76 feet by 24 feet within the walls, and of four storey, and the walls four feet thick. The hall and dining-room were on the second storey, and the windows in the former were to be ‘as large and complete as those in the hall of Kellie.’ There was a large rustic entry-gate on the west side, ‘conform to the principal gate of Belcarres,’ and ‘sufficient square docote of the quantity of Sir James Lumsdaines’, of Inner­gellie, his docate.’ The price, including a stable, and a bake and a brew house, was fixed at 2200 merks, and 16 bolls of oatmeal, besides the joiner work, for which was paid 200 merks, 4 bolls oatmeal, 4 bolls pease, and 2 bolls bere and the iron work, the payment of which was £200, and 2 bolls of here.” This costly and extensive pile of buildings was only inhabited by the proprietors for about a century, when they removed to Elie House. It was afterwards occupied by the old servants of the family, but when the present turnpike road was made in 1811, it was razed to the ground. The Clydesdale Bank has been built close to its site.

Birthplace of Dr Chalmers.—In Dr Hanna's vol­uminous Memoirs of Chalmers, remarkably little is said about his birth, and nothing more definite about his birth­place than that it was in Anstruther. The house, how­ever, is still pointed out; indeed, the precise room and veritable box-bed are shown, in which the great ecclesias­tical leader and philanthropist first saw the light. On the south side of the High Street, a few doors east from the National Bank, there is a narrow close which leads straight to the house.

Lately the dwelling had become very dingy and somewhat dilapidated, but a few days ago (June 1885) it was bought by Mr Fortune, chemist, for £80. Already he has repaired the roof, and given the building a new face of cement. The whole house is to be thoroughly renovated and fitted for a better class of tenants. With praiseworthy consideration he is not to interfere with the special room beyond cleaning it. The wooden pannelling and box-bed are to be left intact. The house is two storeys in height, and has a large garret besides, and capacious cellars underneath—the beams of the latter being of good sound oak. Chalmers was one of a family of fourteen, and was born on the 17th of March 1780. It seems that this house was not the usual residence of his parents, that, in fact, they had oniy gone into it while their own domicile was being repaired or altered. His father’s shop, which was a little further west in the same street, but on the opposite side, has been transformed into a post office; and, immediately to the west of it, there is a rather ruinous range of build­ings which was formerly the thread manufactory of Chal­mers and his brother-in-law. It has been asserted that the refuse and dye from this manufactory drove the salmon from the Dreel. Be that as it may, immediately behind these buildings stands the house in which Thomas Chal­mers spent his youthful years,. and where his parents lived and died. There the active Bailie, who was diligent in business and fervent in spirit, enjoyed his favourite authors, James Hervey and John Newton. He was particularly fond of the once-famous and widely-prized Theron and Aspasio. When the Doctor came to visit his worthy parents in 1816, nothing brought back the old times more forcibly to him than an Anstruther Sabbath. “In the spring of 1845, Dr Chalmers,” says his biographer, “visited his native village. It almost looked as if he came to take farewell, and as if that peculiarity of old age, which sends it back to the days of childhood for its last earthly re­miniscences, had for a time and prematurely taken hold. of him. His special object seemed to be to revive the recollections of his boyhood — gathering Johnny Groats by the sea beach of the Billowness, and lilacs from an ancient hedge, taking both away to be laid up in his repositories at Edinburgh. Not a place or person familiar to him in earlier years was left un­visited. On his way to the churchyard, he went up the very road along which he had gone of old to the parish school. Slipping into a poor looking dwelling by the way, he said to his companion, Dr Williamson, ‘I would just like to see the place where Lizzy Geen’s water-bucket used to stand ‘—the said water-bucket having been a favourite haunt of the over-heated ball­players, and Lizzy, a great favourite, for the free access she allowed to it. He called on two contemporaries of his boyhood, one of whom he had not seen for forty-five, the other for fifty-two years, and took the most boyish delight in recognising how the ‘mould of antiquity had gathered upon their ‘features,’ and in recounting stories of his school-boy days. ‘James,’ said he to the oldest of the two, a tailor, now upwards of eighty, who in those days had astonished the children, and himself among the number, with displays of superior knowledge, ‘you were the first man that ever gave me something like a correct notion of the form of the earth. I knew that it was round, but I thought always that it was round like a shilling till you told me that it was round like a marble.’ ‘Well, John,’ said he to the other, whose face, like his own, had suffered severely from small-pox in his child-hood, ‘you and I have had. one advantage over folk with finer faces—theirs have been aye getting the waur, but ours have been aye getting the better o’ the wear!’ The dining-room of his grandfather’s house had a fire-place fitted up behind with Dutch tiles adorned with various quaint devices, upon which he had used to feast his eyes in boyish wonder and delight. These he now sought out most diligently, but was grieved to find them all so blackened and begrimed by the smoke of half a century, that not one of his old wind-mills or burgomasters was visible.” Two years later he followed his parents to the Better Land.

“The cry at midnight came,
He started up to hear;
A mortal arrow pierced his frame—
He fell, but felt no fear.”

Goodsir’s Birthplace.—John Goodsir, the eminent anatomist was descended from a race of doctors. His grandfather, John Goodsir of Largo, was “a tall, gaunt, wiry giant,” a “medicine-man of a period and region that knew nothing of brougham-equipped or gig-driving doctors ;“ he “rode his rounds on a horse, chiefly remarkable for its stoical endurance of the spur, with a pack of drugs and instruments attached to his saddle, and a lamp at his knee.” His piety became as noted as his physic, for he occupied the Baptist pulpit of Largo for twenty years. Three of his sons became surgeons, one of whom, John, settled at Anstruther, and took up his abode in the house immediately to the west of Melville’s manse, where his son John was born in 1814. John the third gave early indications of his predilection for anatomy. He and his brother Henry pursued their investigations in the upper room of a small house, which forms a wing of the main building. “In order that they might not be disturbed by idle, if not incon­venient curiosity, the regular entrance was barricaded up, and the room could only be reached by a trap-door from below. Long after the house had passed into the possession of others, this apartment continued to bear many a trace of the dissecting room. The ceiling, in particular, was covered with drawings of skeletons and death’s heads, beneath one of which the youthful anatomist had written, while in a moralising mood, ‘Behold our lot!”

The Waid Academy is just about to be built in the field immediately to the north of Adelaide Lodge, and near the railway station. The cost will be over £3000. Its most striking feature, as will be seen from the accompanying illustration, is the tower and spire, which is to be 80 feet in height. There is to be a large room of 58.5 feet by 22, and ether four, each of which will be 22.5 feet by 19.5 The entrance hall is under the tower.

The rector’s house also. forms part of the building. Mr Henry of St Andrews is the successful architect. Andrew Waid, a native of Anstruther, became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and died in London in 1804. He disponed his whole property, after paying certain annuities, to twelve trustees for the purpose of erecting this academy, to educate, clothe, and maintain poor orphan boys and seamen’s sons.

Population, Public Institutions, &c.—The population from 1744 to 1831 varied from 900 to 1000. In 1881 it had risen to 1349. Besides the Parish Church, there are a Free, U.P., Baptist, and E.U. churches; three banks, a post office, a gas-work, and two hotels. The East of Fife Record is also published here; while the Fife News, which devotes much space to the local intelligence, has a large circula­tion in the district. There are many excellent villas on the northern outskirts of the town, and Mr Henderson, builder, has recently acquired a large plot of ground, on the side of the Crail road, on which to erect ten double villas with bay windows. It is also proposed to increase the amenities of the town by getting a public park.

The Beggar's Benison
by David Stevenson, Emeritus professor in the Department of Scottish History at the University of St Andrews. ISBN: 1 86232 134 5
Two clubs, dedicated to proclaiming the joys of libertine sex, thrived in mid and late eighteenth-century Scotland. The Beggar's Benison (1732), starting from local roots in Fife, became large and sprawling, with branches in Edinburgh, Glasgow - and St. Petersburg. As a toast 'The Beggar's Benison' was drink at aristocratic dnners in London as a coded reference to sex, and the Prince of Wales (later George IV) became a member.

Click here to see pictures of Anstruther


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