Fife, Scotland

Description

FIFESHIRE, a maritime county in the east of Scotland, bounded on the north by the river Tay, on the east by the German Ocean, on the south by the Firth of Forth, and on the west by the counties of Perth, Kinross, and Clackmannan. It lies between 56° 3' and 56° 25' (N. Lat.),and 2° 35' and 3° 38' (W. Long.), and is about 48 miles in length and 18 in extreme breadth, comprising an area of 504 square miles, or 322,560 acres; 30,548 houses, of which 29,036 are inhabited; and containing a population of 140,140, of whom 65,715 are males and 74,425 females. This county anciently formed part of the extensive district of Ross, which derived its name from its peninsular shape, and included the present counties of Kinross and Clackmannan, with portions of the counties of Perth and Stirling, all under one common jurisdiction. The lands of Clackmannan were first separated from this district and erected into a distinct county; and subsequently, in 1425, that portion forming the head of the peninsula was made a county under the appellation of Kinross. The remainder, including a small part previously belonging to Perthshire, almost entirely constitutes the modern county of Fife, the name of which is of obscure and doubtful origin. Originally inhabited by the ancient Caledonians, the district became subject to the Romans, who penetrated into its most secluded retreats, and subsequently to the Picts; but the particular details of its history during these distant periods are not distinctly recorded.

After the subjugation of the Picts, and the union of the two kingdoms under Kenneth II., that monarch, in acknowledgment of the eminent services rendered to him by Macduff, a powerful chieftain who had contributed greatly to his victory, conferred upon him all the lands he had conquered from the Picts. These extended from Fifeness to Clackmannan, and from the rivers Tay and Erne on the north to the river Forth on the south; and of this territory the king also appointed him hereditary thane. Though occasionally subject to Danish incursions, the district, from its central situation between the northern and southern divisions of the kingdom, enjoyed almost undisturbed tranquillity under its thanes, of whom Duncan Macduff, having aided in the destruction of the usurper Macbeth, and in the restoration of Malcolm Canmore, was created Earl of Fife by that sovereign, and invested with many privileges, which were made hereditary in his family. Among these the most important were, the placing of the Scottish kings in the chair of state at the ceremony of their coronation, the honour of leading the van of the royal army, and the liberty of compromising for manslaughter by the payment of a fine proportioned to the rank of the victim. This last immunity was commemorated by the erection of a stone pillar called Macduff's cross, a certain area around which afforded sanctuary. After the death of Duncan, the twelfth earl, Murdoch, Duke of Albany, by marriage with his only daughter, succeeded to the earldom of Fife, which, on his attainder in 1425, reverted to the crown. It was subsequently revived as an Irish peerage in the person of William Duff of Braco, who was created Baron Braco of Kilbride, and Earl of Fife, in 1759; James, the second earl, was made Baron Fife in the peerage of Great Britain in 1790, and the title is now vested in his descendant, the present earl.

Transcribed from Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851
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