Sir John Anstruther, 2nd Baronet, lived from 27 December 1718 to 4 July 1799. He was a Scottish politician and industrialist who served as Member of Parliament for Anstruther Burghs on three occasions and is remembered for his harbour improvements at Pittenweem and the development of coal mining and salt extraction at St Monans. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
John Anstruther was born in Edinburgh, the son of Sir John Anstruther of Anstruther, 1st Baronet, and Lady Margaret Carmichael. The elder Sir John had been made a Baronet in the Baronetage of Nova Scotia in 1700: an honour awarded for providing funds and colonists to help establish the colony of Nova Scotia in what is now Canada. In 1727 he was appointed "Sole Master of Works, Inspector and Director-General of all royal buildings in Scotland" by George II. He also served as Member of Parliament for Anstruther Burghs and later as Member of Parliament for Fife.
The younger John Anstruther became Sir John Anstruther on his 21st birthday in 1739. On 4 October 1750 he married Janet Fall, the daughter of Captain James Fall, MP for Haddington Burghs from 1734 to 1742. They had three sons: Sir Philip Anstruther-Paterson, 3rd Baronet; Sir John Anstruther, 4th Baronet; and Colonel Robert Anstruther. Sir John Anstruther went on to become Member of Parliament for Anstruther Burghs on three occasions: 1766-1774, 1780-1783 and 1790-1793. In the gap between his second and third tenures the seat was held by his second son.
In 1771 Sir John Anstruther and his business partner, Robert Fall (who may have also been his brother-in-law), established the Newark Coal and Salt Company. Coal was extracted from land to the east of St Monans in Fife, on a site now occupied by Coal Farm. Some of the coal was used to heat salt pans which operated, in conjunction with the still-standing St Monans Windmill, on the shore to the east of the village. Production went on round the clock and at the height of operations the salt pans employed 20 men, while the colliery serving it employed a further 36 men. In order to ship out the coal and salt, Sir John paid for the expansion of Pittenweem harbour on condition his ships had priority over other traffic. Both the saltpans and coal mine were linked to Pittenweem harbour by a waggonway. The enterprise was short lived, but the impact on the prosperity of Pittenweem from the improved harbour was long term.
Sir John died in 1799. He was succeeded as 3rd Baronet by his eldest son, Sir Philip Anstruther-Paterson, who in 1778 had married Anne Paterson and subsequently changed his name to Anstruther-Paterson.