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The History of Burntisland
Scottish Burgh Life more particularly in the time of the Stuarts by Andrew Young (1913)


I AM indebted for materials for tlie following sketch of events in Burntisland and burg’ll life in early days principally to the Burntisland Council Records (for free access to which I hare to thank the Provost and Town Council), the books of the Guildry and Hammermen, the report of the Commissioners to the Muncipal Corporations of Scotland in 1832, Provost Speed’s notes, the Exchequer Rolls, and the Privy Council Records. But many other sources have been drawn upon, which when important will be acknowledged as occasion arises.

These researches have resulted in the discovery of some very interesting facts about Burntisland and the old burgh system which, though in some instances forcing us to part with what had been considered well grounded belief, give a new and unexpected value to what was previously known and accepted but not fully understood.

Much has been written of late 011 the early life of important Scottish towns, mainly in relation to their guilds or trade unions, and partly because of their military history. From 1548 to 1715 Burntisland was on five occasions subjected to attacks by sea. One of these—that by Cromwell—was continued for several days, and at his time the town was completely enclosed and armed with about 40 guns. Its possession was absolutely essential to Cromwell, and after its surrender to him it ended the grip of military rule for nine years. Burntisland also affords a more than usually good pattern for the study of Scottish burgh life from the early struggles of the Reformation onwards, and especially in the seventeenth century. It was pre-eminently a Royal burgh, the particular darling- of James V., who built its first piers, and had great hopes of it as a base for naval operations. Many of the most striking characters in Scottish history were associated with it, sometimes in a highly romantic manner. But above all, through a fortunate combination of circumstances, the interior of the queer, but stately, old Parish Church retains almost all the lofts and seats used by the guilds in those far away times. Three of the fronts of their galleries, with curiously carved oak pilasters and heraldic devices—originally gilded, but at present buried in layers of oak graining—still exist. On the panels of these, under many coats of paint and varnish, have up to now been discovered eighteen paintings of the insignia and symbols of the guilds. Having been employed in the restoration of these, one is forced to give an account of the work, if for no other purpose than to certify its authenticity. And the significance of the panels would be lost without an acquaintance with the customs of the times in which they were produced. With a taste for origins, and the interest everyone has in his native place, I have listened to strange stories of these parts by the old women and men natives, some of whom, over DO years of age, died twenty or thirty years ago. Much of what they told was well worth preserving and so apart from a debt due to the general public, or those interested in “Auld Scotland's ecclesiastical antiquities, or ancient trade societies, I have come to imagine that there is something- I can say which the Burntisland people, more particularly, are entitled to hear. Under this- impression I have spent much time (when it may be my worldly and eternal concerns should have seen me otherwise engaged) in trying to order and arrange the case of this old burgh, so that it could be more fully appreciated. No road, however toilsome, can be thought of with regret if, in the opinion of those qualified to judge, its pursuit has led to the desired end.



Chapter I. Early Outlines
Fossil Sigillarin — Cinerary Urns — Agricola— Dunearn—Roman Pen—Diamonds—Spa Well— Horn on Lady’s Toe—Caledonians—Name of Burntisland.

Chapter II. The "King's New Haven" and Burgh
Introduction of Burghs—Kirk and Tower of Kingorn Wester—James V.’s New Haven at Brint Eland—Date of First Royal Charter— other Charters—Dispute about the Castle and Sea Mills.

Chapter III. Burntisland Castle
Early History—Abbotshall—George Durie, last of the Abbots—Lines to Rossend—Preservation of St Margaret’s Remains—Barony of Burntisland for Sir Robert Melville—His Remarkable Career—His Son ‘‘Lord Bruntyland,” First Provost, entertains the King—Sir James Wemyss obtains life peerage with title Lord Burntisland—Other Proprietors.

Chapter IV. Government of the Burgh
Elections of Magistrates and Officials—List of Early Provosts and M.P.’s—Lous XIV's Invasion—The Bailies go to Church—Police—Bailies and Clerk in Tolbooth of Edinburgh—Town Bankrupt—Laws and Prices—Sources of Income —Council Meeting's.

Chapter V. Education, Amusement and Worry
Perambulating the Marches—School Keys and Doctor — Famous Schoolmasters — Poem — Old Taverns—Horse Race—Trips to Parliament, &c..—Burgess, “Banquet,” Bonds, Beggars, Plague, Conventicles—Lines on Burntisland.

Chapter VI. Government again plus Trade
Provisions and their Prices in 1600—Tweedale’s Bottlenose — Ale-tasters — Petition — Dinner to Cockairney — Numerous “Statutes”—Banishment—Murders—Heads on Poles—Early Fortifications—Cocquett Seal—Burntisland Ships--Imports—Exports—Coal by Horseback—Small and Harbour Customs—Town’s Lands—Liabilities of Inhabitants.

Chapter. VII. Tolbooth and Cross
Streets in 1600—Tolbooth as Barracks—Bottle of Whiskey—Town Clock—“Lord Provost” Regilds the Dial—Bell—Market Cross and House of Cunzie.

Chapter VIII. War
Early Attacks—Forts of 1627—Privateers—Ransoms—Civil War—Money to Fight the “Irish Rebels”—Every Fourth Man Armed—Forty-nine Cavalry—Cowper’s Regiment Arrives— Guns Unshipped — Extended Fortifications — Dunbar Rout—Regiment of Artillery Arrives —Women Help—Ninety Sentries—Number of Forts and Guns.

Chapter IX. And again War
Cromwell’s Attack by Sea—Women at Forts— Pitreavie — Bailie Sent to King — Ironsides Arrive—Council Confers with Lord “Burgley”—Oliver Appears—Terms of Surrender—“His” Pier and Paving—His Stay—English Garrison—Military Rule — 205 Militia — Town Bombarded by Dutch—Castle Cannonaded—Cost of Evading Service.

Chapter X. Kingorn Magna and Kingorn Parva
Grant of Kingorn Wester to Dunfermline Abbey —Bishop de Bernam’s Pontifical—Bishop of Brechin, Rev. Mr Forbes, and Dr Gammock— Coins at the Kirkton—King Alexander III.— Early Roads.

Chapter XI. Parish Church
Its Design—Furnishing It—General Assembly— Guild Seats and Insignia—Galleries—-Plan of Sittings—Magistrates’ Seat—Visit of Charles I. —His Cook Drowned—Guild, Heritor and Family Seats—Women’s Rights—Last Supper Table —Repentance Stool.

Chapter XII. The Guilds and the Church
Antiquity of Trade Unions—Burntisland Guilds— Markets—East Port—Halkston of Rathillet— Crown of the Causeway—Monopoly versus Competition—Seals of Cause—Munificence of Thos. A. Wallace, Esq.—Sir R. Rowand Anderson Restores the Pillars and Brings the First Panel to Light—Restoration of the Others.

Chapter XIII. The Guild Seats, Panels and Insignia
The Guildry and Prime Gilt Panels, and names of those for whom Restored--Smiths and Wrights —Masons—Shoemaker’s Seal of Cause—Tailors- -Weavers and their Box—Bakers and Fleshers —Maltmen and Hirers—Sabbath-breakers.

Chapter XIV. Ecclesiastical
Reformation—Gift from King during General Assembly—First Minister Banished—Covenant —Minister Deposed—Minister Imprisoned— Conventicles—Stipend Spent on Militia Banner —Episcopalians—Riot in Church—Crown Patronage— Religion Riot—Minister Secedes—The Disruption—Playing Bools in Church—Tiend of Fish—Law-breakers and Punishment— Church Life—Witches.

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