Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Markinch

Markinch (mark-ineh,' the forest island'), a small town and a parish in the Kirkcaldy district of Fife. The town has a station (the junction for Leslie) on the Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee section of the North British, 22½ miles N by E of Edinburgh, 11½ SSW of Cupar, 7½ N by E of Kirkcaldy, and 4¼ E of Leslie. It is built on the top and sides of a low ridge, which, according to tradition, was once an island in a lake. This is supposed to explain the derivation of the name Markinch. The height of this ridge is greater at its northern and southern extremities than at the centre. The northern was at one time occupied by a Culdee cell; and the southern, known as Markinch Hill, has six terraces, each 20 feet broad, and rising one above the other, cut out from it. By some, these terraces have been ascribed to the Romans, while others have thought it probable that they were intended for an amphitheatre, from which games, etc., engaged in below, might easily be viewed. It is now hardly possible to make out the terraces, owing to the ridge being overgrown with trees, planted by the late General Balfour. When the parish church was built is unknown; it was, however, enlarged and repaired in 1806, and has now 1050 sittings. The Free church was renovated, and two stained-glass windows were inserted, in 1883; and there is also a U.P. church. Markinch has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, agencies of 10 insurance companies, a town-hall (1857), a subscription library, 2 hotels, a gas company, a water company, bowling and curling clubs, and a cottage gardeners' society. Fairs are held on the second Tuesday of February, on the last Tuesday of March, on the second Tuesday of May, on the second Friday of October, and on the third Tuesday of December. The town contains a number of good shops, which draw their custom from the surrounding district, in which are situated the mills and bleachfields which give employment to the inhabitants (see under the parish). Population of Markinch town (1861) 1230, (1871) 1237, (1881) 1273, of whom 686 were females. Houses (1881) 300 inhabited, 13 vacant, 2 building.

Markinch parish is bounded NW by Falkland, N by kettle, E by Kennoway and Scoonie, SE by Wemyss, SW by Dysart, and W by Kinglassie and Leslie. With a very irregular outline, it has an utmost length from N to S of 5½ miles, a varying width from E to W of ¼ mile and 5¾ miles, and an area of 9876¾ acres, of which 48¾ are foreshore and 7½ water. The parish consists of two separate parts, the larger of which approaches near Cameron to within 7 furlongs of the Firth of Forth; while the smaller, with a land area of only 67¼ acres, lies along the Firth and the right bank of the river Leven, between Wemyss and Scoonie.' The general aspect of the parish,' says one writer,' is varied and picturesque. From the Lomond Hills as a background on the N, it slopes gently towards the S and E. The parish is intersected by four fertile valleys, watered by as many streams, which unite towards the eastern extremity. The valleys are separated by corresponding low ridges, each rising gradually above the other in the direction of the summit level'-516 feet at Kirkforthar, close to the northern boundary. The chief streams in the parish are the river Leven, Lochty Burn, and the Ore. The first divides the inland section into two pretty equal parts. Lochty Burn runs 71/3 furlongs eastward to the Ore, which itself flows 45/8 miles north-eastward to the Leven, partly along the Dysart boundary, but mainly through the south-eastern interior; and the Leven goes 67/8 miles eastward, partly along the Leslie and Wemyss boundaries, but chiefly across the middle of the parish. The rocks are mainly of the Carboniferous formation, and mining has been long carried on on a large scale. Ironstone is also found in abundance. At first it was smelted on the spot, but was afterwards exported to the Tyne to be smelted there. In the northern part of the parish the soil is either clay, loam, or gravel; in the district between the Lochty and the Ore, it is clay, loam, or sand of a wet character; and in the southern part it is wet clay, loam, or sand. A considerable portion is under wood, and there are about l00 acres of bog-land. The parish is traversed by a section of the Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee railway, which has a junction station at Thornton, where the Leven and East of Fife, and the Buckhaven lines break off, and at Markinch where the Leslie branch separates from the main line.

Besides the small town of Markinch, the parish contains the following villages and hamlets, Milton of Balgonie, Coaltown, Windygates, Woodside, Inverleven, Balcurrie, Haughmill, Burns, Rothes, Auchmuty, Bal. birnie, Gateside, Kirkforthar, Scythrum, CameronBridge. In these, and in the country round about them, are conducted the various mills, bleachfields, etc., which form the industries of the parish. At Cameron-Bridge there is a very large distillery; and at Rothes, Balbirnie, and Auchmuty there are paper- mills The parish also contains 4 bleachfields at Rothes, Lochty, Balgonie, and Haugh, 3 collieries, and 2 flaxspinning mills. The chief resident landowners, with their estates, are:-Balfour of Balbirnie. Admiral Bethune, C. B., of Balfour, Landale of Woodbank, Lawson of Corriston, Simpson of Brunton, Greig of Balcurrie, Mrs Grant of Durie Vale, Inglis of Ballinkirk. The following are non-resident: - The Countess of Rothes, Balfour of Balgonie, Wemyss of Wemyss, Ramsay of Balcurrie, Christie of Durie. The United College of St Andrews also holds property in the parish. Markinch contains several objects of antiquarian interest. The House of Orr (Balfour House) may be noticed, because in it was born Cardinal Beatoun (or Bethune), who played so large a part in Scottish history of the 16th century. The old House of Orr was situated at the junction of the Orr with the Leven, but the present house is near the Milton of Balgonie. An interesting portrait of the cardinal may be seen in the gallery of Balfour House, which also contains a portrait of James Bethune, Archbishop of Glasgow (b. 1517), a nephew of the cardinal, and another of Mary Beatoun (b. 1566), well known as one of the' Queen's Maries,' and mentioned in the old song, supposed to be sung by the hapless Mary on the eve of her execution:-

Yestreen the Queen had four Maries,
The nicht she'll hae but three;
There was Mary Beatoun and Mary Seaton,
And Mary Carmichael and me.

Balgonie Castle, 1½ mile ESE of Markinch, stands on the summit of a bank, which rises from the Leven. ' The Old Red sandstone keep of Balgonie was both a palace and a prison.' It is about 80 feet high, with a battlement at the top, and is 45 feet in length and 36 in breadth over the walls. The walls of the two lower stories, which are arched with stone, are 8 feet thick. Balgonie belonged originally to the Sibbalds, a well-known Fifeshire family, from whom it passed to the Lundins. The famous Scottish general, Sir Alexander Leslie-'Crook-back' Leslie, as he was called-acquired it from them about 1640. There he spent the closing years of his life, and there he died in 1661, as Lamont relates:-'Old Generall Leslie in Fyffe, the Earle of Leven, depairted out of this life at his own house in Balgonie, and was interred at Markinshe church in his own iyle, the 19 of Apr(il), in the evening.' Another account says that his remains were borne to the vault at midnight, by torch-light.

The ruined tower of Bandon, in the western part of the parish, was one of Beatoun's many possessions. Other antiquities are the ruined church of Kirkforthar, the tower of Markinch parish church, and an old cross, 7 feet high, erected to the N of Markinch, near the garden entrance to Balbirnie. What remains of it is now merely a broad slab, either quite plain at first, or so weather-beaten in the course of years, as to have lost all traces of carving upon it. Stone coffins and other remains of an antiquarian nature have also been found in the parish.

Men of note, who have been connected with Markinch, are:-Dr Drew, who became Principal of St Leonard's College, St Andrews, in 1708, after having been minister of Markinch parish church; Mr Tullidolph, minister of Markinch, who was appointed Professor of Divinity in St Mary's College, St Andrews, in 1734; Dr Sievewright, who was first minister of the parish church, and afterwards of the Free church of Markinch. When he left the Established Church, most of his' people" came out' with him. He was Moderator of the Free Church General Assembly in 1846, and died in 1852. This parish is in the presbytery of Kirkcaldy and the synod of Fife. The stipend is 20 chalders, and the living is worth from £300 to £400. Besides the parish church there are also quoad sacra parish churches at Milton of Balgonie and Thornton. The former has accommodation for 650 and the latter for 400 persons. There is a Free church at Markinch, and 2 U.P. churches, one at Markinch and the other at Inverleven. No special interest, of an ecclesiastical nature, is attached to the church of Markinch. In the 10th century it was conveyed by Maldrumus, Bishop of St Andrews, to the Culdees of Lochleven. The men of Markinch, it has been shown from the Kirk Session Records, were warmly attached to the Covenanting cause, in defence of which they spent' lives, land, and gear.' Seven public schools, with total accommodation for 1061 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 856, and grants amounting to £736, 3s. 7d. Valuation (1860) £23,047, (1884) £30, 206, 5s. 5d. Pop. (1801) 3130, (1831) 4967, (1861) 5375, (1871) 5413, (1881) 5863.—Ord. Sur., sh. 40, 1867.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a small town and a parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Markinch ScoP       Fife ScoCnty
Place: Markinch

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