The Golden Fringe of Fife – Elie Ness Light House

Elie Neil WM

It has been a great week of sunny clear skies and wonderful sunrises and sunsets throughout the kingdom. The other evening I was down at Elie Ness Lighthouse to catch a wonderful cloudless sunset. Looking across Largo Bay, the low tide exposing the East Vows rocks and its beacon. This was built in 1846 and the “bird’ cage on top of the beacon was intended as a safe refuge for shipwrecked mariners until they were rescued.

East Vows Beacon

Unusual to see so many oil rigs at anchor in the bay. A sad sign of the downturn in the North Sea oil industry at present. The three semi-submersible drilling units are the Transocean Prospect, the SEDCO 714 and a drilling rig I worked on as a Watchstander back in 1988, the SEDCO 711.

Lighthouses have been a safety aid to mariners for centuries. During bad weather and reduced visibility the lights from lighthouse helped mariners safely navigate their vessels around coasts, islands, rivers and estuaries. During the first decade of the 20th century mariners navigating the Firth of Forth were concerned that during bad weather the lights on the Isle of May and Inchkeith Island were not visible and as Elie Ness was a rock headland it would make sense to build a lighthouse there so that vessels would not come to grief on the rocks and reefs of the headland.

The Northern Lighthouse Board is the General Lighthouse Authority for Scotland and the Isle of Man. It was formed in 1796 as the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses. Its engineer in 1908 was David Alan Stevenson, grandson of Robert Stevenson, who built the Bell Rock Lighthouse and many great lighthouses around Scotland and cousin of the great Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson. Built by James Lawrie Builders, Anstruther, the lighthouse went into service 1st October 1908. With the light evenings as we head towards the Summer Solstice, take advantage and get out and enjoy the wonderful sunsets that bathe the Kingdom of Fife.

 

 

 

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Kilminning – Between Crail and Fife Ness

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Your roaming Fife Ambassador took advantage of the good spell of weather recently and has been out and about in the Kingdom. You don’t have to walk or drive far to find interesting places to visit in Fife.

On a walk from Crail to Fife Ness along the Fife Coastal Path you will come across Kilminning Castle, named castle, but really a natural rock stack formation. It lies within Kilminning Coast, Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve. It is in line with the end of the runway of Royal Navy Air Service Crail Aerodrome, HMS Jackdaw, which was in service as a torpedo training school from 1939 to 1947. An airfield here dates from WWI when it was a Royal Flying Corps training depot from 1918-1919. From 1947 to 1949 it became HMS Bruce, a training establishment for boys from the age of 15. From 1952 to 1956 the accommodation was used intermittently by the Black Watch. From 1956 to 1960 it served as JSSL Crail, the Joint Services School for Linguists, a Russian language school which operated as part of the country’s response to the Cold War.

In the area of Kilminning Castle, formerly Kilminning Farm, archaeological investigations revealed the remains of an early rectilinear building and a long cist cemetery which was dedicated to St Minin (9th century). Also in the area is a substantial linear earthwork known as Dane’s Dyke. It is the only surviving linear earthwork in Fife and one of the best preserved in Scotland. It may be prehistoric in origin, it could be associated with Roman Iron Age occupation discovered within the area at Fife Ness and also associated with the Vikings and with King Constantine in the 9th century AD.

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East and west of the large rock stack there have been many groundings and founderings of vessels driven ashore on the rock skellies and reefs during bad weather and storms. The types of vessels lost include schooners, steam passenger ships, steam cargo ships and steam trawlers. I myself have dived a few off these wrecks finding their remains battered and wedged in the kelp covered rocks.

It really is an area worth exploring. You can walk from Crail or Fife Ness or park and walk a short way from the car-park down a road at the end of the small industrial estate at the end of the airfield.

 

Dysart Harbour

Dysart Harbour WM

The other day I visited Dysart harbour. Having not been there for many years it was great to see a vibrant busy harbour. The majority of motor boats and yachts all out and on the piers getting their overhauls and maintenance done.

The earliest records date the town of Dysart to the 13th century, but the local legend of St Serf dates the area to 500 AD. The harbour dates to 1450 with trade with the Low Countries. Exports of local salt and coal and in the 16th and 17th centuries trade expanded to the Baltic Countries. Dysart earned the nicknames of “Salt Burgh” and from the Dutch influence in Dysart’s buildings inspired by the shipowners who went there “Little Holland”. The early 19th century saw extensive improvements to the harbour . Sadly the demise of the uneconomic Lady Blanche Pit in 1929 saw the end of the coal trade from the harbour.

Originally known as the Shore House where cargo from visiting ships was stored during the building, which dates to the 17th century and in 1840 became the three-storey Harbourmaster’s House. Today, the house is home to the headquarters of the Fife Countryside and Coast Trust. It also has a great bistro with a good selection of wholesome food and hot and cold beverages. It is well worth a visit.

Last year Dysart Harbour played host as a film set to the very popular TV series Outlander. The Harbourmaster’s House and the west part of the harbour were turned into the French port of Le Havre. You will have to wait until the second series screened next year to see the results.

The Kingdom of Fife has a rich and varied maritime heritage and you don’t need to travel far in Fife to find it. Get out in your car, on your bike or on foot and explore!

 

Oil Rigs off Fife Coast

Oil Rigs Leven Bay

Driving down the Fife coast the other day I saw two semi-submersible drilling rigs at anchor in Leven Bay. The sight of the two oil rigs reminded me of my 11 years from 1979 as a Stability Officer/Barge Engineer on semi-submersible drilling rigs and jack-up installations. During my offshore oil career I experienced two major slumps and like the slump today many rigs were laid up in bays and firths on the east coast of Scotland.

To my amazement one of the two oil rigs in Leven Bay was an oil rig I worked on 29 years ago. She is the Sedco 711. I wonder what her future is now? The other oil rig is the Transocean prospect.

Fife has a long relationship with the offshore oil industry, Methil, Burntisland and Rosyth along with various oil related business have supported the great North Sea Oil industry.

If you want to find out the names and types of the various vessels that we see off the Fife coast then go to this free AIS tracking site:

http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-3/centery:56/zoom:9

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services (VTS) for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships, AIS base stations, and satellites.

 

 

 

Building Bridges

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Yesterday I attended the Cruise Forth Business Seminar held at the Queensferry Hotel. I certainly came away with a better understanding of how my business may become involved with cruise visitors to the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay.

Behind me is the new Forth Road Bridge. Known as the Queensferry Crossing. The name reflects Queen Margaret in the 11th Century who introduced a ferry to carry pilgrims across the Forth, giving the communities on either side of the Firth, North Queensferry and South Queensferry their name.

During routine archaeological excavations prior to commencement of the bridge and roads, remnants of a mesolithic era dwelling was found on the south bank of the Forth. The dwelling, based around an oval pit approximately 7 metres (23 ft) in length, has been dated to around 8240 BC, making it the earliest known dwelling in Scotland.

Queensferry Crossing is expected to open in December this year. 34 of 110 concrete road deck sections now in place. The 1.7 miles (2.7km) structure will be the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world and also by far the largest to feature cables which cross mid-span. This innovative design provides extra strength and stiffness, allowing the towers and the deck to be more slender and elegant.