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-“

 

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

 

 

 

 

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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Red Arrows over the Old Course at St Andrews

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Always something interesting happening in St Andrews. Saturday evening I took my youngest son down to the 18th green at the Old Course to see a fly past by one of the world’s premier aerobatic display teams…….the Royal Air Force, Red Arrows aerobatic team.

St Andrews is hosting the Links Trophy where the world’s leading amateur golfers compete for the Links Trophy. Some of these amateurs will go on to become household names.

The Red Arrows were conducting a 30 minute display at the Arbroath Festival of Heroes. Flying the distinctive red Hawk jets with the coloured smoke trails the Red Arrows flew low over the Eden estuary, the back nine of the Old Course and passed over the 1st Tee and 18th green.

Sitting on the steps in front of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, the fly past was over to quick. Flying in formation with coloured smoke trails the Red Arrows flew low over the golf course and head south-east over the town. It was a great spectacle for members of the public and the golfers. I hope the Red Arrows did not put any of the golfers off their shot!

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Kate Kennedy Procession – 90th Anniversary

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Did not have to go far on Saturday to bring you all another day out and about with a Fife Ambassador.

On the second Saturday of April for the last 90 years one of Scotland’s oldest historical pageants takes place in St Andrews, Fife, namely The Kate Kennedy Procession. It is organized and run by students of St Andrews University’s Kate Kennedy Club. A charitable club which has contributed greatly to the town over many decades. It is named after the niece of Bishop James Kennedy, the founder of St. Salvator’s College in 1450. The procession which winds its way through the town consists of a pageant of over 140 characters who represent the history of the university and of Scotland. Included are many characters on horseback and two period horse drawn carriages.

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John Cleese a former Rector of St Andrews University

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It’s a fun colourful afternoon and an excellent way to test your history and name the characters. Luckily it was a lovely sunny afternoon and there was a great fun and friendly buzz about the town.

 

The West Sands – St Andrews

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This spell of dry sunny weather has been refreshing. What better way to get rid of the winter cobwebs than a walk along the West Sands at St Andrews.

This uninterrupted 2 mile (3km) sandy low gradient beach with a 30m wide dune zone extends from the Swilcan Burn to the Out Head, (the mouth of the Eden estuary). It skirts and protects the world famous St Andrews Links golf courses.

The West Sands has for centuries been an area of recreation for locals and visitors. Animals grazed the Links, Salmon stake-net fishing provided a living for fishermen. In the days of sail many a cargo vessel run aground on the West Sand, embayed in St Andrews Bay during storms. A great place for bathing, horse riding, dog walking, and the classic British “Day out at the beach”. Motorcar and motorcycle races took place on the sands in the early 20th century, even aircraft operated sight-seeing trips from the sands from time to time. In 1981 the sands served as the set for the opening scene in the movie Chariots of Fire. During the 2012 Olympics Torch relay this was reenacted and the sands were also featured in the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. On many a windy day windsurfers, stunt kites, kite surfers, kite boarders and sand yachts can be seen out at the north end of the sands. Sand yachting was a popular activity in the 1970s on the sands and today a local outdoor activity company Blown Away continues this along with offering many other adventure experiences on land and sea.

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The Links and the West Sands are an internationally important landscape and diverse ecosystem. They are part of the Firth of Tay – Eden Estuary Special Area of Conservation and Marine Protected Area. There are many protected species within the area.

Of historical note: In 1864, following a severe storm a record-breaking specimen of a Bootlace Worm (Lineus longissimus), was washed ashore on the West Sands measuring over 55 m (180 ft) long.

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The effects of climate change, coastal erosion, flooding, and coastal storm surges are a constant threat to the area. In 2010 severe damage to the dunes, flooding of the golf courses and adjacent lands and erosion of the old municipal landfill at the Out Head occurred. A dune stabilisation programme is in operation with areas fenced off to public access whist the Marram Grass has time to stabilise the dunes.

There are many wonderful beaches along the “golden fringe” of the Kingdom of Fife. The West Sands is a must visit.

Exploring the Kingdom of Fife

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With winter almost over and Spring on the way. What better time than to start exploring the Kingdom of Fife. I am a Fifer born and bred and fortunate to live in my ancestors’ home town, St Andrews. My maritime career spanning decades has taken me all over the world, but home  to me is St Andrews and Fife. There is plenty to discover and do in Fife and I never stop learning interesting facts and stories of the unique and diverse history of the Kingdom and of its people. As a Fife Ambassador I am going share with you through this blog my explorations, discoveries, stories and facts of the Kingdom.

 

Keys Bar, St Andrews, Charity Event

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On Sunday, St Valentine’s Day, the Keys Bar in St Andrews held a charity fancy dress party and raffle to raise funds for Motor Neurone Disease Scotland a charity close to Keys Bar’s owners family hearts. Carol Gordon the landlady and mother of Claire the present owner died of the disease.

What a wonderful night! There was a great atmosphere in the pub and many turned out for the event wearing amazing fancy dress costumes and the staff were kept very busy. We were entertained by local singer Christina Mowatt who sang a selection of music throughout the evening. Fantastic comparing by Andrew (Donny Rover) and Chris Nicoll (Claire the owner’s husband) and a music quiz from local Harry McCabe.

Most of all was the generosity of the locals, people and businesses of St Andrews, parts of Fife and parts of Scotland who donated amazing prizes for the raffle.

Over £2,250 was raised on the night. I am looking forward to next year’s event.