brief history of Dunfermline
visitor cannot spend ten minutes in Dunfermline without gravitating
to the history soaked walls of the old Abbey Church and becoming
chastened and subdued by the contact. With its rich background
teaching the lessons of history, its own thrust and energy creating
a prosperity more marked than that of its neighbours, in surroundings
of great natural beauty providing further evidence of an especially
favoured community, Dunfermline, ancient seat of the kings of
Scotland, might very easily have remained so.
the very reverse happened. To understand the present it is often
necessary to survey the past it would appear that Dunfermline
had its rise in the beginning or towards the middle of the 11th
century, originating with Malcolm Canmore, who returned from 17
years of exile to win the throne of his father from the usurper
Macbeth. Its genesis was as a small fort built on a peninsular
mount in Pittencrief Glen and called, as its name would indicate,
the fort of the crooked rivulet. Two stimulating events influenced
Dunfermline's growth and development. One was the erection of
a religious house near the village which had already sprung up
around Malcolm's castle. The other, and perhaps the more significant,
was the marriage in 1070 of Malcolm with Margaret, the sister
of Edgar Atheling, the unfortunate Anglo-Saxon prince who was
dethroned and had his kingdom seized by William the Conqueror.
union linking the royal lines of Scotland, England and Hungary
took place at a time when, far to the south, Westminster Abbey
was raising itself in strength, beauty and elegance. Queen Margaret,
accepting her shipwreck in the Firth of Forth as an act of Providence,
set her hand and mind to the shaping of a nation which would emerge
from a semi- savage state and have for its heart the Church. She
bore to her grim and rough-hewn husband six sons and two daughters,
and in a tiny room high on Edinburgh Rock she died only four days
after her spouse and Edward, her eldest son, heir to the throne,
were killed in a battle at Alnwick. The building of the Abbey
Church, which was designed to be ' the largest and fairest in
the land,' was commenced in l072.
people of Dunfermline have no cause to be grateful to the memory
of Edward I of England. ' The Hammer of the Scots ' was more than
once in residence at the Palace which stood adjacent to the Abbey
and which, according to one recorder, Matthew of Westminster,
could have accommodated three kings and their retinues. He rested
there on his way south with the Stone of Destiny from Scone, and
the Last occasion of his unwelcome royal patronage was in 1303.
Scotland could well have done without it. After wintering in the
north the Court moved out the following spring, and the last of
the invaders had not embarked on the Forth before flames were
roaring to the heavens, engulfing the labour of centuries. Edward
himself gave the order for this final, cruel vandalism of Dunfermline.
Yet the task of reconstruction was not long delayed, and the Scottish
royal household were installed within its walls again by 1323,
in which year David, the son of Robert the Bruce, was born.
and Scotland's patriot warrior king will be forever bound together.
After Bannockburn, the Bruce lived in the Palace while he took
the healing waters at Scotlandwell. He was a victim of the dreaded
scourge of leprosy, and died from the disease at Cardross, Dumbarton.
His tomb of marble, made in Paris, was placed in the royal sepulchre,
and, nearly five centuries later, on a February day in 1808, it
was rediscovered under dramatic circumstances by a labourer. It
bore the inscription;
lies the invincible Robert, Blessed King. Let him who reads his
exploits repeat how many wars he carried on. He led the Kingdom
of the Scots to Freedom by his Uprightness. Now let him live in
the Citadel of the Heavens."
the marriage settlement of James VI and Anne of Denmark the Palace
of Dunfermline was presented to the new Queen as a morrowing gift
on the day after the wedding at Upslo in Norway. Her feu-duty
was the payment of one silver penny at the feast of Whitsuntide
every year. By the gift Her Majesty became Lady of Dunfermline
and possessor of all the ' principal mansions, biggings, castles,
towers, fortalices and manor places within Her Ladyship.' The
Abbey Church was attacked by the reformers in March 1560, but
they spared the nave, which served Dunfermline as the Parish Church
until the 19th century. It now forms the vestibule of the perpendicular
style church which was built in 1821. The most recent addition
is the beautiful memorial chapel dedicated in May 1952 to those
who died in the Second World War. One visible link with James
and his Danish Queen may be observed in the new Abbey Church.
This is the front of the royal pew recovered from the older church
and bearing the initials of James and Anne. The pew is on the
site of the pre-Reformation choir of the church.
who became Queen of Bohemia and the direct ancestor of the present
royal line, was born in the Palace in 1596, and three years later
Charles I was born there. Charles II was the last sovereign to
reside in the Palace, and his signing of the National Covenant
was the finale to the notable events within its walls. This followed
the bloody battle of Pitreavie. In that clash between the forces
of Charles and Cromwell on a disastrous Sunday in July 1651 nearly
2,000 Royalists were killed, many wounded and 500 prisoners taken.
For three days the Pinkerton Burn ran red with blood and wailing
women scoured the field seeking their dead or dying menfolk This
was the last Covenanting struggle on Scottish soil, and the end
of 600 years of residence by Scottish kings in Dunfermline Palace.
industry which took the place of royal Courts as the basis of
community life, had early origins. First to wrench the ' black
diamonds ' from Scottish coal fields were almost certainly the
monks of Dunfermline and first mention of linen weaving in the
burgh was made in 1491. But cloth had been fashioned four centuries
before that date. Queen Margaret instituted the embroidery circle,
and it may well have been that Abbey priests constructed the first
crude hand-weaving loom after seeing the cloth brought to the
Court by French and Flemish merchants. By 1828, 1,700 looms were
whirring and clacking in the burgh, and in 1845 there were 3,000
personalities have been thrown up at almost every stage of Dunfermline's
development. The Rev. Ralph Erskine, the famous Secessionist minister
of the early 18th century, at 27 years of age assumed the task,
with a senior colleague, of revivifying the ecclesiastic life
of the Abbey. Church matters had suffered five years of neglect.
Within two years communions were being attended by 4,000 to 5,000
church members, Christian fellowships nourished, and Dunfermline
was even subscribing to the sending of missions to the Highlands
and America. Erskine's published sermons, poems and essays were
among the best-sellers of his time.
Then there was Robert Henryson, the ' poet-schulemaister ' of
Dunfermline, who midway through the 15th century wrote Aesop's
Fables. Robert Gilfillan was also born and employed in Dunfermline.
He died at Leith in 1850.
Carnegie is to Dunfermline what Burns is to Ayr or Shakespeare
to Stratford-on-Avon. His legacy to his beloved birthplace is
in music and parks, books and building community welfare and baths,
Rowers and art. He was born in the living-room attic of the cottage
at the corner of Moodie Street and Priory Lane on 25th November
1835, son of a handloom weaver, and he died in America in 1919.
He expounded a new philosophy of wealth, and he was tremendously
sincere when he wrote: ' Fortunate in my ancestors, I was supremely
so in my birthplace.'
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small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me: