The Great Storms – St Andrews Bay

St Andrews bay snow storm WMA storm in St Andrews Bay.

This winter the “old grey toun” has experienced a few bad storms in St Andrews bay. The ‘beast from the east’ is not new. Throughout the centuries many a great storm has been recorded.

On the 5th of March 1881 the wildest sea storms and snow storms on record hit the east coast of Scotland. No fewer than 30 vessels were wrecked that day. Heavy snow storms and a raging East-South-Easterly gale was blowing in St Andrews bay. It was the day of the annual Kate Kennedy Procession, the oldest historical pageant held in Scotland. The Procession goes back to the 15th century, to the adoration by the university students of the niece of Bishop Kennedy (1408–1465), the founder of St Salvator’s College. The Bishop’s niece was Lady Katharine Kennedy, affectionately known as Kate, the fairest and most beautiful woman in her day. The first procession since 1874, thousands of students and locals gathered on the streets of St Andrews to watch the pageant which assembled outside the Cross Keys in Market Street at 11:30 that morning.

 Cross Keys bar WMThe Keys Bar.

About one ‘o’ clock the boom of the signal cannon on Kirk Hill was heard. The Norwegian 98-ton registered schooner Harmonie, from Falkenburg to Bo’ness with a cargo of pit props, was being driven ashore in a horrendous gale. The vessel was dangerously close to the rocks at the back of the Public Baths (now Castlecliffe). Luckily the schooner managed to steer away from the rocks and ran ashore on the sands 200 yards to the north of the Swilcan Burn on the West Sands. The lifeboat and rocket apparatus were on scene and rescued the crew of four men and a boy. The vessel became a total wreck and her cargo was carted to the harbour and re-shipped.

 Stormy Castle and West Sands WMSt Andrews castle and behind it lies Castlecliffe.

No sooner after the rescue of the Harmonie, the signal cannons sounded again at 4:30 in the afternoon. The Sunderland, England, 367-ton, registered barque Merlin bound from Sunderland to Bordeaux with 700 tons of small coals with a crew of 10 men and one boy, was being driven ashore in the gale. When about three quarters of a mile east from the pier head she tried to tack and was nearly round but did not make it and carried on towards the castle. The lifeboat was ready to launch at the West Sands next to the wreck of the Harmonie and the rocket apparatus team in readiness at the north end of Castle Street.

At 5:30 that afternoon the Merlin, helpless and broadside, struck the rocks 300 yards north of the Public Baths.  A rocket line was fired to the ship and successfully grabbed but a huge sea pushed the boat further on to the rocks and the line was lost. Within 15 minutes of striking the rocks the raging sea had turned the vessel into a shapeless mass of broken timbers, iron, masts, spars and sails. 10 men and one woman lost their life that day. Many were washed overboard, and all were drowned. The youngest was a man of 18 years and the oldest a man of 64 years.

In the cemetery at bottom of the Pends, you will see a large light grey coloured headstone. It was erected by the public of St Andrews in memory of the crew of the barque Merlin of Sunderland. There are 10 male names and one female name.

11. Merlin Gravestone close upThe gravestone to those lost on the Merlin down at the bottom of the cemetery at the Pends.

An unknown young St Andrews girl, touched by the disaster, wrote this poem:

“Close by St Andrews rugged shore

A saddening sight we see-

A vessel crushed upon the rocks,

Lashed by the raging sea.

 

The crew are clinging to the chains,

They cry for help in vain;

The Life Brigade did all they could

To save those drowning men.

 

One still is left upon the deck,

So youthful, brave and strong;

Haste! Haste! Oh, lifeboat crew, to save,

For there he can’t cling long!

With outstretched arms we see him there,

A mother’s pride and joy;

Oh, God! will you not hear her prayer

To save the sailor boy?

The cruel waves have done their work,

And claimed him as their prey,

While sorrow wrung each pitying heart

Upon the shore that day.

They saw the “Merlin” and her crew–

A band of sailors brave

As ever stood in jackets blue-“

 

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The Kelpie maquettes are in town

DSC04839 WM

Great to see the Kelpie Maquettes installed on the grassy mound next to the St Andrews Golf Museum.

I am sure that Mary Queen of Scots is happy to see the kelpies in St Andrews. She was a frequent visitor to St Andrews. On May 2nd 1568, William Douglas helped Mary escape from Lochleven Castle where she had been imprisoned. William Douglas had craftily taken the keys for the castle away with him, after having locked the doors behind them, he threw them into the loch, saying “I present them to Kelpie, and name her porter of Lochleven Castle.”

I am looking forward to the official unveiling and planned weekend of events. I will be assisting on the day and attending the invite only evening event where the kelpie sculptor Andy Scott will be talking about his creations.

So, when in St Andrews it’s a must to see and go get “a selfie with a kelpie”.

Kelpie with scale man WM

 

 

 

 

Law’s Close – Kirkcaldy – Preserving business and trade

Kirkcaldy Harbour

2017 in Scotland is the Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology. As a marine archaeologist and Fife Ambassador it’s an opportunity for me to share the wonderful diverse and rich history and heritage of the Kingdom of Fife.

A “wee gem” in the Kingdom and a fantastic story of restoration ensuring the future of trade and business that started 427 years ago, is Law’s Close at the east end of the High Street in Kirkcaldy. Situated here is a fine living example of Scottish 16th century vernacular architecture.

For centuries Kirkcaldy was a bustling sea port with a thriving maritime trade. The merchant’s houses were built at the east end of the town opposite the harbour. One such local ship-owner/merchant were the Law family. In 1590, they built Law’s Close and for two centuries powerful local families owned this building. By the end of 18th century the house was in decline and industrialization in the 19th century saw the owner’s fortunes flounder. The property was sub-divided to provide working class housing and the ground floor was turned into a bakery. The mid 20th century saw failed regeneration of this part of the town and by the mid-1980s the building had become abandoned and in a bad state.

laws_close_kirkcaldy_ncd

In 1986 the Scottish Historic Building Trust acquired the building and during 1992-1994 a first phase of restoration was conducted and in 2005 the second phase was completed, creating two shops and office accommodation on the first and second floors. This truly remarkable preservation project restored the building to its former glory. The 16th century paintings have been conserved and the 17th century panelling restored. Of significant maritime interest was the discovery on the second floor of a wall painting of a sailing vessel which may represent the vessel in which Anne of Denmark was brought to Scotland in 1589.

Law's Close ship

What is really unique about this project, is that it is possible to rent office and retail space within the building. Wow !, what a place to work and to keep the history of business alive in Kirkcaldy. If you are in Kirkcaldy and want to see a merchant’s house then a visit is a must.

Law's Close rear

To find out about renting or use of this amazing building contact:

Elizabeth Mackay

Property@shbt.org.uk

Property Manager | Scottish Historic Buildings Trust

Strathleven House, Vale of Leven Industrial Estate, Dumbarton. G82 3PD

Direct Line:  01389 750005

Maritime Fife

neil_portrait_harbour watermarked

The Kingdom of Fife with the mighty River Tay to the north and the Firth of Forth to the south has a coastline of 117 miles (188 km). Throughout history these two waterways have been busy maritime trade routes. Needless to say, there are many shipwrecks.

As a marine archaeologist and Fife Ambassador it was wonderful to read Michael Alexander’s article in Saturday’s weekend Courier and the Courier Online about the shipwrecks and maritime history of the Forth and the Tay.

https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/scotland/387483/investigating-shipwrecks-courier-country/

Now Spring is here and the evenings are longer and living in fife you are never that far from the coast. Get out and explore the coastline, the coastal towns and harbours of the Kingdom. Maritime Fife is full of interesting facts, stories, people and places.

 

Happy New Year Fife

RA1

Red Arrows fly past over the Old Course at St Andrews

2017 is the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. As a Fife Ambassador I encourage you to explore the rich and diverse history and heritage of the Kingdom of Fife. You do not need to go far to discover something interesting. Go to the welcome to Fife website and take part in an exciting competition. http://www.welcometofife.com/highlight/year-of-history-heritage–archaeology-competition

So come on Fifers and visitors…explore!!!!

 

 

2017 year of History, Heritage & Archaeology

When I am not out at sea investigating deep water shipwrecks I am very much part of my local community and my local region. Not only am I a trustee of St Andrews Harbour Trust, I am a Fife Ambassador. Made into the local news all over Fife. That’s me holding the letter A for archaeology. I am happy and proud to be a Fife Ambassador and during 2017 I will be blogging and tweeting all sorts of interesting stories and facts about the amazing Kingdom of Fife.

hha2017-image-30-dec-2016

Revisiting the past

Me Dive Fife Ness

Yesterday I was out at Fife Ness, the most easterly headland of the Kingdom of Fife. The word Ness is an archaic Norse word meaning “nose” and when you look at the shape of Fife on a map it resembles that of a dog’s head and Fife Ness the tip of its nose.

Fife Ness has a long history; evidence of prehistoric sites, Danish invaders, 17th century harbour works, a 18th/19th century tide mill, tide pond, a lime-kiln and a HM Coastguard Station and houses (station now closed and houses in the private sector). Also close by is an airfield and associated buildings used during both world wars. It is the best-preserved abandoned airfield in Scotland, with unique designs of hangar, a military hospital, and a whole range of WW2-era buildings, including a Torpedo Trainer.

Fife Ness has a special place in my heart. In the early 1980’s I did some of my first SCUBA dives down the skellies at Lochaber Rock and my first shipwreck the Vildfugl which struck Lochaber Rock in 1951.