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The History of Burntisland
 Chapter VI. Government again plus Trade

From 1592 to 1611 the Councillors were very busy framing' a complete set of ordinances for the management of the burgh. In fixing the prices and manner of sale of goods the following articles appear:—“ Kaikes, aitmeall, bred, buttare, cheise, fleshes, beif, muttony, swyne, fyslie, caiulill, aill, and luglis heir.” About this time there is no notice of milk, eggs, or whisky; nor until later do I observe coal. What passed down “Thrapple-tou’s Wynd” was a prime consideration. The weight, quality, and price of “bred, maill," "fleshes” received searching attention from the visitors to the “maill and fleslie mercats.” “Fre-men baxtcrs” must sell “thair bred and maill” only “at ye Mercat Cross Munday, Wedinsday, and Saturday,’’ though they might sell these in their booths on other days. “Unfriemen” bakers —from outside or who were not members of the Bakers’ Guild—bad always to sell at “ye croce,” and were not allowed to go from door to door with their “ advantage bred.” “ That no persone nor persones pretend nor tak upone hand to sell any advantage bred, hot onlie sixpennie bred, twelff pennic bred, twa shilling bred, thrie shilling bred, fjur shilling bred.” Elesliers had to break “thair fleshes after nyne hours in ye day, on Mereat days,” and in presence of “ye comon breker of flesche,” and not in “thair buiths or houses on Mercate days but in ye Mercate.”

As showing the attention paid to the rearing of animals intended for consumption in 1(509, “ Swyne neither young nor olde” were allowed to walk about “ye streets,” and at one time on a visit of the plague all were destroyed and their keeping tabooed. Butter was a luxury in 1609: “Ordainis yat no buttare sal be sauld any derar within yis burgh heirefter nor four shillings ye pund, and guid and sufficient saltand, under ye paine of fortie shillings of' unlaw, Toties quoties.”

The authorities not only prevented unauthorised persons coining into the town to sell, but the lieges were forbidden to take wares of their own manufacture, or imported, out of' the town to sell until the inhabitants or the Council were supplied at a reasonable rate. A good example is given at a late date, 1728, when James "Welsh was hauled up for carrying his “fyshe” out of tlie town without offering them for sale there, he defended himself' by saying he could not get a sufficient price in the town. The Council held this was not true, and “ordained that the town’s fyshers in tyme coming bring thair haill f'yshes to the full sea opposite the town’s dial, and there expose them to publick sale till the town be served at reasonable prices,” and afterwards the fishers “may carry tlrair fyshe wherever they please.” But it was sometimes the other way about. In 1728 a whale had been driven ashore on the rands. The Marquis of Tweeddale, possessing the rights of the Abbey, sent demanding it. The Council, delighted with tlie providential flotsam, had already sold it for “twentie nyne punds,” and in reply took to boiling down the importance of the Cetacean, sarcastically terming it “a small fyshe called a bottlenose”—a mere sprat, which ought to have been beneath the notice of a Marquis! His Lordship, however, had the whale arrested in the hands of the purchaser. The law’s delays were impossible in such a case; the “small fyshe” jotting more offensive every hour, the Council had to hand over the shekels, after again commenting very freely on the meagreness of the “fvshe’s” proportions.

Speed says that at one time there were over GO brewers, and that much of their produce was exported. I find that in 1002, 31 brewers were fined for selling’ “dear aile." Their malt and brew houses were in the gardens along the north side of the High Street. In 1010 a committee of four was appointed to visit the markets, including flit' “cunsterie of ye a ill. ” This committee tasted the ale—we have never been hard up for men who at the call of duty would face any risk—and examined the materials and method of its manufacture. In 16-Vi it was “ordained that all aill must not be sold dearer than two shillings ye pynt.” In 1GG5 the King was petitioned to gift the town a merk on the boll of malt, and an agitation began to try to obtain for the town’s benefit “two pennies on ye pynt of aill.” These efforts were revived with great energy after the town's bankruptcy in 1700 and the union of 1708—after which all the burghs on the Fife coast were in a languishing condition —and came to a head in 1720. In that year, in language fitted to melt the heart of a stone, the Council sends a long petition to Parliament, setting forth the national services rendered by the town’s sheltering roads, the depth of water in “ye har-horie,” its suitableness for victualling, cleaning, and “carooning his Majestie’s ships,” it being environed on the East, West, and North pairts with the finest and largest parks and enclosures (fences or walls were unknown in Scotland before 1681.. “ This Burgh is also endued And adorned with a church of the finest and handsomest fabrick of any of its bounds and extent for North Britain. Which fabrick and the said useful And valuable harbour with the toune lious? or Prison house That have always been in use to be supported Upholden and Repaired out of the comon Revenue is now fallen under a great decay and amounts to so small a matter As it altogether with the monthly voluntar contributions of the Burgors” does not prevent it from being “ sunk in debt And the very brink of Ruin” . . . ob-loiged to apply to its creditors for a supercedere for several years before any Magistrate or Council would accept office. Tlie petitioners finish up by asking leave to impose “ two pennies Scots per pynt on all bear and aill brewed or sold in the Burgh.” This petition was granted. From 1723 annually the tax was sold to the highest bidder, in tlie presence of one or more of the Commissioners for West Fife. One of these seemed to be very popular—John Moubray of Cockairney—as in 1727 the Council “ordaiues a dinner to be provided for Cockairnie,” the treasurer to pay the same, and Bailie Angus and the Clerk’s charges for waiting upon him (at Cockairney to invite him). This twopence 011 the pint did not suit tlie brewers, who in 1726 petitioned the Council to abate 4s on each barrel of “aill or bear brewed,” or they would be ruined.

The chief of the remaining “Statutes” of l696 were “ye harbourie,” middings, setting of houses, injurious words, bauglie straikes, streking with bathons, drawing of wapous, galloping horses. Two years earlier it was enacted that the “ red be part it to ye lynks at ye eist end.” Later there was a Availed enclosure near the centre used for this purpose. Each householder removed liis own rubbish. In spite of severe penalties the midden system continued till 1833. In 1781 there was a petition from the inhabitants, who complained that “ when trying to get home at night in ye dark they either tumble into ye muck middings and dung hills, or break their heads on ye carts in ye High Street." The Council thereupon gave notice by “tuck of drum” to liave the same removed within 8 days “so as to allow the water to run alongside the street.” In 1611 no one was to “set a house to incomers” without acquainting the , “ Provost, Baillies, and Counsall in wreit,” and no one was to give house room to any “ strong and ydle heggaris.” This supervision of incomers arose from the fear of plague mainly, of which there were many visits during the 17th century and later. In 1711 a night guard of 12 men were on duty at the harbour from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. to prevent ships or boats from lauding, and there was a barricade at the head of the West Bulwark. In 1659:—“This Burgh being a place of comon passage for strangers, among them many idle vagabonds and other wicked persons, ordains that the inhabitants of Burntisjand allow none such to lodge in yr houses without intimating their names to the magistrate under “ye paiue of f'yve pounds for ye first, doubling for ye seconde, and sumarlie banished for ye third.” This threat of banishment was no idle one. It was often put in force, whole families being put outside the town.

In 1657 Janet -— having raised a scandal about “Captain George-his wyif,” which was enquired into by the Kirk’ Session, “ordained the sd Janet to be whipped throu ye town and banished . . . and if ever she be fund in that toun againe She shall be burnt in ye theik.” Every burgess had the right to carry a sword, anil “the drawing* of wapons” was a frequent cause of injury and even death. In 1611 William Balnerage, wriglit, and John Black, skynnar, were tried by “ane assysis of 15 for drawing* of qulin-yarie upone ye comon streitis ... in hie contempt of our statutes.” - They were fined “ilk ane of yame f'ortie shillings and ordains ilk ane of jame to crave forgiffiness to ye toun upone yair kneis and not to do ye lyk liierefter under ye paine of ane hundredth lbs, and to remain in warde for twentie four houres.” As early as .1598 a certain Councillor at the Council meeting* became very abusive, “drew his whanger, threw down his glove and challenged any of them to single combat.” Xobody took up the glove, so he departed triumphant, “ betook himself to his hous, and harangued them from his windock.” He was fined only ten merles. In another case, given by Speed, John Brown (1602) and his son were hanged at Leith for causing the death of three Spanish merchantmen. The heads were brought over and stuck on poles on the Island. In 1666 William Moncrief, Talyeor in the Burgh, was murthered by William Groome of Dunbar, having* “ stricken him in ye bodie with a wliinyer.” He was tried at Edinburgh, the Council hoping “ he would suffer here.” In 1660 Alexander Boswell, skipper, was murdered by a trooper of Captain Fenner’s Company. He was surrendered to Captain Fenner.

There is no means of knowing; what were the piers built by James V. just previous to its erection into a Royal Burgh in 1540. But I find tlie Gray Sunday, West Bulwark, and Earne Craig-existed in 1600. The Graysunday was a half tide pier used by the ferry boats, and in 1804 the back wall of it, as it were, was the North face of the East Head. Its peculiar name, sometimes in the more misleading form of Grey Sunday, lias often attracted attention without its derivation being guessed. Farnie got in a temper over it, and thought it insoluble. Here is my translation —Grace a Dieu—God be thanked—so appropriate and like the spirit previous to the Reformation. The East Head was necessary to the existence of the Greysunday. Both it and the West Head are mentioned in the report of the Military Commission in 1627 who advised forts to be built at each side of the entrance to the harbour. The exact position of one of these on the East Head is known. The West Bulwark was what is now called Cromwell’s Pier. The Earne Craig ran south into the harbour from east of the Castle. Burntisland and Ivinghorn had one Customs officer between them till 1598, when (Privy Council Records) “ Scliir. George Home Wedderburn, comptroller to our sovereign Lord, constitute Maister William Syme coquett clerk of Brintiland, and delivered him the half of the coquette sele to he used by him as clerk. Vigesimo Julie 1598.” There was a Bailie William Syme at that time. Laing in his “ Aucieut Scottish Seals ” gives a list of 7 “eokete” seals only. Was Syme’s ‘k cocquett sele” that mentioned by Speed as showing an image of James V. in armour? In “Cardonnel’s Scottish Coinage” 8 coins of James V. are mentioned as showing him in mail.

According to Speed, nine vessels belonged to Burntisland in 1640—two of 115 tons each, two of 1G0 tons each, and the remainder 120, 105, 85, 80, and 50 tons respectively, as well as coasting vessels, crears, and ferry boats decked and open. He gives the principal imports about 1G80 as wood from Norway, flax from Flanders, French wine, malt and grain from England, beef, hides, and grain from the Highlands. Most of the goods from the Highlands was for Dunfermline, Cupar, and Dundee. 1 have heard that live stock were landed at Burntisland and driven overland as far as Dundee, or transhipped to Leith by means of the fleet of luggage boats, termed “ big boats.” No doubt there would be cases like this, as there was an important luggage service from the first. The carriage of cattle by this service entered 011 a new phase 011 the advent of the Messrs Young’s cattle rearing industry in 1840, when from 700 to 800 cattle, besides sheep, were disposed of annually, value about ill0,000. The boats at this time were from 50 to GO feet long, about 18 feet wide, and very fast. One may be seen in “ Swan’s Views of Fife,” Vol. 2, page 281. The boats were decked, and the cattle walked down an inclined plane into th? hold.

In 1555 “ Bruntlieland ” exported hides, herring-, and cod. About 1680, cortl, ale, and table linen were the chief exports. Defoe on his visit about 1710 writes thus:—“Linen was made in Burntisland and all the coast towns of Fife, and was much liked in England.” Speed says the coal as late as 1680 was brought from Fordell in paniers, on horseback, by the beach, and was shipped chiefly to Holland. It was not till well through the 18th century that there were any further attempts to add to local industries. In 1776 Thomas Parker made additions to “ his Sugar House,” and later the Vitriol "Works were founded. In the first half of last century the herring fishing and curing assumed vast proportions, at one time some 30,000 barrels being exported annually. I think the harbour approach to the curing houses may have received its curious name of “Spice rue” during this period. Somerville Street bad a manifest odour, and a great many French craft were engaged in the export, bringing fruit in exchange. The French epice was humorously correct.

Small customs were levied on the following articles in 1670:—Lint, wool, cloth, merchant goods, iron, cuil (coal), salt, timber, malt, draft', beef, sheep, cow, hors, swyue, fishe, meal, butter, cheise, bred. In 1685 the anchorage was rouped for 175; Boatsilver, 146; Small Customs, 174; Coals, 50; the Comon lands, 314 merks Scots; booths under the Tolbooth, eight in number, from 3 10s to 10 eacli = 34 10s. At the same period the “cess” on proprietors and traders amounted annually to from 800 scots to 1200 scots. For strictly local purposes “ the haill inhabitants ” were always being applied to in addition to their liability to serve in defence of the town, for special night and day committees, as well as ordinary watching and warding, and to assist in cleansing the harbour or paving the streets, at both of which women helped.

Anchorage ranged from 2s for tlie smallest boat to 6 5s for ships of “300 tunes” as long as these were Scottish. “Foraigne” ships, in which were included English as late as 1685, were charged •double. (Free trade had been introduced by Cromwell, but it disappeared with him. All attempt was made to reintroduce it about 1688, which was strongly resisted by Burntisland.) For .shipping coal 3s per load was charged, and about the same time (1680) for the purpose of relaying tlie “calsie from the foot of the North Wyinl to the Sea Milne dams, the duty was raised to the townsfolk to 2 scots per load.

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