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Collessie, Fifeshire

Historical Description

COLLESSIE, a parish, in the district of CUPAR, county of FIFE; including the villages of Edenton, Giffordton, Kinloch, Ladybank, and Monkston, and containing 1346 inhabitants, of whom 210 are in the village of Collessie, 5½ miles (W.) from Cupar. This place, which is situated on the road from Cupar to Auchtermuchty, is supposed to have derived its name from the position of its village at the bottom of a glen; of which, in the Gaelic language, the term Collessie is significant. The parish is about eight miles in extreme length, and four in average breadth, and is bounded on the south by the river Eden. It comprises about 16,540 acres, whereof 5000 are arable, 10,000 in pasture, about 1200 woodland, and nearly 300 marsh and uncultivated waste, the whole of which might without difficulty be reclaimed and rendered fertile. The surface is varied, in some parts rising into hills of moderate height, whose sloping sides are richly cultivated, and in others spreading into open vales intersected by the river Eden and various other streams, the principal of which is the Keilour, separating the eastern portion of the parish from the parish of Monimail. The scenery throughout is pleasingly diversified, and embellished with natural wood and flourishing plantations. A tract of common comprising nearly 1000 acres has been divided and inclosed within the last fifty or sixty years, and is now covered with plantations, chiefly of fir; and the hills in general are crowned with ornamental timber.

The SOIL is various; in the north and north-western portions, extremely fertile; in others, light and sandy, and in some parts a sterile marsh. Extensive improvements have been made by draining. The Rossie loch, which covered nearly 300 acres, was partly drained towards the close of the last century, but remained little better than a morass till 1806, when Captain Cheape completed the undertaking. This gentleman, at an expense of £3000, reclaimed 250 acres, which now produce excellent grain; and left only about fifty acres in the centre, which, though affording good crops of hay, are still marshy. The lands have been also benefited by an embankment of the river Eden, and by deepening the bed of the Keilour. The system of agriculture has been greatly improved under the auspices of an agricultural society, supported by most of the landed proprietors in the district, and which holds annual meetings for the distribution of prizes. The principal crops are barley, oats, wheat, potatoes, and turnips; and the species of barley called Chevalier, and Italian rye grass, have been introduced by the members of the society. Here the pastures are very extensive, and many of them luxuriantly rich; the cattle are of the black Fifeshire breed, crossed occasionally with the Teeswater and the Angus breeds. The annual value of real property in the parish is £8032. The substratum is chiefly whinstone, which is quarried for building purposes, and is much esteemed; sandstone is also found in some parts, but it is not worked to any great extent. The mansion-houses, with their well-planted and tastefully laid-out demesnes, add greatly to the beauty of the scenery. In the house of Kinloch are preserved some of the earlier pictures painted by Wilkie, one of which is "Pitlessie Fair", containing an admirable group of more than 150 figures, chiefly portraits, and which he presented to the late Mr. Kinnear out of gratitude for the kindness he had experienced at Kinloch. Great facilities of communication are afforded by the Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee railway.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of Cupar and synod of Fife; patron, William Johnstone, Esq. The stipend of the incumbent is £223. 4. 9.; the manse is a comfortable residence, having been enlarged and nearly rebuilt within the last twenty years, and the glebe is valued at £15 per annum. The former church, an ancient edifice, being ill adapted for public worship, and too small for the parish, another was lately erected, a handsome building with a low square tower, and capable of seating 550 persons. There is a place of worship for members of the Free Church. Collessie parochial school is attended by nearly seventy scholars; the master, who, in addition to the ordinary branches, teaches Latin and the mathematics, has a salary of £35. 12., with £25 fees, and a house and garden. There is also a parochial library.

A little to the south of the village, is a cairn called the Gask Hill, consisting of loose stones overgrown with turf, about twelve feet in height. Near this spot, an ancient sword about eighteen inches in length, and several fragments of human bones, covered with a few flat stones, were dug up some years since. On the lands of Melville, and near the site of Hall Hill, the ancient mansion of the Melville family, is an upright block of whinstone, about six feet in circumference and nine in height. In the hamlet of Trafalgar are two spots, supposed to have been the sites of military stations erected to secure the pass from Newburgh to the interior of the county of Fife, from which circumstance a small lake between this place and Newburgh is called Lindores, from the Gaelic Linne-Doris, "the loch of the pass". The eastern fort, called Agabatha, was seated on an eminence surrounded with a moat; and relics of antiquity have been discovered near the spot, among which were a quern or hand-mill of mica-slate, and a number of coins of the date of Edward I. Maiden Castle, the western fort, is said to have derived that name from the daughter of the governor, who, concealing the death of her father during a siege, continued to give, herself, the necessary orders for its defence, till the assailants were compelled to abandon the attempt. The site of this fort is pointed out by some trees planted there by the late proprietor of the land. In the interval between the forts numerous coffins, urns, and human bones have been discovered; the urns, one of which is still preserved at Kinloch, were of Celtic origin, about eighteen inches in height, fifteen inches in diameter at the base, and extremely conical in form. Among the eminent persons connected with the parish, was Sir James Melville, proprietor of the lands of Hall Hill in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots; there are no remains of the mansion, and even the site of it has disappeared since the inclosure of the lands. Dr. Hugh Blair was incumbent of this parish, to which be was ordained in 1742.

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


Online maps of Collessie are available from a number of sites:

Postal districtKY15
Post TownCupar