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PARISH OF KIRKCALDY.
IT is said and very generally believed that, in ancient times, a place of worship belonging to the Culdees existed at Kirkcaldy, and from which the Parish derives its name.
It was called Kilculda, the cell or place of worship of the Culdees, afterwards corrupted into Kirkcaldy.
Kirkcaldy is a town of considerable antiquity, and was granted by David II, in 1344, to the Abbey of Dunfermline as a regality burgh.
It belonged to the Abbey until 1450, when the Abbot and community disponed to the bailies and council, and their successors for ever, the burgh, harbour, burgh acres, common muir, small customs, and other properties.
It was soon afterwards erected into a free and Royal Burgh, and all its privileges were subsequently extended and confirmed by Charles I, in 1644, for "good and gratuitous service done."
At this time Kirkcaldy could boast of a hundred sail of ships belonging to its port; and the evidence supporting this statement is to be found among the burgh records.
In the same records it appears that, between the year 1644 and the Restoration, there either had been lost at sea, or taken by the enemy, no fewer than ninety four vessels belonging to the port, and representing in value the sum of £53,791 sterling.
This severe loss tended greatly to check the prosperity of the town, while other occurrences, connected with the unhappy disputes of the period,increased its adversity.
In 1622 Kirkcaldy was in such a flourishing state that the community, according to the "gude will and permission" of King James, contributed 1030 merks to the French Protestants, who sent Basnage to Great Britain, to solicit aid to enable them to resist the oppression of Louis XIII; and the receipt of the French deputy is duly engrossed in the Kirk Session records.
Before and after 1650, the town was reckoned so wealthy that the monthly assessments for the maintenance of the military amounted in the average to fully £400.
Although Charles I. had, in 1644, extended and confirmed the town's privileges, yet, the inhabitants of Kirkcaldy were among the first to coalesce with his enemies, and publicly to subscribe the Solemn League and Covenant.
Some writers have represented this conduct as ungrateful, but we incline to the opinion that it proved the people of Kirkcaldy to have a thorough idea of religions independence and freedom.
They joined the Covenanting party in great numbers, especially the sailors.
They fought nobly at the battle of Kilsyth, against Montrose they suffered great havoc there, and had no fewer than 200 widows left in the town of Kirkcaldy in one day 480 men belonging to Kirkcaldy fell in that war; and, what added still more to their sorrows, was the loss at sea, and capture of fifty eight vessels, by the English, all belonging to the port.
Goods and valuables to the amount of £5000 were also taken and carried off from Dundee, by General Monk, and which had been deposited there by the Kirkcaldy merchants for security.
During Cromwell's supremacy, and after the Restoration, but particularly in 1682, the distress of the burgh was so great, that an application was made to the Convention of Burghs, to consider its great poverty, and to adopt measures for its relief; but the inhabitants had rendered themselves so obnoxious to the Government, that they were further burdened by an addition of 2000 merks to their annual assessment.
As the people of Kirkcaldy reckoned themselves but little benefited either from Cromwell or the restoration of the Stuarts, they were deeply embued with the general enthusiasm of the Whigs of Fife, and became zealous supporters of the Revolution.
They apprehended the Earl of Perth, Lord Chancellor and, after detaining him a close prisoner for five days, under a guard of 300 men, delivered him, under a convoy of three boats and 200 men, into the custody of the Earl of Marr, at Alloa.
This exploit became expensive, however, to the town, as they had to maintain the guard of 300 men for four months, in consequence of information that a body of stalwart Highlanders was advancing to revenge the Earl's apprehension by burning the town.
The inhabitants of Kirkcaldy gained a good deal by their conduct in the Revolution, for, as a reward, King William granted them an abatement of £1000 Scots from their annual assessment.
This relief had a great effect upon the burgh.
Its declining commerce speedily revived, and wealth began to circulate amongst its inhabitants.
But again the prosperity of Kirkcaldy was to be retarded.
The treaty of the Union almost put a stop to its trade, Its shipping fell entirely into decay, and the wars which followed reduced the trade, in 1760, to only one coasting sloop of sixty tons, and two ferry boats of thirty tons each.
On the return of peace in 1763, the shipping trade began immediately to increase.
In 1772 it had eleven vessels, carrying 515 tons and forty nine seamen; and, although the American war again hindered its progress, yet it amounted at the close of that war to twelve vessels, carrying 750 tons and fifty nine seamen.
Since then it has made constant and rapid advances, and at present there belongs to the port fifty six vessels, carrying 6278 tons, and not fewer than from two hundred and eighty to three hundred seamen.
Kirkcaldy has, for a great number of years, sent several vessels to the whale fishery ; while it enjoys a considerable trade both with the Continent, the Baltic and America.
According to the respectable authority of Andrew Fairservice, "Kirkcaldy the sel o't is as lang as ony toon in a England ;" and its descriptive sobriquet, the "Lang toon o' Kirkcaldy," is well known.
It consists chiefly of one street, running from east to west on the low ground near the sea shore, about a mile in length, with several streets and cross lanes, partly running from the main street towards the sea, and partly ascending the high bank to the north.
The principal street is in some parts narrow, crooked, and inconvenient, but great improvements have been made since 1811, when an Act of Parliament was obtained for widening and paving the streets.
The town is finely lighted with gas, and well supplied with water.
The shops of various kinds are very elegant, especially drapers' and haberdashers', some of them being on a scale equal to many in the Metropolis.
These give evidence, not only of the wealth and luxury of the occupiers, but of the consumers residing in the town, the suburbs, and surrounding district.
The townhouse and jail is situated in the main street, and is a handsome building in the Norman style, having the town house and offices in front, and the jail behind.
The jail was once looked on as unquestionably the best in the County, while few could be compared with it elsewhere, according to its extent.
It is merely used now, as a police office or lock up.
Although the main street of Kirkcaldy proper is only one mile in length, yet, when it is remembered that it forms part of the street stretching from the western extremity of the Linktown of Abbotshall (as the western suburb is called,) to the eastern extremity of Pathhead, including St Clairtown and Gallowtown, a distance of fully four miles, the appellation of the " Langtoon,' is seen to be well merited : and we are sure no traveller who has passed through it, but is both astonished at, and wearied by, its great length ; and without hesitation would endorse the description given of it by Andrew Fairservice.
The harbour is situated near the east end of the burgh; it is large, has goodstone piers, but has the disadvantage of being dry at low water.
Of late a great improvement has been made in the shape of a wet dock, which allows ships of very heavy burden to come in, and lie close by the main street.
Kirkcaldy is the seat of a custom house, the jurisdiction of which extends from St Andrews on the east to Aberdour on the west.
It has been long famed for its manufacture of linen cloth, but in 1773 this branch of business almost fell into decay.
Mr James Fergus, however, an enterprising manufacturer of the period, succeeded in opening up new channels for disposing of the manufactures of Kirkcaldy, since which time they have gone on rapidly increasing.
The manufactures of the town and district consist chiefly of ticks, dowlas, checks, and sail cloth, of all which there is a considerable number of manufacturers.
There are, also, some steam factories, one net factory, and about a dozen spinning mills.
There are three extensive foundries and machine works, one of them the Messrs Brown's greatly famed for making Printing machinery, all in the town.
Bleachfields, rope walks, and other public works, are also in the neighbourhood, chiefly belonging to capitalists and merchants in that thriving burgh.
In 1825 a chamber of commerce was established in the burgh, the principal members being the merchants and manufacturers of the district; and, as elsewhere, its object is to attend to the varied interests of the mercantile and manufacturing community.
A weekly stock market, for the sale of grain, is held every Saturday, at which farmers, corn factors, and others, attend.
There are a number of banks, a public reading room, a subscription library, and mechanics' library, all in the burgh.
The burgh is governed by a provost, two bailies, a dean of guild, a treasurer, sixteen councillors, and a town clerk.
The magistrates have all the powers possessed by magistrates of Royal Burghs, and hold regular courts for the disposal both of civil and criminal cases.
The town clerk acts as assessor.
Sheriff courts are also held six times a year, for the recovery of small debts.
Previous to the Union, Kirkcaldy sent a member to the Scottish Parliament ; but, after that event, it was conjoined with the neighbouring burghs of Dysart, Kinghorn, and Burntisland, in returning a Member to the British Parliament.
On the high ground, to the north of the town, is a number of elegant villas, which, with the finely wooded grounds of Dunnikier, and the still more magnificently wooded grounds of Raith, in the neighbouring parish of Abbotshall, add much to the appearance of the town when seen at a distance, particularly from the bay, where, from the south west or south east the decidedly best view is to be obtained.
In the north part of the Parish is Dunnikier House, the residence of Captain Oswald.
This house is not built on the lands of Dunnikier, which are in the parish of Dysart, but was erected in this Parish by the late Mr Oswald, of Dunnikier, on the lands which formerly were part of the burgh muir of Kirkcaldy.
Henry Balnaves, of Halhill, who figured in the latter part of the reign of James V, and during that of his daughter Mary, and the regency of her brother Murray, was a native of Kirkcaldy.
Kirkcaldy gave birth to the celebrated Adam Smith, author of the "Wealth of Nations," and the " Theory of Moral Sentiments," Hume the historian, was the intimate friend of this celebrated man, and was often a guest at his house in Kirkcaldy.
The Hon. Mr Oswald, of Dunnikier, an eminent statesman and patriot, and who long represented the burgh in Parliament, was also a native of this town.
Sir John Oswald, too, deserves notice, who, entering at an early age into the army, bore an eminent part in many valiant achievements.
The Parish Church stands on the rising ground north of the main street, and is a handsome structure in the Gothic style.
It is capable of containing 1800 persons.
The present incumbent is the Rev. Mark Bryden.
There are also a Quoad Sacra Church, two U.P. Churches, a Free Church, two Baptist Churches of a most respectable order, and an Independent Chapel, all in the town.
At the back of the burgh is the Episcopal Chapel, a most beautiful edifice, of which the Rev. Norman Johnstone is pastor.
Education is exceedingly well provided for in the town.
In the Burgh School, of which Mr Lockhart is Rector, Greek, Latin, English, Mathematics, Arithmetic, Writing, and Drawing, are taught; Mr Lockhart has several assistants.
One of the Schools founded by the late Mr Philp, of Edenshead, is also erected in the burgh, and is an elegant structure.
A hundred or more children arc educated gratis, and receive their clothing.
There are a number of Private Schools in the burgh, besides Boarding Schools, at which young ladies receive instruction in music and other polite accomplishments.