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Balmerino

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Balmerino (popularly Ba' mernie; in 1227 Balmorinach = Gael. baile-mōr-n'ach, ` large town of the field '), a village and a parish of N Fifeshire. The village stands on the southern shore of the Firth of Tay, 3½ miles SW of Dundee by water, 5½ WSW of its post-village and station Newport, and 7¼ N by W of Cupar. Ninety years since it ranked as a sub-port of Dundee, annually shipping over 7000 bolls of grain; but fishing is now the sole employment, and this too has greatly fallen off.

The parish contains also the villages of Bottomcraig and Gauldry, 1 and 1¾ mile ESE of Balmerino village; and is bounded NW for 4½ miles by the Firth of Tay (here from 2¼ to 27/8 miles broad), E by Forgan, SE and S by Kilmany, SW by Creich, and W by Flisk. From ENE to WSW, its greatest length is 4¼ miles; its width from N to S varies between 7½ furlongs and 2¼ miles; and its area is 4131½ acres, of which 1½ are ` inks ' and 698¾ foreshore. The surface rises steeply from the Firth's rocky shore with a general west-south-westward ascent, being traversed by two parallel spurs of the Ochils, and attaining 243 feet above sea-level near Wormit Bay, 333 near Gauldry, 337 on Scurr Hill, 423 near Priorwell, and 584,528, and 608 on wooded Coultra, Ardie, and Green Hills. The rocks are partly eruptive, partly Devonian; and the soil is extremely variable, as may be inferred from the fact that in 1875 rents ranged from £1,10s. to close on £3 per acre. On most of the northern and southern slopes it consists of thin black loam, suited for any crops, whilst in the valley between it has either a light gravelly or a strong plastic argillaceous character. About 470 acres are under wood, and nearly all the rest are arable. A height behind the village, commanding a view of the Firth up to the mouth of Strathearn, was crowned by the Cistercian Abbey of SS. Mary and Edward the Confessor, founded in 1227 by Ermengarda, William the Lyon's widowed queen, who six years later was burned before the high altar of its cruciform church. This must have been a stately Second Pointed edifice, measuring 240 by 140 feet, and parted by eight octangular piers into two parallel aisles; but little remains now of the entire pile save scanty ivy-clad ruins of the transept, the sacristy, the chapter-house vestibule, and the substructure of the dormitory, it having been burned by the English in 1548, and sacked by the Reformation rabble in 1559. Its lands were erected into a barony for Sir James Elphinstone, in 1604 created Lord Balmerino-an ill-starred title, whose two first holders were sentenced to death, while the sixth and last was actually beheaded on Tower Hill (18 Aug. 1746) for his part in the '45. His forfeited estate was purchased from the Crown by the York Building Company, and sold by them to the Moray family. A field between Bottomcraig and Gauldry, Battle Law, is said to have got its name from a defeat of the Danes following that battle of Luncarty which Hill Burton sets down as a recent invention; on a rock to the N are vestiges of Naughton Castle, a stronghold of the Hays. Modern mansions are Birkhill and Naughton House, 2 miles WSW, and 13/8 mile E of Balmerino village, whose owners, Henry Scrymgeour Wedderburn and Mrs Duncan Morison, hold respectively 1456 and 1591 acres in the shire, valued at £2827 and £3421 per annum. Balmerino is in the presbytery of Cupar and synod of Fife; its minister's income is £522. The church (1811; 400 sittings) near Bottomcraig succeeded one built at Kirkton in 1595, when the abbey church was disused; and two public schools, Balmerino (at Gauldry) and Priorwell (7 furlongs S of Balmerino village), with respective accommodation for 129 and 56 children, had in 1879 an average attendance of 71 and 31, and grants of £50,4s. and £15, 5s. 8d. Valuation (1881) £6925,16s. 8d. Pop. (1801) 786, (1831) 1055, (1851) 945, (1871) 717, (1881) 664.—Ord. Sur., sh. 48,1868. See the Rev. Jas. Campbell's Balmerino and its Abbey; A Parochial History (Edinb. 1867).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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