1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fife (Scotland)

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FIFE, an eastern county of Scotland, bounded N. by the Firth of Tay, E. by the North Sea, S. by the Firth of Forth, and W. by the shires of Perth, Kinross and Clackmannan. The Isle of May, Inchkeith, Inchcolm, Inchgarvie and the islet of Oxcar belong to the shire. It has an area of 322,844, acres or 504 sq. m. Its coast-line measure 108 m. The Lomond Hills to the S. and S.W. of Falkland, of which West Lomond is 1713 ft. high and East Lomond 1471 ft., Saline Hill (1178 ft.) to the N.W. of Dunfermline, and Benarty (1131 ft.) on the confines of Kinross are the chief heights. Of the rivers the Eden is the longest; formed on the borders of Kinross-shire by the confluence of Beattie Burn and Carmore Burn, it pursues a wandering course for 25 m. N.E., partly through the Howe, or Hollow of Fife, and empties into the North Sea. There is good trout fishing in its upper waters, but weirs prevent salmon from ascending it. The Leven drains the loch of that name and enters the Forth at the town of Leven after flowing eastward for 15 m. There are numerous factories at various points on its banks. The Ore, rising not far from Roscobie Hills to the north of Dunfermline, follows a mainly north-easterly course for 15 m. till it joins the Leven at Windygates. The old loch of Ore which was an expansion of its water was long ago reclaimed. Motray Water finds its source in the parish of Kilmany, a few miles W. by N. of Cupar, makes a bold sweep towards the north-east, and then, taking a southerly turn, enters the head-waters of St Andrews Bay, after a course of 12 m. The principal lochs are Loch Fitty, Loch Gelly, Loch Glow and Loch Lindores; they are small but afford some sport for trout, perch and pike. “Fresh- water mussels” occur in Loch Fitty. There are no glens, and the only large valley is the fertile Stratheden, which supplies part of the title of the combined baronies of Stratheden (created 1836) and Campbell (created 1841).

Geology. — Between Damhead and Tayport on the northern side of the low-lying Howe of Fife the higher ground is formed of Lower Old Red Sandstone volcanic rocks, consisting of red and purple porphyrites and andesites and some coarse agglomerates, which, in the neighbourhood of Auchtermuchty, are rounded and conglomeratic. These rocks have a gentle dip towards the S.S.E. They are overlaid unconformably by the soft red sandstones of the Upper Old Red series which underlie the Howe of Fife from Loch Leven to the coast. The quarries in these rocks in Dura Den are famous for fossil fishes. Following the Old Red rocks conformably are the Carboniferous formations which occupy the remainder of the county, and are well exposed on the coast and in the numerous quarries. The Carboniferous rocks include, at the base, the Calciferous Sandstone series of dark shales with thin limestones, sandstones and coals. They are best developed around Fife Ness, between St Andrews and Elie, and again around Burntisland between Kirkcaldy and Inverkeithing Bay. In the Carboniferous Limestone series, which comes next in upward succession, are the valuable gas-coals and ironstones worked in the coal-fields of Dunfermline, Saline, Oakley, Torryburn, Kirkcaldy and Markinch. The true Coal Measures lie in the district around Dysart and Leven, East Wemyss and Kinglassie, and they are separated from the coal-bearing Carboniferous Limestone series by the sandstones and conglomerates of the Millstone Grit. Fourteen seams of coal are found in the Dysart Coal Measures, associated with sandstones, shales and clay ironstones. Fife is remarkably rich in evidences of former volcanic activity. Besides the Old Red Sandstone volcanic rocks previously mentioned, there are many beds of contemporaneous basaltic lavas and tuffs in the Carboniferous rocks; Saline Hill and Knock Hill were the sites of vents, which at that time threw out ashes; these interbedded rocks are well exposed on the shore between Burntisland and Seafield Tower. There were also many intrusive sheets of dolerite and basalt forced into tne lower Carboniferous rocks, and these now play an important part in the scenery of the county. They form the summits of the Lomond Hills and Benarty, and they may be followed from Cult Hill by the Cleish Hills to Blairadam; and again near Dunfermline, Burntisland, Torryburn, Auchtertool and St Andrews. Later, in Permian times, eastern Fife was the seat of further volcanic action, and great numbers of “necks” or vents pierce the Carboniferous rocks; Largo Law is a striking example. In one of these necks on the shore at Kincraig Point is a fine example of columnar basalt; the “Rock and Spindle” near St Andrews is another. Last of all in Tertiary times, east and west rifts in the Old Red Sandstone were filled by basalt dikes. Glacial deposits, ridges of gravel and sand, boulder clay, &c., brought from the N. W., cover much of the older rocks, and traces of old raised beaches are found round the coast and in the Howe of Fife. In the 25-ft. beach in the East Neuk of Fife is an island sea-cliff with small caves.

Climate and Agriculture. — Since the higher hills all lie in the west, most of the county is exposed to the full force of the east winds from the North Sea, which often, save in the more sheltered areas, check the progress of vegetation. At an elevation of 500 or 600 ft. above the sea harvests are three or four weeks later than in the valleys and low-lying coast-land. The climate, on the whole, is mild, proximity to the sea qualifying the heat in summer and the cold in winter. The average annual rainfall is 31 in., rather less in the East Neuk district and around St Andrews, somewhat more as the hills are approached, late summer and autumn being the wet season. The average temperature for January is 38° F., for July 59.5°, and for the year 47.6°. Four-fifths of the total area is under cultivation, and though the acreage under grain is smaller than it was, the yield of each crop is still extraordinarily good, oats, barley, wheat being the order of acreage. Of the green crops most attention is given to turnips. Potatoes also do well. The acreage under permanent pasture and wood is very considerable. Cattle are mainly kept for feeding purposes, and dairy farming, though attracting more notice, has never been followed more than to supply local markets. Sheep-farming, however, is on the increase, and the raising of horses, especially farm horses, is an important pursuit. They are strong, active and hardy, with a large admixture, or purely, of Clydesdale blood. The ponies, hunters and carriage horses so bred are highly esteemed. The strain of pigs has been improved by the introduction of Berkshires. North of the Eden the soil, though generally thin, is fertile, but the sandy waste of Tents Moor is beyond redemption. From St Andrews southwards all along the coast the land is very productive. That adjacent to the East Neuk consists chiefly of clay and rich loam. From Leven to Inverkeithing it varies from a light sand to a rich clayey loam. Excepting Stratheden and Strathleven, which are mostly rich, fertile loam, the interior is principally cold and stiff clay or thin loam with strong clayey subsoil. Part of the Howe of Fife is light and shingly and covered with heather. Some small peat mosses still exist, and near Lochgelly there is a tract of waste, partly moss and partly heath. The character of the farm management may be judged by its results. The best methods are pursued, and houses, steadings and cottages are all in good order, commodious and comfortable. Rabbits, hares, pheasants and partridges are common in certain districts; roe deer are occasionally seen; wild geese, ducks and teal haunt the lochs; pigeon-houses are fairly numerous; and grouse and blackcock are plentiful on the Lomond moors. The shire is well suited for fox-hunting, and there are packs in both the eastern and the western division of Fife.

Mining. — Next to Lanarkshire, Fife is the largest coal- producing county in Scotland. The coal-field may roughly be divided into the Dunfermline basin (including Halbeath, Lochgelly and Kelty), where the principal house coals are found, and the Wemyss or Dysart basin (including Methil and the hinterland), where gas-coal of the best quality is obtained. Coal is also extensively worked at Culross, Carnock, Falfield, Donibristle, Ladybank, Kilconquhar and elsewhere. Beds of ironstone, limestone, sandstone and shale lie in many places contiguous to the coal. Blackband ironstone is worked at Lochgelly and Oakley, where there are large smelting furnaces. Oil shale is worked at Burntisland and Airdrie near Crail. Among the principal limestone quarries are those at Charlestown, Burntisland and Cults. Freestone of superior quality is quarried at Strathmiglo, Burntisland and Dunfermline. Whinstone of unusual hardness and durability is obtained in nearly every district. Lead has been worked in the Lomond Hills and copper and zinc have been met with, though not in paying quantities. It is of interest to note that in the trap tufa at Elie there have been found pyropes (a variety of dark-red garnet), which are regarded as the most valuable of Scottish precious stones and are sold under the name of Elie rubies.

Other Industries. — The staple manufacture is linen, ranging from the finest damasks to the coarsest ducks and sackings. Its chief seats are at Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, but it is carried on at many of the inland towns and villages, especially those situated near the Eden and Leven, on the banks of which rivers, as well as at Kirkcaldy, Dunfermline and Ceres, are found the bleaching-greens. Kirkcaldy is famous for its oil-cloth and linoleum. Most of the leading towns possess breweries and tanneries, and the largest distilleries are at Cameron Bridge and Burntisland. Woollen cloth is made to a small extent in several towns, and fishing-net at Kirkcaldy, Largo and West Wemyss. Paper is manufactured at Guardbridge, Markinch and Leslie; earthenware at Kirkcaldy; tobacco at Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy; engineering'works and iron foundries are found at Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline; and shipbuilding is carried on at Kinghorn, Dysart, Burntisland, Inverkeithing and Tayport. From Inverkeithing all the way round the coast to Newburgh there are harbours at different points. They are mostly of moderate dimensions, the principal port being Kirkcaldy. The largest salmon fisheries are conducted at Newburgh and the chief seat of the herring fishery is Anstruther, but most of the coast towns take some part in the fishing either off the shore, or at stations farther north, or in the deep sea.

Communications. — The North British railway possesses a monopoly in the shire. From the Forth Bridge the main line follows the coast as far as Dysart and then turns northwards to Ladybank, where it diverges to the north-east for Cupar and the Tay Bridge, From Thornton Junction a branch runs to Dunfermline and another to Methil, and here begins also the coast line for Leven, Crail and St Andrews which touches the main line again at Leuchars Junction; at Markinch a branch runs to Leslie; at Ladybank there are branches to Mawcarse Junction, and to Newburgh and Perth; and at Leuchars Junction a loop line runs to Tayport and Newport, joining the main at Wormit. From the Forth Bridge the system also connects, via Dunfermline, with Alloa and Stirling in the W. and with Kinross and Perth in the N. From Dunfermline there is a branch to Charlestown, which on that account is sometimes called the port of Dunfermline.

Population and Government. — The population was 190,365 in 1891, and 218,840 in 1901, when 844 persons spoke Gaelic and English and 3 Gaelic only. The chief towns are the Anstruthers (pop. in 1901, 4233), Buckhaven (8828), Burntisland (4846), Cowdenbeath (7908), Cupar (4511), Dunfermline (25,250), Dysart (3562), Kelty (3986), Kirkcaldy (34,079), Leslie (3587), Leven (5577), Lochgelly (5472), Lumphinnans (2071), Newport (2869), St Andrews (7621), Tayport (3325) and Wemyss (2522). For parliamentary purposes Fife is divided into an eastern and a western division, each returning one member. It also includes the Kirkcaldy district of parliamentary burghs (comprising Burntisland, Dysart, Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy), and the St Andrews district (the two Anstruthers, Crail, Cupar, Kilrenny, Pittenweem and St Andrews); while Culross, Dunfermline and Inverkeithing are grouped with the Stirling district. As regards education the county is under school-board jurisdiction, and in respect of higher education its equipment is effective. St Andrews contains several excellent schools; at Cupar there is the Bell-Baxter school; at Dunfermline and Kirkclady there are high schools and at Anstruther there is the Waid Academy.

History. — In remote times the term Fife was applied to the peninsula lying between the estuaries of the Tay and Forth and separated from the rest of the mainland by the Ochil Hills. Its earliest inhabitants were Picts of the northern branch and their country was long known as Pictavia. Doubtless it was owing to the fact that the territory was long subject to the rule of an independent king that Fife itself came to be called distinctively The Kingdom, a name of which the natives are still proud. The Romans effected no settlement in the province, though it is probable that they temporarily occupied points here and there. In any case the Romans left no impression on the civilization of the natives. With the arrival of the missionaries — especially St Serf, St Kenneth, St Rule, St Adrian, St Moran and St Fillan — and conversion of the Picts went on apace. Interesting memorials of these devout missionaries exist in the numerous coast caves between Dysart and St Andrews and in the crosses and sculptured stones, some doubtless of pre-Christian origin, to be seen at various places. The word Fife, according to Skene, seems to be identical with the Jutland Fibh (pronounced Fife) meaning “forest,” and was probably first used by the Frisians to describe the country behind the coasts of the Forth and Tay, where Frisian tribes are supposed to have settled at the close of the 4th century. The next immigration was Danish, which left lasting traces in many place-names (such as the frequent use of law for hill). An ancient division of the Kingdom into Fife and Fothrif survived for a period for ecclesiastical purposes. The line of demarcation ran from Leven to the east of Cults, thence to the west of Collessie and thence to the east of Auchtermuchty. To the east of this line lay Fife proper. In 1426 the first shire of Kinross was formed, consisting of Kinross and Orwell, and was enlarged to its present dimensions by the transference from Fife of the parishes of Portmoak, Cleish and Tullicbole. Although the county has lain outside of the main stream of Scottish history, its records are far from dull or unimportant. During the reigns of the earlier Stuarts, Dunfermline, Falkland and St Andrews were often the scene of solemn pageantry and romantic episodes. Out of the seventy royal burghs in Scotland no fewer than eighteen are situated in the shire. However, notwithstanding the marked preference of the Stuarts, the Kingdom did not hesitate to play the leading part in the momentous dramas of the Reformation and the Covenant, and by the 18th century the people had ceased to regard the old royal line with any but sentimental interest, and the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745 evoked only the most lukewarm support.

See Sir Robert Sibbald, History of the Sheriffdoms of Fife and Kinross; Rev. J. W. Taylor, Historical Antiquities of Fife (1875); A. H. Millar, Fife, Pictorial and Historical (Cupar, 1895); Sheriff Aeneas Mackay, sketch of the History of Fife (Edinburgh, 1890); History of Fife and Kinross (Scottish County History series) (Edinburgh, 1896); John Geddie, The Fringe of Fife (Edinburgh, 1894).