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Kemback, Fifeshire

Historical Description

KEMBACK, a parish, in the district of St. Andrew's, county of Fife, 3 miles (E. by N.) from Cupar; containing, with the village of Blebo-Craigs, 778 inhabitants. It is supposed to derive its name from the rivulet called the Kem or Kam, which rises in the hills of the parish of Scoonie, and flowing through this parish, falls into the river Eden. The parish is bounded on the north by the river Eden, and measures about three miles in length and a mile and a half in breadth, comprising 2200 acres, of which 1700 are arable, with a due proportion of meadow and pasture, and 320 are woodland and plantations. Its surface is varied with hills, of which a ridge traverses the parish from east to west, sloping gently towards the south, and more abruptly towards the north; the highest eminence is Clatto hill, rising 548 feat above the level of the sea. The whole of this range, formerly a wild barren heath, is now covered with thriving plantations, adding greatly to the beauty of the scenery, for which this district is distinguished. The river Eden flows in a winding course, along the boundary of the parish, between banks which in some places are level with its stream, and in others rise into precipitous elevation; while the Kem brook, frequently called the Ceres burn, runs through a thickly-wooded ravine called Dura Den, nearly a mile in length, abounding with romantic scenery, and enlivened by a picturesque cascade. The Eden contains plenty of trout in the spring and autumn, and is a favourite resort for anglers.

In this parish the soil displays every possible variety; along the banks of the river, a rich alluvial clay of great fertility; in other parts, black and brown loam, alternated with peat-moss, sand, and gravel. The system of agriculture is in an improved state; the farm-buildings are substantial, and on many of the farms are threshing-mills, driven by horses, water, or steam. The substratum is chiefly sandstone of a bright yellow colour, occurring in beds of great thickness, and abounding with organic remains; there are some quarries of whinstone, and coal and ironstone have been discovered, but are not wrought. The annual value of real property in the parish is £3515. Blebo House, the seat of General Alexander Bethune, the principal landed proprietor, is a handsome modern mansion; there are also good houses at Dura and Kemback, belonging to other proprietors, and the latter of which is an ancient building. The village is small, and consists chiefly of scattered cottages, on the road to St. Andrew's. The inhabitants are partly employed in the spinning of yarn, for which there are two mills belonging to Mr. David Yool, both situated on the Ceres burn. Of these, Yoolfield mill was built in 1839, and the machinery is impelled by a water-wheel of thirty-nine feet diameter, and, when water is scarce, by steam; Blebo mill, farther up the stream, is driven by a water-wheel, and a steam-engine of ten-horse power. In the two about 195 persons are employed, of whom 125 are females. Connected with the Blebo mill are a meal-mill, a barley-mill, and a mill for scutching flax; and lower down the stream, at Kemback, is a mill, also belonging to Mr. Yool, driven by a water-wheel of sixteen-horse power, for grinding meal, sawing timber, and crushing bones. Ecclesiastically the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery of St. Andrew's and synod of Fife. The minister's stipend is £159. 7., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £24 per annum; patrons, the University of St. Andrew's. Kemback church, erected in 1814, is a neat plain building. The parochial school is attended by about forty children; the master has a salary of £34, with a good house and garden, and the fees average £16 per annum. There are three other schools, partly supported by subscription and the fees. The poor have bequests producing £10 per annum. There are several tumuli in the parish; and some relics of Roman antiquity have been occasionally discovered.

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