Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Crail History East Neuk of Fife Scotland
Crail History, East Neuk of Fife, Scotland. The following text is from Guide to the East Neuk of Fife by David Hay Fleming, 1886.
The name Crail was formerly written; Karal, Karel, Chard, Carlo, Caryle, Carraill, and Carraile, and is supposed to be derived from Caer a town or fortified place, and ail a corner.
Pre-Christian Inhabitants. That the district was inhabited in pre-Christian times, seems to be proved by the "many urns containing caleined bones," which "have been dug up in different parts of the parish." Seven were found at a place called Swinkie Hill, in 1843, several of which are now in the St Andrews museum. Though not going quite so far back, the stone coffins which have been found at Castle Haven, and near Constantine's Cave, belong to a remote period, and so do the two surviving specimens of sculptured stones. The Caiplie Caves, and also Constantine's, were doubtless inhabited by the early missionaries of the district, and there is reason to believe that even in still earlier times they were the abodes of our savage ancestors.
King Constantine. It has been confidently asserted, and as firmly denied, that Constantine was killed in the cave which now bears his name. Great doubts and difficulties still surround that obscure period of Scottish history. Buchanan tells how the Danes, solicited by the Picts, came to Britain, landed first in Fife, divided their army, and wasted the country in two different directions. He relates how Constantine, King of the Scots, overcame one body of the invaders, and overtook the other in "a camp they had hastily fortified not far from the town of Crail;" how the strangers aided by their rampart, now known as the Danes Dyke, gained the victory; and how Constantine being taken prisoner was "dragged to a small cave at no great distance, and there slain." It was on this incident as described by Buchanan that Tennant. founded his poem, The Thane of Fife. Buchanan places the defeat and death in 874; but Pinkerton dates the battle 881, and clings to the belief that Constantine survived it for a year; and the editor of Sibbald's. "History of Fife" thought the story of his falling in battle had been invented, "to close with a tragical doom, a life so unfortunate." Wyntoun says that he was "slayne in till Verdofatha," or, as it is in the Cotton MS., "Wardofatha;" and these names have been in-geniously explained as "corruptions of Wem du fada, which in Gaelic signifies a cave black and long." According to Fordun, the battle was fought "at a spot named the Black Den," and the king "fell there with many of his men." In the Brevis Cronica it is stated that Constantine "was slane with the Dane, quhilk war Paganis, in ane greit battaill callit the blak Conwe." Hill Burton says that, "He was killed, with many of his followers, near the Firth of Forth." But Skene, in his Celtic Scotland, expresses the opinion that the Danes on this occasion came from Ireland, from which they had been driven for the time, and entered Scotland by the Firth of Clyde;. and that after being defeated at Dollar, the Scots were driven and slaughtered through Fife, as far as the north-east corner; where, at a place called Inverdufatha, the Danes were again victorious, and Constantine was slain, and a great multitude with him. Skene identifies Inverdufatha with Inverdovet in the parish of Forgan; and. avers that Werdofatha is a corruption of the word, and that from it "the story that King Coustantin was killed in a cave seems to have arisen."
Antiquity of Crail. Sibbald quotes the fabulist Boece as saying that Crail was a considerable town at the time of Constantine's death; but whether that statement is well founded or not, the great antiquity of Crail remains undoubted. In the Origines Parochiales Scotioe, it is said that among the shires in Fife, mentioned in the older Church Records, are Kilrimund, Karel, and Kennocher, that is, St Andrews, Crail, and Kilconquhar. In one of the Charters of Holyrood, Crail is mentioned by Malcolm the Fourth; and in another, Ralph, the dean of Crail, occurs as a witness in the time of William the Lion. And in the Chartulary of the Priory of St Andrews there are three royal charters, granted by King William the Lion, signed at Crail, and in others he refers to the shire of Crail, and the burgh of Crail. It also contains a confirmation by Alexander the Second, dated at Crail, and another by the same king in which "our burgh of Crail" is mentioned. Such proofs cannot he disputed. Malcolm the Fourth reigned from 1153 to 1165, William the Lion. from 1165 to 1214, and Alexander the Second from 1214 to 1249. And in the Record edition of the Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, the fact has been preserved that Richard Hendehyld and Richard Skroger, on the part of Crail, concurred in the obligation by the burghs, in 1357, to pay part of the ransom of David the Second, who was captured by the English at the battle of Neville's Cross. About that time, the Sheriffdom of Fife was divided into the four quarters of Eden, Leven, Inverkeithing, and Dunfermline, and the Constabulary of Crail.
Old Markets and Charter Rights. In the charter granted by Robert the Bruce, in 1310, liberty was given to hold a free market on Sabbath. But in 1587 Parliament ordained that it should be kept on Saturday in time coming, and discharged the holding of all other markets between the "mid watter of levin and the burne of putekin," outside the burgh of Crail for ever. These bounds are declared to be "the proper libertie and privi-lege of the said burgh of Craill grantit thairto of auld." And by this new Act, all kinds of goods offered for sale outside the burgh, but within the said bounds, on any day whatever, were to be forfeited, the one half to the use of the king, and the other half to the common good of Crail. The coast line from the river of Leven to Pitmilly burn is more than twenty-five miles, so that the liberties of Crail were very extensive. But the rights of the burgh have been curtailed by feuing the customs and anchorages of Elie, Fifeness, Old Haiks, and Kingsbarns; and by accepting a trifling sum from Pittenweem and Anstruther as a reddendo.
In 1607, the ancient privileges of Crail were confirmed by Parliament, and the weekly Crail market changed to Friday. At the same time, the yearly fair held on the 14th of September called "rudday" being unprofitable to the burgh in respect of harvest, was ordained thereafter to begin yearly on the 10th of March, and to last for eight days. Though Sabbath markets and fairs had been forbidden by the Scottish Parliament in 1579, the special Acts relating to Crail in 1587 and 1607, seem to show that it was only with great difficulty that the people were induced to change the day. And Principal Lee has given an extract from the Kirk-Session records of St Andrews, showing, that in 1582, "a great number of drapers, fleshers, and merchants, accused of keeping the market of Crail on the Sabbath," were "prohibited from repeating the offence under pain of exclusion, and debarring of themselves, their wives, bairns, and servants, from all benefit of the Kirk in time coming, viz., baptism, the Lord's Supper, and marriage." Crail must have been a busy place, or so many traders would not have gone to it, and doubtless they went from other towns besides St Andrews.
The Rise of the Fishing Industry. On the British Coasts, fishing must have begun as early as the inhabitants could make boats. It is said that the Netherlanders resorted to Scotland in the first half of the ninth century to buy salted fish; and that thus the Scots were enriched, until they dealt too hardly with their customers, who then learned how to catch and salt for themselves. However that may be, it is known, from one of the Charters of Holyrood, that there was a famous fishing station off the Isle of May in the days of William the Lion. The importance of Crail is shown by an Act of Parliament passed in 1584, ordaining that all the unfreemen, fishers, and "slayeris of hering and quhyt white fish," dwelling on both sides of the Forth, and to the mouth of the Tay, should bring their "hering and quheit fishe," either to Leith or Crail. If they dared to sell them to strangers, that is, foreigners, or to unfreemen, or carried them furth of the realm, then all their moveable goods were to be divided between the king and the burgh convicting them! But as this Act was found to be very hurtful to the other free burghs and sea-ports on each side of the Forth, it was next year declared lawful for those other free burghs to have the fish brought to them.
In 1661, Crail and Kilrenny petitioned Parliament, showing that they lived by fishing, and had "out-reiked ane vessell to Easlame," and were to "out-reik" divers other "bushes" to Orkney and Shetland, for taking and preparing herring and white and gray fish, and having been discouraged there in former times by foreigners getting the preference, they craved that they might be warranted to fish at these isles, and all other circumjacent places within the kingdom; and that they might be preferred to strangers, and served first, at the ordinary rates. This request was granted. After the Revolution, their fishing trade began to improve, and in 1710 they had six ships and barks and about eighty fishing boats; and yearly at Lammas another two hundred boats came from the coasts of Angus, Mearns, and Aberdeen, and were furnished at Crail with nets and other materials for the herring fishery. But in 1792, Mr Bell writes - 'A sad change has now taken place; and we listen as to a fairy tale, to the accounts given by old people of what they remember themselves, or have heard related by their fathers." And yet at that very time, twenty or twenty-five thousand lobsters were annually sent to London at £12 l0s the thousand, and double that quantity had been sent ten years before.
Crail during the Civil War. When the National Covenant was so freely signed in the Greyfriars' Churchyard of Edinburgh in 1638, all the towns were represented by Commissioners except Aberdeen, St Andrews, and Crail. But in the beautiful copy of the Covenant, preserved in the Advocates' Library, Ninian Hamiltone signs for "Carraile." And the Record edition of the Acts of Parliament shows that Crail was not behind the other burghs, either in doing or suffering at that time. In July 1641, Crail advanced £1944 Scots to the factors at Campvere, to provide arms and ammunition for the public use. Three years later Parliament authorised the repayment of this sum with interest. On the 5th of December 1645, Parliament considered the petition of the Bailies and Council of Crail, craving a supply of meal or other victual for the maintenance of the poor inhabitants, "now sequestrat and closed in, in respect of the Lordis visitationne be the plague of pestilence." The supplication was remitted and recommended to the Committee of War of the Sheriffdom of Fife, with power to try the necessity of the town, condescend on the quantity of their supply, and stent the shire for a contribution. The pestilence, which had taken possession of the town in the beginning of September 1645, continued to rage until the middle of March 1646.
And their troubles, alas, did not come singly. Several of their men were lost at Aberdeen, Alford, and elsewhere, and ninety of their "choisest men" fell at the battle of Kilsyth. Several of their ships and barks had perished or been taken at sea. Moreover, the common burdens had involved them greatly in debt. These details are mentioned in another supplication which the Bailies and Council laid before Parliament on the 15th of March 1649. They pathetically declare : "We be bot a verie poore people, haveing no meines to live vpoun, bot quhat the sea and our commers does affoord; zea, the most part of ws (have) not a bitt of meat, to put in oure bellies, quhill (i.e., until) the samyn (i.e., same) be first gottin furth of the sea, frae qth the pestilence and troubles did debar us." They go on to say that a great many of their families would have starved, if their necessities had not been supplied by the charity of the neighbouring burghs. Yet, no sooner had the pestilence left them than the Committee of Fife sent a troop of horse, who would not leave until the Magistrates borrowed money enough to pay the "maintenance," due for the six months during which the plague had been among them, although other burghs had been exempted from payment while suffering from the pest. They now asked to be relieved from paying maintenance and excise, until repaid for the six months tax "wrougouslie extortit" from them. Parliament that very day recommended the Committees of Estates and Monies to consider the case and give them some ease of their maintenance and excise. But on the 1st of June it was ordained that the Laird of Lawers' regiment should be quartered in "the towns of St Andrews, Creill, Silver-dicks, Anstruther-Wester, Anstruther-Eister, Pittinweyme and Levine."
And on the 22nd of June in the same year Parliament had again to consider a supplication from Crail, showing that they had endeavoured to advance the public cause beyond their ability, which was evident, "besyd a world of instances," by their undertaking to pay Sir James Murray of Skirling four thousand merks, with interest and expenses, being a part of "the gudlein money" advanced by him for the public use. But though, in the meantime, they were scarcely able to maintain their families; and though he had ample security, and they were anxiously willing to pay him as soon as they were able, yet he had put them to the horn, and used caption against them, so that they could not travel safely through the country, and he was now suing for the gift of their escheats! Parliament granted the prayer of the petition by ordering it to be shown to Sir James, and by suspending all execution at his instance against them, and by discharging the Commissioners of Exchequer to grant any gift of their escheats on any horn-ing on the bond granted to him by them. And in a week afterwards, Crail was exempted from paying for the maintenance of the army. The assent of the deputies of Crail to a union with England, was read before the English Parliament in 1651; and the burgh was afterwards excused, on account of its poverty, for not sending a re-presentative to Edinburgh to vote for deputies to the English Parliament.
Parliamentary Representation. Had Cromwell's scheme of union been carried out, Crail and other twelve burghs were to have been represented by one deputy in the English Parliament. But, in 1706, the burgh sent in an address to the Scottish Parliament against the union. The result in both cases was against their expressed wishes; but when the new scheme was carried they fared better than they would have done before, for in 1707 it was arranged that Crail, Kilrenny, Anstruther-Easter, Anstruther-Wester, and Pittenweem should elect a member of Parliament. Since 1832, St Andrews (the returning burgh), and Cupar have been associated with them. Nor has the Redistribution Bill of 1885 interfered with the grouping of the burghs.
The Jacobites. The ends of the streets leading from the town still bear the name of ports, and in 1845 many people remembered these being taken down. Like other towns Crail was doubtless capable of being put in good order for a siege though not a walled city. From October 1715 to the end of January 1716, however, the town was controlled by the Highlanders. The minister was forbidden to preach in the church unless he would read the Earl of Mar's edict, and pray for King James. On several occasions, the minister preached in his own house, and a young man called Nivens conducted an Episcopal service in the church. Had Bailie Crawford not been keen for the change, the rebels might not have occupied the town so readily.
Past and Present Appearance of Crail. Mr Bell says the town consists of "two parallel streets, extending east and west along the shore, which is here pretty steep and high. The one upon the north is wide, tolerably well built, and paved. The south or Nethergate is not paved; and though, in point of situation, perhaps naturally pleasanter than the other, has of late fallen greatly to decay. The whole town bears evident marks of having seen better days." In some respects, this description is still applicable, though the streets are now macadamized, and the Nethergate has been adorned by the beautiful houses called Downie's Terrace. Crow-stepped gables are quite common, and some of the houses retain many other characteristics of old Scots work. Mr J. W. Small, in Leaves from my Sketch-Books, gives a street front, dating from 1626, and showing the rare feature of carved ornaments on the stone ridge. Mr Bell was cheered by the opening of the Forth and Clyde canal, which had been of "immense advantage to the farmers and land-holders in this part of the country." But the present inhabitants of Crail will have greater cause for rejoicing when the railway is completed between the East Neuk and St Andrews. Then it may be expected that the old burgh will be filled by tourists and strangers eager to enjoy the bracing breezes of the German Ocean in their purity, and to ruminate over the local historic associations. Then the spacious streets will, no doubt, be gay with the elite of inland towns, anxious to renew their vigour by a sojourn in this delightful corner; the Links and sequestered bathing pools will be prized as they ought to be; the old baronial mansions will again be tenanted; and the many artists who resort hither will be able to enliven their pictures of the quaint old place with brighter scenes.
Saint Minin's Chapel. According to the New Statistical Account, "there was, no doubt, a cell or chapel dedicated to St Minin or Monan at Kilminning farm; the corn-yard of which is still full of graves like a regular burying ground." The same writer states that "a nunnery is said to have existed near the Nethergate Port, of which only an entrance now remains; but, at this entrance, human bones were found, when the streets were levelled a few years ago."
Priory. And according to the old Statistical Account: "It would appear that Crail was once the seat of a Priory. A ruin evidently of great antiquity, the east gable of which is still standing, bears the name of the Prior Walls. A well in the neighbourhood is called the Briery, without doubt a corruption of Priory Well; and a croft belonging to the burgh is described in the valua-tion of the teinds in 1630, as the Prior Croft." But the Rev. Mr Bell in writing thus, in 1792, had, perhaps, some misgivings, for he adds in a foot-note: " This Priory is not to be found in the list of religious houses in Scotland at the time of the Reformation. It was probably suppressed long before that period. While this conjecture is stated with becoming diffidence, it is also proper to take notice of a tradition which some have heard, that the above-mentioned ruin is the remains of a chapel dedicated to St Rufus."
Mr Bell was afterwards informed by Lieutenant-General Hutton, who devoted much of his time to poring into the history of Scottish religious houses, that in an old manuscript inventory, among the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum, there is mention made of a charter, "To the Prior of Crail, of the second teinds of the lands between the waters of Neithe and Nith;" and that it occurs in the roll of charters granted by King David the Second. This entry probably refers to Carlisle; but the mere fact of there being no mention made of Crail Priory in Spotswood's "Religious Houses" proves nothing, as that work is very imperfect. Mr Merson, who wrote half a century later than Mr Bell, says that the ruinous gable with its gothic windows was thrown down by the sea about the year 1801. He, too, seems to have believed that there had been a Priory, and that it was dedicated to St Rufus. But Dr Charles Rogers states that it was a chapel belonging to the Cistercian Priory of Haddington, with which Crail was so long ecclesiastically connected. Its site and a few of its stones are still pointed out on the beach, at the eastern extremity of the town.
Crail Castle. The Castle of Crail, like the town itself, is of unknown age. That it was long a royal residence is quite certain, for, in a charter granted to the Collegiate church, in 1526, James the Fifth speaks of the place as an ancient burgh, where sundry of his princely predecessors had dwelt, and where he and his successors might reside in times to come. Perhaps the castle may have been the first building in the burgh, and so the nucleus of the town which afterwards grew up beside it. Dr Rogers thinks that Constantine may have occupied it as a principal seat, and no one can prove that he didn't, for the almost impenetrable haze which still hangs over that period, renders it comparatively safe for ardent antiquaries to speculate with impunity. Sibbald writing in 1710 speaks of the ruins as those of a strong castle; but now there is only a small fragment of a massive wall overlooking the harbour. Bell says that David the First frequently resided here, and "hence Crail became the seat of a constabulary, extending westward to Kincraig Nooke," which is beyond Earlsferry. And Wood, in his East Neuk of Fife, adds that, "It was also a mark of the residence of the court at Crail, that there was there a keeper of the king's warren; and that the north barns of Crail came to be called 'King's Barns,' and the mills east of the town the 'King's Mills.'" He further states that, "in 1221, Crail was part of the royal lands on which was secured the jointure of the queen of Alexander II." Rogers says that it was a favourite hunting-seat of David the First, "when he followed the chase in the adjoining territory of Kingsmuir." And Sibbald asserts that David the First died in the Castle; but this is evidently a mistake, as Fordun makes it clear that he died in Carlisle.
Mr Merson has cautiously remarked that "at what time it was erected, cannot now be ascertained, nor by how many crowned heads it was occupied." He states that there was also a chapel within it "dedicated to St Rufe, which had teinds belonging to it, both parsonage and vicarage, but its name is now only to be found in ancient charters." A modern mansion stands on its site, and from the sea it is conspicuously marked by the smoking-room perched picturesquely on the wall.
The Town House with its stunted tower and Dutch air is one of the most noticeable buildings in the place. The arms of the town and the date 1602 are to be seen on the walls, and the old cross stands hard by. The dismal cells are now disused.
The Parish Church was built in the reign of David the Second, and is therefore fully five hundred years old. In spite of alterations and improvements, it is still, in-ternally, rather a pretty building. In the oaken lining there are many fine old specimens of wood-carving. The chancel, which was re-opened in 1828, is said to be now less than half its original length. In an eastern passage a pre-Reformation tombstone forms part of the pavement. A check has been cut in the end of it to admit a door post, and one of the four initial letters which it once bore is now obliterated; but the cross, the chalice, and general design, are still quite plain. By far the most interesting thing in the church is the old sculptured stone, built for preservation into the western wall, after serving half a century as pavement. The boots of the honest burghers have sadly defaced it, and the back of it is said to have been chipped smooth, to suit it for its lowly bed. Now, however, it is safe and highly valued. This is probably the Old Cross of Crail, to which pilgrimages were made in Popish times, by those in ill-health, and which is thus referred to by Sir David Lyndsay : -
"And sum, in hope to get thare haill,
Rynnis to the auld rude of Kerrail."
Mr Merson says that "other relics of similar antiquity are believed to have been in the church before last repair; but the workmen, not knowing the value put upon them by antiquaries, hewed them down into paving stones!" Before the solitary survivor was degraded in 1815 it stood in the corner of the church, but its original site appears to be unknown. And it can't have been in the church in 1792, or Mr Bell would have mentioned it. Though the tower is not very high, a pleasant view is to be had from it, by those who are not afraid to mount by the somewhat shaky ladders at the top. On the old bell may be read:- "Heft my ghegoten Intiaer dcxiiii. Peeter vanden ghein. Crail 1614." The latter date is the true one, the "M" must have been left out of the former.
In 1517, "the church, on the petition and endowment of Sir William Myreton, with the consent of Janet, prioress of Haddington," was "erected into a collegiate church, with a provost, sacristan, ten prebendaries, and a chorister." It had nine altars. A list of the ornaments, vestments, and silver work will be found in the Register of the Church, printed for the Grampian Club in 1877. But all the monuments of idolatry were probably destroyed in June 1559; for here it was that Knox began his campaign in Fife at that time. Since then it has been used as the Parish Church. A Bible of the Geneva translation, printed in London in 1583, lay in the pulpit for nearly two hundred years. John Melville, an elder brother of the famous Andrew Melville, was the first Protestant minister of Crail; but in 1561 he had to complain that certain persons threatened to "tak hym owt of the pulpot be the luggis, and chais hym out of the town." Andrew Duncan, who afterwards suffered so much in defending Presbytery, was ordained here in 1597. A man still better known, but of a very different stamp, was admitted in 1648, to wit, James Sharp, who after the Restoration of Charles the Second was created Archbishop of St Andrews. The following lines occur in an old pasquil : -
"When juggling Sharp his calling first began,
To cheat the church with hocus tricks, he ran
To Crail by sea, a flock as he could wish;
Them he did feed with wind - they him with fish."
Alexander Leslie, who was minister of Ceres and with whom Sharp smoked a pipe on the fatal morning of the 3d of May 1679, was translated to Crail in 1684, but was deprived at the Revolution. His tombstone is still to be seen on the south wall of the burying-ground. In the time of the persecution, John Dickson, the Covenanter, held a meeting at Crail, "a town," says Blackader, "where much ignorance, profanity, and enmity to the work did abound." The meeting was kept at night in a private house, but Lieutenant Hamilton hearing of it, with the militia of the town, broke in with drawn swords, seized the minister, the laird of Kinkell and others, and sent to Pittenweem for a party of horse stationed there. Just as the troopers drew up before the house, the prisoners, having compounded with the lieutenant, escaped by the back door. Blackader states that "this lieutenant did, not long after, make a miserable end, either by the devil's hands or his own." Patrick Glass, "a venerable and good old man," occupied the pulpit for more than fifty years. Scott in his Fasti relates that, "In describing from the pulpit on one occasion the sufferings and tortures to which the Martyrs and early Christians were exposed, by tearing and lacerating their bodies asunder, being at a loss for a word, a tradesman, to assist him, called out, 'pinchers, sir.' 'Thank you, James,' replied Mr Glass, and went on with his discourse, 'tearing their bodies asunder with pinchers, and similar instruments of cruel torture.'"
Andrew Bell, who wrote the old Statistical Account of the parish in 1792, was the minister from 1790 to 1828. As a specimen of the way in which conscientious ministers are sometimes treated, Hew Scott relates that on one occasion when he was going to drive out an invalid daughter, a labourer from the country district of the parish called about the baptism of his child. As his daughter and gig were waiting, and as the man was a stranger, Mr Bell told him that he would like to have some conversation with him first, and would call at his house the next time he was in that neighbourhood. He redeemed his promise by calling a few days afterwards, when he was thus accosted by the man's wife : - " The guidman's nae in, an' ye did very ill to refoose baptism tae my man; it's weel kenned he's a learned man, else Lord Kellie wadna hae employed him to break stanes; but the bairn's baptized already by the bishop," who was then visiting Lord Kellie at Cambo House. William Merson, who wrote the New Statistical Account of the parish in 1845, was ordained here in 1828, and remained till his death in 1865.
The burying ground contains many old monuments of an imposing appearance, and also a strong vault, which was "erected for securing the dead" in 1826, in which bodies were kept for six weeks in summer and for three months in winter before they were buried in order that they might not be taken by "the resurrectionists." The spot is still pointed out where the plague was buried after being caught in wheaten loaves! An old statue of a knight in armour, which was long supposed to represent Robert the Bruce, is worthy of attention. Mr Reid, the parish minister, has discovered that the old tomb, of which it forms a part, belonged to a neighbouring family of the name of Bruce, whose representatives are now in Orkney. There is an inscription worth reading on the stone on the east wall in memory of: -
"Ane honest man of good renown,
Three times a Bailie in this town."
Several very interesting notices of the Grammar School, which was founded in 1542, are printed in the appendix to the first volume of Principal Lee's Lectures of the History of the Church of Scotland.
The Harbour is small, difficult of access, and not very safe; but a quarter of a mile further east there is a splendid natural site for a harbour, called Room, which "might be easily converted into a haven capable of containing a large fleet, and would, it is said, have nearly thirty feet of water at spring tides."
The Links, which lie along the edge of the sea on the east side of the town, are not very extensive.
Besides the Sculptured Stone in the church there is another of the same kind at the roadside on the way to Balcomie. It will be noticed on the right hand side soon after leaving Crail. It formerly stood on a small tumulus near Sauchope, and beside it Sir William Hope of Balcomie is said to have overcome, in the early part of last century, a foreign knight, who was so ambitious of defeating the author of "The Complete Fencing Master," that he came from a far country to try his skill and prowess. The eastern side of the stone is very weather-worn, but on the other side the cross with the peculiar interlaced work is still quite visible. Some kindly clown or rude vandal has partly smeared it with tar; but a better plan might be taken to preserve it.
Only a wing of Balcomie Castle remains, but even that shows that it must have been a fine house in its time. One of its late owners is reported to have said that he could accommodate a troop of dragoons, giving every man a bed, and every horse a stall. An account of it and its lairds would demand more space than can be spared in the pages of a Guide Book.
A little further east than Balcomie there is the famed Danes Dyke, a considerable portion of which has now disappeared - the farm-house of Craighead being built on its site. Some people have been prosaic enough to maintain that this Dyke is a natural ridge; but when a portion of it was removed, human bones were found, and "none but broken and carried stones discovered." Being half a mile in length and pretty broad, it must have cost an enormous amount of labour, hence the sceptical ideas regarding its artificial origin. Buchanan knew the ground at least when he said that the Danes threw up "a kind of rampart upon the small bending rocks near the shore, by heaping together the large stones with which the beach everywhere abounded." Those who believe it to be partly artificial do not need to prove that the Danes built it to keep back King Constantine, nor that it was erected in a single night. If it was indeed a military rampart, and it is difficult to see what else it could have been, it must have protected a goodly camping ground, as it stretched right across the neck of the promontory.
Constantine's Cave. At one end of the Dyke, on the shore of the Firth, a place is still pointed out called the Longman's Grave; and Constantine's Cave is shown at the other end. The Cave is only about fifteen feet in depth and twelve in width, and at one time its mouth had been closed by a wall which has now disappeared. There are crosses cut on the rock in all directions, and any one can see that many of these are extremely old. About sixty years ago, some thirty stone coffins were found near here lying in regular rows. The bones were so efitire that the farmer dug a hole and buried them.
Not far from the Cave there is an excellent Quarry. In the days of Oliver Cromwell, Robert Alison, a mason and burgess of Edinburgh, was employed by the English to prepare stones at the Quarry of Balcomie for building a citadel at Perth. Alison and his men lodged in a corner of Crail. Some troopers then in arms for Charles the Second fell on their house and took £31 sterling, a goodly sum in those days. The English were in force at Falkland, and to them Alison complained, and, of course, he came off victorious; while the burgh, though quite innocent, was ordered to make good the sum, and there the honest bailies were kept in prison until it was paid. But they go far round who never meet. The Restoration came, and the bailies having petitioned Parliament, Alison was ordered to restore the money, with interest. And here, too, perhaps, the stones were procured with which the Scottish Church in Rotterdam was built in 1696, and which the shipmasters generously carried free of charge from this neighbourhood.
Fifeness. The little fishing village of Fifeness has now almost entirely disappeared. It was here that Mary of Guise landed in 1538 - "a bride," says Hill Burton, "destined to cut a figure in history." This has recently been made a lifeboat station. Close by, a good spring of fresh water, surrounded by a circular parapet, may be seen under high-water mark. And, now, we are just at the very East Neuk of Fife, a picturesque spot, from which a deadly reef of rocks runs out for more than a mile under the water. It would be a sorrowful tale to recount even a tithe of the shipwrecks which have occurred at this point. After years of labour and many disappoint-ments, the Commissioners of Northern Lights at length succeeded in erecting a beacon at the extreme point. And in 1843-44 they erected an additional light-house on the May, to guide mariners past this dreaded Carr Rock. Even this has not been enough, and now steps are being taken to place a light-ship in position.
The Barns. At the southern extremity of the parish are the remains of the old mansion-house of the Cunninghams of Barns, with one of whose fair daughters Haw-thornden was "deliriously in love," as may be seen from his poems. The marriage-day was fixed, and all things were ready; but she took a fever, "and was suddenly snatched away by it to his great grief and sorrow." Professor Masson, however, has shown that the old story of his grief having driven him abroad for eight years is without foundation; and also that she must have died in or about 1615.
The Caves of Caiplie, or, the Coves of Crail, as they are frequently called, are described under Kilrenny, as they are in that parish.
Population and Public Institutions. The Population of the burgh in 1791 was 1301, in 1841 it was 1227, and in 1881 it was 1145. But the dawn of a brighter day has broken upon Crail; and when it is better known as a watering place, it will be more highly prized. Though an air of antiquity still hangs over the place, and though the old-world aspect predominates, there are two Public Schools, a Postal and Telegraph Office, a branch of the Commercial Bank, two good Inns, a Public Library, a Gas-work, and a Brewery. Besides the Parish Church, there is a Free Church, and also a United Presbyterian Church.
Former Crail Notables. The late Dr Andrew Duncan, of Edinburgh, who was born at Pinkerton, near Crail, in 1744, has preserved in a fragment of his own life, in Hudibrastic rhyme, some stanzas of an old ballad, written by James Monypenny, of Pitmilly, embalming the memories of the Town Clerk, Sir John Malcolm, and the Schoolmaster : -
"Was you e'er in Crail Town?
Igo and ago;
Saw you there Clerk Dishington?
Iram, coram, dago.
His wig was like a drookit hen,
Igo and ago;
Its tail hung down like a goose pen,
Iram, coram, dago.
"Keep you well frae Sir John Malcolm,
If he be canny I mistaak him:
Keep you well frae Sandy Don,
He's ten times dafter than Sir John.
"To hear them of their travels talk,
To gang to Lonon's but a walk;
To see the Leviathan skip,
And wi' his tail ding o'er a ship."
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