History of The Raith Area
THE CHAPTER YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS IMPORTANT TO THE HISTORY OF THE RAITH AREA
A BIG THANKS GOES TO TOMMY MANSON AND DON MANSON FOR THE HELP AND SUPPORT OF THIS ARTICLE
ABBOTSHALL PARISH MANUFACTURES.-The staple manufacture of this place is that of bed ticks; to which, of late years, has been added a species of coarse half-white linen called Dowlas, both for home and export trade. Linen cheeks for foreign consumption have fallen into decay, from the greater cheapness of a similar fabric now made from cotton in other places. There is one manufactory for sail-canvas; one bleachfield for whitening and preparing linen yarns, a branch of trade that has of late years entirely superseded the use of hand-wheels, which were formerly so common in this and all other districts of Fifeshire, and which gave employment both to the older and younger members of families. The introduction of machinery into this branch of manufacture has not only materially increased the quantity, but has considerably diminished the expense of labour, it being produced at about two-thirds less than when spun by the hand labour. There is one factory, worked by a steam engine, for weaving a thin sheeting from linen yarn. It is considered to be well conducted, and is ,the only one of the kind in the county. The low rate of weaving by the hand is probably the cause why this branch of enterprise has not been more generally adopted. A brick and tile-work of considerable extent has been very long. established in this parish. At the same place, a pottery for making brown earthen-ware is carried on. A coal gas-work, for the purpose of supplying the town of Kirkaldy, Linktown of Abbotshall, &c. with gas, was erected in this parish, about two years ago. 'The quality of gas is considered good, and the quantity used throughout the year may average 5000 feet each night. The work is capable of affording a much greater supply; but as yet. gas has not been introduced as a general light for dwelling houses, being principally used for the lighting up of streets, public works, and shops. There are a variety of mills which go by water, and are employed for making flour, barley meal,&c. At one of these, not less than from 1 0, 000 to 15,000 bolls annually are made. There is also one mill which goes by water for grinding flint, and belongs to the same gentleman that has the pottery. Brewing was formerly carried on to some extent, but now there are only two breweries in the parish, which manufacture nothing stronger than small beer. This is certainly to be regretted, as good malt liquor is a more wholesome beverage than whisky, which is now so common, and the cause of so much wretchedness and crime. The high price of wheaten bread gave rise, a number of years, ago to the establishment of two Societies, by which the inhabitants might be supplied with that important article of life at a cheaper rate than by the regular bakers. In so far as the cheapness of the bread is concerned, these societies have answered the purpose intended; but if it be the case, as some allege, that they have been the means of depreciating the quality of bread throughout the community (the regular trader being unable to compete on equal terms with a joint stock company)
it is not so evident how far they ought to be encouraged, or whether in one way they have not done as much harm as they have done good in another. There is also a meal Society on a similar plan, which is of advantage to the public, by affording a ready supply of meal at all times, and generally at a reasonable price.
In the conducting of the different public works in this parish, there is nothing particular claiming to be noticed. The usual hours of labour at all of them are ten, excepting the spinning-mills, where twelve hours are common. All the people employed at the different works receive a. fair remuneration for their labour, and, if careful, live comfortably, and, frequently rear large families. The wages of certain operatives, however, have of late years been much reduced. An ordinary weaver, for instance, on the best paid fabrics, will not, receive above an average of 8s. per week for his own labour. None of the public works here are considered prejudicial to the health of those employed in them; the Iinen manufacture in all its branches being more wholesome than that of cotton, from the absence of artificial heat or damp. Although it cannot be denied that the congregating together of so many young people of both sexes at spinning-mills and other public works, naturally tends to a corruption and depravity of morals, yet it can hardly be said that the morals of those so employed are worse than the morals of the aggregate number of others in the same grade of society in the parish. This may be owing to the steady principle of the gentlemen to whom the works belong, and the good discipline introduced by them into all the ditterent departments of the business. The increase of commerce and manufactures in this parish and neighbourhood gave rise, in the Year 1825, to a Society known by the name of the Kirkcaldy Chamber of Commerce, the intention of which was to unite the influence of the merchants and manufactures, and thus render them more useful to the communities to which they belonoged. lt is managed by a committee of directors; and some of the leading members belong to this place.
VILLAGES.-The principal town or village in the parish is what is called the Linktown, which is situated on the west side of the bay of Kirkaldy, from which it is only separated by the intervening beach. The Linktown has only one street, which is about three quarters of a mile long, and forms a continuation on the west to the principal street of the town of Kirkaldy. It is a burgh of regality, and governed by a baron-bailie, appointed by Mr Ferguson of Raith, who is superior of the whole.
The street and the lanes of Linktown are narrow, and the original houses are mostly low and uncomfortable. Many of the houses, however, have been rebuilt, and many new ones erected; all of them, in point of convenience and accommodation, far exceeding the old ones. Some of the principal manufacturers in the parish reside in Linktown, and, according to their success in business, it must prosper or decline. About the centre of the town, and at a proper distance from the street, stands the mansion-house of John Pratt, Esq. of Glentarkie, surrounded with its fine garden and shrubberies, and which is at once a credit and an ornament to the place. There are a few very good shops in this part of the parish, and more of an inferior description, which supply the inhabitants with the necessaries and conveniences of life. Two annual fairs of old standing are still held here, one on the third Friday of April, and the other on the third Friday of October. The spring fair was formerly principally kept up by the sale of lintseed; and the autumn fair, by the sale of black-cattle. Both fairs are now on the decline, and the principal commodity at each of them is shoes, which are frequently brought from a considerable distance, and sold at very low prices. In the Linktown, there is a jail or rather lock-up-house, to which the baron bailie has the power of consigning offenders. It is in bad repair and little used.
The flourishing condition of trade and consequent increase of inhabitants induced the late Mr Ferguson of Raith, about the year 1790, to feu property for building on a regular plan a street running nearly at right angles with the east end of Linktown, in the direction of the parish church. This line of building, which has never been completed, is known by the name of the New Town, and contains about 780 inhabitants, of whom, with the exception of a few respectable families, almost all are operative weavers. Here are situated the spinning mills of Mr James Aytoun, a gentleman of much enterprise and usefulness in the place. At Mr Aytoun's mills, not less than 120 individuals are constantly and regularly employed. There are, besides the Linktown and New Town, several villages in the country district of the parish, of minor note, containing in all about 197 souls.
INNS.-The number of licensed alehouses in the parish is nearly 30, a number by far too large, and which certainly ought to be reduced. Restraint, too, ought to be put upon them as to the hours during which they ought to be kept open. The justices have power to do both. 'l'he steady exertion of these powers is what is wanting.
HISTORY OF THE RAITH AREA
the pages you are about to read are in no way in chronically order
I started my life at nicol street which in years gone by was part of RAITH estate all feaus were paid to Mr. munro -ferguson I will do this street from the west end side up to park side first my recollection start in 1956 when I was 4 years old at No. there was Mr. water's sweetie shop,no4 was mr.macdonalds the butchers shop, across the road fyffes the news agents,next to that was bethelfield church when Mr. Campbell was the minister .At no 10 john("scottie")ried stayed till he moved to whitely bay he was to my knowledge the first Canadian ice hockey player to come to KIRKCALDY ice rink in the late 40s sadly john passed away jan.2004 aged 80.then came the infamous no 12 (that's where i stayed)when the tennaments were pulled down there was a garage built selling mobil petrol if memory serves me right it was taken over by Mr. Kennedy who had a milk business across the road there was beveridge Weir the confectionary wholesaler.Next to him was Stan wards sales rooms,across the road was Mrs. broughs the general merchants across the road there was Murray pheeleys sweetie shop,next to that was Peggy's pub (novar bar)then there was quality pend which no longer exists it is now flats across the road next to the general merchants was a cobblers shop run by Mr. milne,there was a venal coming off at Mrs. broughs shop where there was A.T. HOGGS.the bootmaker(strathmiglo)whytes car salesroom, KIRKCALDY bottle exchange,george halley (the dyers)and a small scrap yard run by "Billy the pole"back up nicol street is Newton house this was once the manse for bethelfield church,then it changed to the doctors surgery,in my time it was dr.jones who didn't like malingerers on Mondays looking for a line to stay of work (hangover day) as we called it then it was taken over by George Haley the dyers and is now a private house.the new surgery was built next to Newton house and is still there yet further up the road was Harry K Browns the ford motor garage on the same side further up was Mr. Ferguson's dairy across the road was a blacksmiths smiddy at the top of nicol street there was a small Forrest well it looked like a Forrest when I was a lad there was a rookery in the trees that is where we got our first chance of climbing to get the crows eggs.there is also said there was a house that sank years before me and an other house is now built there and is still there.right across the front of the small forest was the beveridge park where me and my pals spent many a happy times will not dwell on the park as there is a fantastic site on the web which you can access through a link on the home page of this site through THE KIRKCALDY CIVIC SOCIETIES LINK which I am proud to say I am a member if you are really interested in your local history please go to their site it is linked to mine and you will not be dissapointed.Now comes the time for the history of the RAITH ESTATE most of my information comes from snippets I read when I was a lad at school ,the local libraries and Mr. donaldson my history teacher at balwearie secondary school now called balwearie high school
THE FOLLOWING SCRIPT IS BY KIND PERMISSION OF KIRKCALDY CICVIC SOCIETY
FERGUSONS OF RAITH
Raith Estate has been owned by the fergusons of raith since the death of the first earl of melvillein the early 18th century.
The first william ferguson of raith married around 1730 to jane crauford daughter of ronald crauford of restalrig(near edinburgh)
her sister was the countess of dalkeith
their son robert cauford ferguson was M.P.for kirkcaldy from 1767-1840 and died in london age 73.Robert crauford fergusons oldest son was general sir john ferguson of nottingham who died without having an heir.His brother Sir Ronald Ferguson was the next heir of raith, who was born in raith house in 1773 and died in 1840 age 68.he married jane the daughter of SIR Hector Munro of Novar Ross-shire who died in 1830 The name Munro-Ferguson has continued to this day ,although there have had to be some name adoptions for purposes of inheritence.
THIS EXERPT WAS TAKEN FROM KIRKCALDY AND SCHYRE
A HEARTFUL THANKS GOES TO THE LATE MR E.W.B. NICHOLSON WITHOUT HIM THIS PIECE WOULD HAVE BEEN LOST FOR GOOD
BATTLE OF THE RAITH
IN THE YEAR 596 AN IMPORTANT BATTLE TOOK PLACE IMMEDIATELY TO THE WEST OF KIRKCALDY.
aLL THE RACES THEN CONTENDING FOR MASTERY IN THIS COUNTRY SEEM TO BE REPRESENTED.
ALONG THE SHORE LAY THE GALLEYS OF THE INVADERS(CHIEFLY ANGLES) ON THE LOW GROUND WERE SPREAD THEIR HOSTS,AND ON THE HIGH GROUND BEHIND RAITH WERE THE DEFENDERS -PICTS,SCOTS,AND BRITONS,UNITED
UNDER THE KING, AIDAD OR(AEDHAN) ONE OF THE ABLEST RULERS THAT THE COUNTRY EVER HAD . THE RESULT WAS AS DRAMATIC AS THE OCCASION WAS IMPORTANT.THE STORY OF THIS EARLY BATTLEHAS NOT YET FOUND A PLACE IN OUR BOOKS ON SCOTTISH HISTORY,BECAUSE THE SPOT HAS ONLY BEEN RECENTLY IDENTIFIED. FULL DESCRIPTIONS HAVE LONG BEEN KNOWN TO EXIST IN THE POEMS OF A WELSH BARD NAMED HANERURIN(HONORINUS)WHO WAS HIMSELF PRESENT.BUT THE STORY BEARS THE NAME CATRAETH AND THERE IS NO SUCH NAME ON THE MAP"CAT" IS THE ANCIENT IRISH AND GAELIC WORD FOR "BATTLE" AND THE WHOLE WORD
APPEARS TO MEAN "BATTLE OF THE RAITH" ITS IDENTIFICATION WE OWE TO THE LATEMR E. W. B. NICHOLSON.
BODLEYS LIBRARIAN,OXFORD,WHO MADE A CAREFUL EXAMINATION OF THE LOCALITY.A REFERENCE WILL BE FOUND IN THE WORKS OF THOMAS GREY THE POET OF THE "ELEGY"IT BEGINS:-
TO CATTRAETHS VALE IN GLITTERING ROW
TWICE TWO HUNDRED WARRIORS GO
THE DEFENDERS AND INVADERS,FACED EACH OTHER IN THIS PART OF FIFE FOR NEARLY A WEEK. THEN ONE NIGHT KIND AIDANS ROYAL ESCORT,CONSISTING OF 303(SOME SAY 363)RICHLY-CAPARISONED BRITISH HORSE MEN INDULGED IN A DRINKING FEAST ALL NIGHT IN A HALL AT RAITH HILL, AND THEN AT DAWN,WITHOUT TROUBLING ABOUT SUPPORTERS FROM THE MAIN ARMY THEY CHARGED DOWN AMONG THE HOARDESOF THE INVADERS. THEY WERE SIMPLY SWALLOWED UP,AND ONLY THREE ESCAPED ALIVE. ONE WAS THE POET,WHO WAS AFTERWARDS RANSOMED AND TOLD THE TALE. AIDAN HAVING THUS LOST HIS ESCORT ,THIS MISFORTUNE BY SEVERAL VICTORIES,AND HE DIED AT CANTIRE IN 606.ACCORDING TO THE POEMS THE CHARGE OF THE 300 MEN WAS FROM RAITH HILL BY THE WEST OF THE MILL DAM AND ALONG BY THE COARSE OF THE TIEL. THERE ARE MANY LOCAL REFRENCES IN THE VERSE.KING AIDAN WAS A FRIEND OF COLUMBA AND ADAMNAN THE BIOGRAPHER OF THAT SAINT RECORDSTHAT ONE NIGHT COLUMBA SAW IN SPIRIT A PERILOUS BATTLE IN WHICH AIDAN AND HIS PEOPLE WERE ENGAGED,THAT THE BARBARIANSULTIMATELYFLED,BUT AIDAN LOST 303 MEN.ONE RESULT OF PARTIAL SUCCESS OF THE ANGLES IN THIS BATTLE WOULD BE SETTLEMENTS ALONG THE SHORES OF FIFE. THEY HAD ALREADY GAINED A FIRM FOOTING BEYOND THE FORTH AND LOTHIAN.