The Kelpie maquettes are in town

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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Fife’s National Dish – A challenge to the Kingdom’s chefs

Pie Dish

As a Fife Ambassador I enjoy visiting the many varied and interesting towns, sites and places around the kingdom. Of course this involves enjoying the abundant, varied and interesting cafes, restaurants and pubs that are found throughout the kingdom.

What do you and the many chefs of Fife recognize as Fife’s “national dish”? As an archaeologist and historian my research has come up with reference to a Kingdom of Fife Pie. A traditional rabbit pie. So what is the best recipe for such a pie? Is there another dish or recipe that can claim to be Fife’s National Dish? Some say its Chilli Ca Canny……..

Dunfermline – Childhood memories

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Last week I was in Dunfermline on business. I have not been in Dunfermline for many years. I was born in Dunfermline just across from Dunfermline Athletic football ground on Halbeath Road.

I have fond childhood memories of Dunfermline. As I was walking along Chalmers Street toward the entrance to Pittencrief park I passed two places which have great childhood memories for me. Stephens Bakery and Alari’s Chip Shop. 53 years ago I used to go to Dunfermline to stay with my gran. She was a baker in Stephens Bakery and I remember going to the bake-house and seeing my gran making and baking some amazing savouries and cakes. I can smell the fresh baked pies and cakes as I write this story. I also remember the amazing fish and chop shop next door called Alari’s. My gran would take me in there on a Saturday and we would have fish and chips with bread and butter along with a coke float and a cake.

I stopped and I looked in the bakers and the chip shop and childhood memories came flooding back to me. It was a very happy emotional moment.

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.

 

 

 

Bunnet Stane (Bonnet Stone) – Near Gateside

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I have been out and about again exploring the Kingdom of Fife. A wee gem of a place to visit is Bonnet Stane, or Bonnet Stone. Near the base of the north facing escarpment of the West Lomond Hill in the Lomond Hills Regional Park and above the village of Gateside sits a most interesting weathered rock outcrop.

This interesting mushroom/men’s cap shaped rock is a wind sculpted feature made of “calciferous” sandstone. This feature is 6m long, 3m wide and 1m thick. At the base of this outcrop on the west side is a small cave known as the “Maiden Bower”. Folklore tells of a love affair of a local girl and the son of a rival family, who met at the cave. The girl’s father’s men killed the man and the girl lived as a hermit in the cave. However it is most likely an early 19th century bothy lived in by a shepherd. The inside walls show signs of where shelves and partitions would have been and remains of a metal fire sit in one corner.

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It is an easy uphill walk, up farm tracks and grass fields to the stane. Well worth a visit. Fife is rich geologically. There are many interesting geological features to be seen in the Kingdom. I will be sharing some of them with you.

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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.