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Falkland

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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Falkland, a small town and a parish in the Cupar district of Fifeshire. The town stands at the NE base of East Lomond hill, 2¾ miles NW of Falkland Road station on the North British railway, this being 2¾ miles SSW of Ladybank Junction, 8¼ S W of Cupar-Fife, 5½ N by W of Thornton Junction, and 25 ½ N of Edinburgh. It once was a place of much resort, the capital of the stewartry of Fife, the residence of the retainers of the earls of Fife, and afterwards the residence of the courtiers of the kings of Scotland; and it possesses memorials of its ancient consequence in the remains of the royal palace, some curious old houses, and such local names as Parliament Square, College Close, and West Port. It is now, and has long been, a sequestered country town, and though enlivened by a few modern erections, it consists mainly of unpaved roadways, sloping alleys, intricate lanes, and picturesque old houses. A house of two stories, fronting the palace, bears an inscription with the date 1610, intimating it to have been a royal gift to Nichol Moncrieff; the house adjoining it occupies the site of the residence of the royal falconer, and retains an inscribed stone of the year 1607; and there are houses bearing later dates in the same century. A three-storied house on the S of the square, now used as a co-operative store, was the birthplace of the famous Covenanter Richard Cameron.

Falkland was originally a burgh of barony belonging to the Earls of Fife, but it was erected into a royal burgh in 1458, during the reign of James II. The preamble to the charter of erection states, as the reasons for granting it, the frequent residence of the royal family at the manor of Falkland, and the damage and inconvenience sustained by the many prelates, peers, barons, nobles, and others of their subjects who came to their country-seat, for want of innkeepers and victuallers. This charter was renewed by James VI. in 1595. Among the privileges which these charters conferred, was the right of holding a weekly market, and of having four fairs or public markets annually. To the public markets two others were subsequently added-one called the linseed market, held in spring, and the other the harvest market, held in autumn. 'T here are now seven public markets held throughout the year. These occur in the months of January, February, April, June, August, September, and November, but only the last is well attended. Like the neighbouring burgh of Auchtermuchty-although certainly entitled originally to have done so-Falkland does not appear at any time to have exercised its right of electing a member to the Scottish parliament; consequently its privileges were overlooked at the time of the Union; but since the passing of the Reform Bill, its inhabitants having the necessary qualification are entitled to a vote in the election of a member for the county. In all other respects, however, this burgh enjoys the privileges of a royal burgh. It is governed by a town-council, consisting of 3 magistrates, 8 c o u n c i l lo r s, a treasurer, and a town-clerk. The magistrates, besides managing with the council the civil affairs of the burgh, hold courts from time to time for the decision of questions arising out of civil contracts and petty delicts. No town, probably, in Scotland it better supplied with spring water. This was brought in 1781 from the neighbouring Lomonds by means of pipes, and is distributed by wells situated in different parts of the burgh. This useful public work cost about £400 sterling, and was executed at the expense of the corporation. Falkland has a post office under Ladybank, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch office of the British Linen Company Bank, 3 insurance agencies, 2 hotels, gas-works, and a masonic lodge. The town-house, which is ornamented with a spire, was erected in 1802, and contains a hall in which the burgh courts and the meetings of the town-council are held; its lower story, occupied now by a draper's shop, served originally as a lock-up house. The parish church, built in 1849, by the late O. T. Bruce, Esq., at a cost of £7000, is a handsome Gothic edifice, with a fine spire and 900 sittings. There is also a Free church, whilst at Freuchie, 2 miles to the eastward, are another Established and a U.P. church. The manufacture of linens and woollens is the staple industry, brewing and brick-making being also carried on. Pop. (1841) 1313, (1861) 1184, (1871) 1283, (1881) 1068, of whom 972 were in the royal burgh.

The lands of Falkland, including what now constitutes the burgh, belonged originally to the Crown, and were obtained from Malcolm IV. by Duncan, sixth Earl of Fife, upon the occasion of his marriage with Ada, the niece of the king. In the charter conferring them, which is dated 1160, the name is spelled' Falecklen. 'The lands of Falkland continued, with the title and other estates, with the descendants of Duncan until 1371, when lsobel, Countess of Fife, the last of the ancient race, conveyed the earldom and estates to Robert Stewart, Earl of Monteith, second son of Robert 11., who thus became seventeenth Earl of Fife, and in 1398 was created Duke of Albany. On the forfeiture of his son, Murdoch, in 1424, the lands of Falkland reverted to the Crown, and the town was shortly afterwards erected into a royal burgh. The courts of the stewartry of Fife-which comprehended only the estates of the earldom-were also removed from the county town of Cupar to Falkland, where they were afterwards held as long as the office of steward existed. In 1601, Sir David Murray of Gospetrie, first Viscount Stormont, obtained a charter of the Castle-stead of Falkland, with the office of ranger of the Lomonds and forester of the woods, and he also held the office of captain or keeper of the palace and steward of the stewartry of Fife. The lands called the Castle-stead, with the offices and other parts of the lands of Falkland, were afterwards acquired by John, first Duke of Athole, who was appointed one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state in 1696, and lord high commissioner to the Scottish parliament the following year. He was twice appointed to the office of keeper of the privy seal, and was made an extraordinary lord of session in 1712.

At an early period, the Earls of Fife had a residence here, called the castle of Falkland. Not a vestige of this building now remains, but its site appears to have been in the immediate neighbourhood of where the palace afterwards built. This fortalice had in effect the honours of a palace while it was occupied by one of the blood-royal, Robert, Duke of Albany, who, for 34 years, had all the power of the state in his hands, under the different titles of lieutenant-general, governor, and regent. Although Robert gives it the more humble designation of' Manerium nostrum de Fawkland, 'it was, in fact, the seat of authority; for his aged and infirm father constantly resided in the island of Bute. It receives its first notoriety, in the history of our country, from the death here, on 27 March 1402, of Albany's nephew, David, Duke of Rothesay, eldest son of Robert III. That madcap prince was on his way to seize the castle of St Andrews, whose bishop had just died, when at Strathtyrum he was arrested under a royal warrant, and brought a prisoner to the castle of Falkland. There, says the popular legend, adopted by Scott in The fair Maid of Perth, he was thrust into a dungeon, and left to die of starvation. His life was for some days feebly sustained by means of thin cakes, pushed through a crevice in the wall by the young daughter of the governor of the castle; but her mercy being viewed by her ruthless father in the light of perfidy to himself, she was put to death. Even this brutal act did not deter another tender-hearted woman, employed as wet-nurse in the family, who supplied him with milk from her breasts by means of a long reed, until she, in like manner, fell a sacrifice to her compassion. Certain it is that the prince's body was removed from Falkland for burial in the Abbey of Lindores, that public rumour loudly charged Albany and Douglas with his murder, and that a parliamentary inquiry resulted in a declaration to the doubtful effect that he 'died by the visitation of Providence, and not otherwise. 'Wyntoun laments his untimely death, but says nothing of murder; so that by Dr Hill Burton the regent is acquitted of this foul blot upon his character (Hist. Scotl., ii. 380-396, ed. 1876).

After the lands and castle of Falkland came to the Crown by the forfeiture of the earldom, the first three Jameses occasionally resided at the castle, enjoying the pleasures of the chase in the adjoining forest, and on the Lomond hills; and in consequence of this the charter was granted by James II., erecting the town into a royal burgh. It is impossible now to ascertain whether James III. or James IV. began to build the palace, as both of these monarchs were fond of architecture, and both employed workmen at Falkland; but the work was completed by James V. in 1537, and with him the palace is closely associated. Hence he escaped out of Angus's hands to Stirling, disguised as a stable-boy, May 1528; and hither, broken-hearted by the rout of Solway Moss, he returned to die, 13 Dec. 1542. By his deathbed stood Cardinal Bethune, Kirkcaldy of Grange, and his old tutor, Sir David Lindsay, who told him of the birth, a few days before, of Mary at Linlithgow. 'It came with a lass, and it will go with a lass,' said James; then, turning his face to the wall, spake nothing more. Here Mary of Guise, his widowed queen, often resided, while she governed the kingdom for her infant daughter; and here she found it necessary to give her reluctant consent to the armistice agreed to near Cupar with the Lords of the Congregation. Here, too, the unfortunate Mary, after her return from France, oft sought relief in the sports of the field from the many troubles of her short and unhappy reign. She appears first to have visited it in Sept. 1561, on her way from St Andrews to Edinburgh. She returned in the beginning of the following year, having left Edinburgh to avoid the brawls which had arisen between Arran and Bothwell; and resided partly at Falkland, and partly at St Andrews, for two or three months. She occupied her mornings in hunting on the banks of the Eden, or in trials of skill in archery in her garden, and her afternoons in reading the Greek and Latin classics with Buchanan, or at chess, or with music. During 1563, after her return from her expedition to the North, she revisited Falkland, and made various short excursions to places in the neighbourhood; and again, in 1564, and after her marriage with Darnley in 1565. After the birth of her son, she once more visited Falkland; but this appears to have been the last time, as the circumstances which so rapidly succeeded each other, after the murder of Darnley, and her marriage with Bothwell, left her no longer at leisure to enjoy the retirement it had once afforded her.

James VI., while he remained in Scotland, resided often at the palace of Falkland; and indeed it seems to have been his favourite residence. After the Raid of Ruthven (1582), James retired here, calling his friends together for the purpose of consulting as to the best means of relieving himself from the thraldom under which he had been placed; and he was again at Falkland in 1592, when Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, made one of his desperate attempts on the king's person, and was driven back solely by the timely assistance of the neighbouring peasantry. After the riots in Edinburgh in 1596, James again retired here, where he employed himself partly in hunting, and partly in plotting the destruction of the Presbyterian religion, and the introduction of Episcopacy. In 1600, he was again residing at Falk and, when the first act was played of the so-called Gowrie Conspiracy. The king, on 5 Aug., was about to mount his horse, to. follow his favourite sport, when the mysterious message was delivered to him by Alexander Ruthven, brother to the Earl of Gowrie, which induced James, after the buck was killed, to ride to Perth. In 1617, when James, now King of Great Britain, visited Scotland, he, in his progress through the kingdom, paid his last visit to Falkland. In 1633, when Charles I. visited Scotland, he slept three nights here, on his way to Perth; and on his return, he slept two nights in going to Edinburgh, and created several gentlemen of the county knights. Upon the 6th of July 1650, Charles II., who had arrived from Holland on the 23d of the preceding month, visited Falkland, where he resided some days, receiving the homage of that part of his subjects who were desirous of his restoration to the crown of his ancestors; and here he again returned, after his coronation at Scone, on the 22d of Jan. 1651, and remained some days.

The oldest portion of the palace, which was erected either by James III. or James IV., forms the S front, and still is partially inhabited. On each floor there are six windows, square-topped, and divided by mullions into two lights. Between the windows, the front is supported by buttresses, enriched with niches in which statues were placed, the mutilated remains of which are still to be seen, and terminating in ornamented pinnacles which rise considerably above the top of the wall. The lower floor is the part inhabited, and the upper floor is entirely occupied by a large hall. The western part of this front of the palace is in the castellated style, and of greater height than the other; it is ornamented with two round towers, between which is a lofty archway which forms the entrance to the courtyard behind, and which, in former times, was secured by strong doors, and could be defended from the towers that flank it. James V. made great additions to the palace, and appears to have erected two ranges of building, equal in size to that described, on the E and N sides of the courtyard. As completed by him, therefore, the palace occupied three sides of a square court, the fourth or western side being enclosed by a lofty wall. The range of building on the N side of the court has now entirely disappeared, and of that on the E, the bare walls alone remain, these two portions of the palace having been accidentally destroyed by fire in the reign of Charles II. Having erected his addition to the palace in the Corinthian style of architecture, James assimilated the inner front of the older part of the building, by erecting a new façade in the same style with the rest of the building. The building consisted of two stories, a basement or lower floor, and a principal one, the windows of which are large and elegant, when we consider the period. Between the windows, the façade is ornamented with finely proportioned Corinthian pillars, having rich capitals; and between the upper row of windows are medallions, presenting a series of heads carved in high relief, some of which are beautifully executed, and would lead us to believe that more than native talent had been engaged in the work. On the top of the basement which supports the pillars, the initials of the king and of his queen, Mary of Guise, are carved alternately.

The palace of Falkland, deserted by its royal inmates, was for a long series of years suffered to fall into decay:

'The fretted roof looked dark and cold,
and tottered all around;
The carved work of ages old
Dropped wither'd on the ground:
The casement's antique tracery
was eaten by the dew;
And the night-breeze, whistling mournfully,
Crept keen and coldly through.'

But it is now the property of Mr Bruce, who takes great interest in its careful preservation, as well as in ornamenting the court-yard with flowers and shrubs, and the ground in its immediate neighbourhood, which has been laid out as a garden. The mixture of Gothic, Baronial, and Palladian architecture in this building makes it of much interest to the antiquarian. The main front, although distinctly Baronial, has been treated with buttresses and pinnacles, till it assumes the outward appearance of some ancient chapel, while alongside stand the two round towers of the gateway, with shot-holes, portcullis, and massive walls, that look incongruous. In the inside, this part at one time presented the appearance of a narrow, stone-roofed main building, winged with two round towers corresponding to those at the entrance. But the space between those has been filled up to widen the building, and provide a gallery leading to the large hall, and it is on this later face that the Corinthian pillars and rows of medallions are shown. At a certain level on the old towers there is a bold string course, and it is remarked by architects how admirably the row of medallions, on the same level, carries on the line, although of such a different style of architecture. The ruined -E wing of the square presents similar medallions, but they are between the rows of windows, not alternate with the main windows as in the other wing, and are far less effective. The grand hall, occupying the main building to the front, shows a pannelled roof, of which some part of the colouring still remains, and part of the original decoration of the walls is also seen. One end of the hall is separated from the corridor by a magnificent screen in oak, consisting of slender turned pillars rising from floor to ceiling, and displaying a very marked style of chamfering, at the changes from round to square, where the pillars are divided into stages. A stone balcony runs round the two towers, with their connecting building, and the main portion of the front, and from this height a very delightful view of the surrounding country is obtained. The view from the southern parapet of the palace has long been admired. On the one hand, the Lomond hills spread out their green sides, and point their conical summits to the sky; on the other, the whole strath of Eden, the Howe of Fife from Cupar to Strathmiglo, lies open and exposed. Within the railing in front of the palace stands a full-length statue of Mr Onesiphorus Tyndall Bruce, and in the quadrangle are two finely executed bronze statues in a sitting posture, also by Sir John Steell-one of Dr John Bruce and the other of Col. Bruce.

It might reasonably be supposed that, while Falkland continued to be the occasional residence of royalty, it was not only a place of resort to the higher classes, but that the peasantry would be permitted to enjoy that festivity here which was most congenial to their humours. As it was a favourite residence of that mirthful prince James V., it might well be conjectured, from his peculiar habits, that he would be little disposed to debar from its purlieus those with whom he was wont frequently to associate in disguise. Accordingly-although it is still matter of dispute among our poetical antiquaries, whether the palm should not rather be given to his ancestor James I. -one of the most humorous effusions of the Scottish muse, which contains an express reference to the jovial scenes of the vulgar at Falkland, has, with great probability, been ascribed to the fifth of this name:

'Was nevir in Scotland hard nor sene
Sic dansin nor deray,
Nouthir at Falkland on the Grene,
Nor Pebillis at the Play
As wes of wowaris. as i wene,
at Christis kirk on ane day,' etc.

According to Allan Ramsay and the learned Callander, 'Chrystis Kirk' is the kirktown of Leslie, near Falkland. Others have said, with less probability, that it belongs to the parish of Leslie, in that part of the county of Aberdeen called the Garioch. Pinkerton thinks that, besides the poems of Christis Kirk and Peblis to the Play, a third one, of the same description, had been written, which is now lost, celebrating the festivities of 'Falkland on the Grene. 'This phraseology might refer to what has been called 'the park at Falkland.' Sir David Lindsay, being attached to the court, must have passed much of his time at this royal residence. According to his own account-notwithstanding the badness of the ale brewed in the burgh-he led a very pleasant life here; for, in the language of anticipation, he bids adieu to the beauties of Falkland in these terms:

'Fare weill. Falkland, the forteress of Fyfe.
Thy polite park, under the Lowmound law
Sum tyme in the, I led a lustie lyfe.
The fallow deir. to se thame raik on raw-
Court men to cum to the. thay stand grait aw,
Sayand. thy burgh bene of all burrowis baill,
Because, in the. they never gat gude ail.'

In 1715 Rob Roy and his followers, who had hung about Sheriffmuir, without taking part with either side in that struggle, marched to Falkland, and, seizing the place, levied contributions from the district.

Owing to its courtly surroundings, Falkland long showed superior refinement in its inhabitants; and 'Falkland bred' had become an adage. The superiority, however, of Falkland breeding is, like the former grandeur of the town and palace, now among the things that were. The place is remarkable also for a reminiscence of a totally opposite kind. 'A singular set of vagrants existed long in Falkland called Scrapies, who had no other visible means of existence than a horse or a cow. Their ostensible employment was the carriage of commodities to the adjoining villages; and in the intervals of work they turned out their cattle to graze on the Lomond hill. Their excursions at night were long and mysterious, for the pretended object of procuring coals; but they roamed with their little carts through the country-side, securing whatever they could lift, and plundering fields in autumn. Whenever any inquiry was addressed to a Falkland Scrapie as to the support of his horse, the ready answer Was-' 'Ou, he gangs up the (Lomond) hill ye ken' The enclosing of the hill and the decay of the town, however, put an end to this vagrancy.

The parish of Falkland contains also the villages of Freuchie and Newton of Falkland. It is bounded N by Auchtermuchty, E by Kettle, SE by Markinch, S by Leslie, SW by Portmoak in Kinross-shire, and W and NW by Strathmiglo. Its greatest length, from E to W, is 53/8miles; its greatest breadth, from N to S, is 3¾ miles; and its area is 8265¼acres. By Conland, Maspie, and other small burns, the drainage is carried partly southward to the Leven, but mainly northward to the Eden, which flows just outside the northern boundary; and the highest point in Falkland between the two river-basins is the East Lomond (1471 feet), since the loftier West Lomond (1713) falls within the Strathmiglo border. The parts of the parish to the N and E of the town sink to 130 feet above the sea, and are almost a dead level; but most of the surface is finely diversified with gentle valleys and wooded hillsides. The rocks are variously eruptive and carboniferous- greenstone and limestone; and a vein of galena, discovered about 1783 on the S side of the East Lomond, was thought to be argentiferous, but never repaid the cost of working. The soil, too, varies, but is mainly a fertile light friable loam. Woods and plantations cover some 400 acres; about a fifth of the entire area is pastoral or waste; and all the rest of the land is under cultivation. Kilgour, 2¼ miles W by N of the town, was the site of the ancient parish church, and anciently gave name to the entire parish. Traces of several prehistoric forts are on the Lomond hills; remains of extensive ancient military lines are in the lands of Nuthill; and several old coins, chiefly of Charles I. and Charles II., have been found among the ruins of Falkland Palace. The 'Jenny Nettles' of song hanged herself on a tree in Falkland Wood, and was buried under a cairn on the Nuthill estate. Falkland House, or Nuthill, ¾ mile W of the town, was built in 1839-44, after designs by Mr Burn, of Edinburgh, at a cost of at least £30,000, and is a fine edifice in the Tudor style, with a pleasant well-wooded park. Its owner, Andrew Hamilton Tyndall-Bruce, Esq. (b. 1842; suc. 1874), holds 7058 acres in the shire, valued at £10,092 per annum. Three other proprietors hold each an annual value of £500 and upwards, 9 of between £100 and £500, 10 of from £50 to £100, and 31 of from £20 to £50. In the presbytery of Cupar and synod of Fife, this parish since 1880 has been ecclesiastically divided into Freuchie and Falkland, the latter a living worth £358. Two public schools, Falkland and Freuchie, with respective accommodation for 280 and 255 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 182 and 255, and grants of £169, 1s. 4d. and £178, 10s. Valuation (1866) £10, 847, 6s. 11d., (1882) £12, 518, 16s. 2d. Pop. (1801) 2211, (1831) 2658, (1861) 2937, (1871) 3069, (1881) 2698, of whom 1581 were in Falkland q. s. parish.—Ord. Sur., sh. 40, 1867. See James W. Taylor's Some Hitorical Antiquities, chiefly Ecclesiastical, connected with Falkland, Kettle, and Leslie (Cupar, 1861).

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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