I am now to enter the true and real Caledonia, for the country on the north of the firth is alone called by that name, and was anciently known by no other. As I shall give an account of it as it is, and not as it was; so I shall describe it as I viewed it, not as other people have viewed it; nor shall I confine myself to the division of the country, as the geographers have divided it, or to the shires and counties, as the civil authority has divided it, or into presbyteries and synodical provinces, as the Church has divided it: But noting the shires where I find them needful, I shall give an account of things in the order of my own progress, and as I passed thro', or visited them.
I went over the firth at the Queens-Ferry, a place mentioned before, seven miles west of Edinburgh; and, as he that gives an account of the country of Fife, must necessarily go round the coast, the most considerable places being to be seen on the seaside, or near it; so I took that method, and began at the Queens-Ferry. A mile from hence, or something more, is the burrough of Innerkeithin, an ancient walled town, with a spacious harbour, opening from the east part of the town into the Firth of Forth; the mouth of the harbour has a good depth of water, and ships of burthen may ride there with safety; but as there is not any great trade here, and consequently no use for shipping of burthen, the harbour has been much neglected: However, small vessels may come up to the key, such as are sufficient for their business.
The town is large, and is still populous, but decayed, as to what it has formerly been; yet the market for linnen not only remains, but is rather more considerable than formerly, by reason of the increase of that manufacture since the Union. The market for provisions is also very considerable here, the country round being very fruitful, and the families of gentlemen being also numerous in the neighbourhood.
There was a tragical story happened in this town, which made it more talked of in England, at that time, than it had been before. The Lord Burleigh (a young nobleman, but not then come to his estate, his father being living) had, it seems, had some love affair with a young woman in his father's family, but could not prevail with her to sacrifice her virtue to him; upon which the affair being made public she was removed out of the family, and he was persuaded to travel, or whether he went into the army, I do not remember; he had declared it seems, before he went abroad, that he would marry her at his return; which, however, it seems the young woman declined too, as being too much below his quality, and that she would not be a dishonour to the family: But he not only declared he would marry her, but, upon that answer of hers, added, that if any one else marryed her, he would murther them as soon as he came back: This passed without much notice, and the young woman was marryed, before his return, to a schoolmaster in this town of Innerkeithen.
After some time the Young Master (so they call the eldest son of a lord, while his father is living) of Burleigh, returns from his travels, and enquiring for the young woman, and being told she was marryed, and to whom, retaining his hellish resolution he rides away to the town, and up to the school door, and calling for the schoolmaster, the innocent man came out to him unarmed in a gown and slippers; when, after asking if he was such a one, and flying out in some hard words upon him, he drew his pistol, and shot the poor man dead upon the spot, riding away in the open day, and no body daring to meddle with him.
But justice pursuing him, and a proclamation being issued, with a reward of 200 shillings for apprehending him, he was at last taken, and was tried at Edinburgh by the Lords of the Justiciary, and condemned to have his head cut off, and the day of execution appointed. Nor could all the intercession of his family and friends prevail with the queen, after Her Majesty had a true account of the fact laid before her, to pardon or reprieve him: But the day before the execution his friends found means for him to make his escape out of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, disguised in his sister's clothes.
In return for this deliverance he appeared in the late rebellion, and was in the battle of Dumblain or Sheriffmuir, but got off again; and his estate, which, however, was but small, was forfeited among the rest. But the murtherer is not yet brought to justice.
This tragedy, and its circumstances, I think, merits to be recorded, and the rather, because most of the circumstances came within the verge of my knowledge, and I was upon the spot when it was done; there are many other circumstances in it, but too long to be repeated.
- Here is a decayed monastery; for before the Reformation here was a very large and famous abbey, but demolished at the Revolution; and saving, that part of the church was turned into a parochial church, the rest, and greatest part of that also lyes in ruins, and with it the monuments of several kings and queens of Scotland, particularly that of Malcolm III who founded the monastery, as does also the cloister and apartments for the religious people of the house, great part of which are yet so plain to be seen, as to be distinguished one from another.
- Here is a decayed court or royal palace of the kings of Scotland. They do not tell us who built this palace, but we may tell them who suffers it to fall down; for it is now (as it was observed before all the royal houses are) sinking into its own ruins; the windows are gone, the roof fallen in, and part of the very walls mouldered away by the injury of time, and of the times. In this palace almost all King James the VIth's children were born; as particularly King Charles I. and the Princess Elizabeth, afterwards Queen of Bohemia; and their mother, which was Queen Ann daughter of the Queen of Denmark, made this place her particular residence, which was also settled upon her as her dower or jointure; here she built herself an apartment, consisting of eight rooms over the arch of the great gate, which were her particular retirement, having a gallery reaching from that apartment to the Royal Lodgings. The figure of the house remains, but as for the lodgings they are all, as I have said, in their decay, and we may now call it the monument of a court.
- Here is a decayed town, and we need go no farther for that part than the decay of the palace, which is irrecoverable; there might be something said here of what was done at this town, upon receiving and crowning King Charles II, by the Covenanters, etc. and which might, perhaps, contribute to entail a disgust upon the house, and even upon the place; and if it did so, I see no reason to blame the king on that account, for the memory of the place could not be pleasant to his majesty for many reasons: But this is matter of history, and besides, it seems to have something in it that is not, perhaps so well to be remembered as to be forgot.
The church has still a venerable face, and at a distance seems a mighty pile; the building being once vastly large, what is left appears too gross for the present dimensions; the church itself, they tell us, was as long as the cathedral of Carlisle, designed by the model of that of Glasgow, though, I rather think, that at Glasgow, was designed by the model of that at Dumfermling, for the last was, by far, the most ancient.
The people hereabout are poor, but would be much poorer, if they had not the manufacture of linnen for their support, which is here, and in most of the towns about, carryed on with more hands than ordinary, especially for diaper, and the better sort of linnen: The Marquess of Tweedale has a good estate in these parts, and is hereditary House-keeper, or Porter of the Royal House, and, in effect, Lord Chamberlain.
From hence, turning east, we see many seats of private gentlemen, and some of noblemen, as particularly one belonging to the said Marquess of Tweedale at Aberdour. It was formerly one of the many noble mansion houses of the great Earl Mortoun, regent; but with his fall the estates found new masters as that of Dalkeith has in the house of Bucclugh, and this of Aberdour in the house of Yester, or Tweedale. The house is old, but magnificent, and the lands about it, as all must do, that come into the managing hands of the family of Tweedale, have been infinitely improved by planting and enclosing.
This house of Aberdour fronts the firth to the south, and the grounds belonging to it reach down to the shores of it. From this part of the firth, to the mouth of Innerkeithen harbour, is a very good road for ships, the water being deep and the ground good; but the western part, which they call St. Margaret's Bay, is a steep shore, and rocky, there being twenty fathom water within a ship's length of the rocks: So that in case of a south east wind, and if it blow hard, it may be dangerous riding too near. But a south east wind blows so seldom, that the ships often venture it; and I have seen large ships ride there.
He that will view the country of Fife must, as I said before, go round the coast; and yet there are four or five places of note in the middle of the country which are superiour to all the rest, and must not be omitted; I'll take them as I go, though I did not travel to them in a direct line, the names are as follow. Kinross the house of Sir William Bruce, Lessly, Falkland, Melvil, Balgony, and Cowper; the last a town, the other great houses, and one a royal palace, and once the most in request of all the royal houses in Scotland: And here, since I am upon generals, it may not be improper to mention, as a remark only, that however mean our thoughts in England have been of the Scots Court in those times, the kings of Scotland had more fine palaces than most princes in Europe, and, in particular, many more than the Crown of England has now; for example, we see nothing in England now of any notice but Hampton-Court, Windsor, Kensington, and St James's.
Greenwich and Nonsuch are demolished.
Richmond quite out of use, and not able to receive a Court.
Winchester never inhabited, or half finished.
Whitehall burnt, and lying in ruins, or, as we may say let out into tenements.
Westminster, long since abandoned: So that I say nothing remains but, as above, St. James's, Kensington, Windsor, and Hampton-Court.
Whereas the kings of Scotland had in King James the VIth's time all in good repair, and in use, the several Royal palaces of
- Haly-Rood House and the castle at Edinburgh.
- The royal palace in the castle at Sterling.
Having seen Aberdour, I took a turn, at a friend's invitation, to Lessly; but by the way stopped at Kinross, where we had a view of two things worth noting. I. The famous lake or lough, called Lough Leven, where, in an island, stands the old castle where Queen Mary, commonly known in England by the name of Queen of Scots, was confined by the first reformers, after she had quitted, or been forced to quit her favourite Bothwel, and put herself into the hands of her subjects. One would have thought this castle, standing as it were in the middle of the sea, for so it is in its kind, should have been sufficient to have held her, but she made shift to get out of their hands, whether by a silver key, or without a key, I believe is not fully known to this day.
The lough itself is worth seeing; 'tis very large, being above ten miles about, and in some places deep, famous for fish. Formerly it had good salmon, but now chiefly trouts, and other small fish; out of it flows the River Leven, which runs from thence to Lessly.
At the west end of the lake, and the gardens reaching down to the very water's edge, stands the most beautiful and regular piece of architecture, (for a private gentleman's seat) in all Scotland, perhaps, in all Britain, I mean the house of Kinross. The town lies at a little distance from it, so as not to annoy the house, and yet so as to make it the more sociable; and at the town is a very good market, and the street tolerably well built. The house is a picture, 'tis all beauty; the stone is white and fine, the order regular, the contrivance elegant, the workmanship exquisite. Dryden's lines, intended for a compliment on his friend's poetry, and quoted before, are literally of the house of Kinross.
Strong dorick columns form the base,
Corinthian fills the upper space;
So all below is strength, and all above is grace.
Sir William Bruce, the skilful builder, was the Surveyor-General of the works, as we call it in England, or the Royal Architect, as in Scotland. In a word, he was the Kit Wren of North Britain; and his skill in the perfect decoration of building, has many testimonials left upon record for it; such as the palace of Haly-Rood at Edinburgh; the house of Rothess, and this at Kinross, besides several others.
The situation of this house of Kinross would be disliked by some for its being so very near the water, and that sometimes when the lake is swelled by winter rains and melted snows, the water comes into, or at least unto the very gardens; but as the country round is dry, free from stagnated bogs, and unhealthy marshes; this little mediterranean sea gives them very little inconvenience, if any. Sir William, according to the new and laudable method of all the Scots gentlemen, has planted innumerable numbers of firr-trees upon the estate round his house, and the present possessor Mr. Bruce, is as careful to improve as his predecessor: Posterity will find the sweet of this passion for planting, which is so happily spread among the people of the south-parts of Scotland, and which, if it goes on, will in time make Scotland a second Norway for firr; for the Lowlands, as well as the Highlands, will be overspread with timber.
Or may it require so many ages as some people imagine, for many of the largest and most considerable improvements are already of fifty to seventy and eighty years standing as at Melvil, Lessly, Yester, Pinkey, Newbattle, and several other places; and others follow apace; so that in forty or fifty years more, as slow a growing wood as firr is, yet there may be a quantity of large grown trees to be found to begin upon, so as to cutt out deal-boards in great numbers, besides sparrs, bauks, poles, oars &. which the branches will supply.
From Kinross, I came to Lessley, where I had a full view of the palace of Rothess, both inside and outside, as I had before of that of Bruce, The magnificence of the inside at Lessly is unusually great; but what is very particular, is the long gallery, which is the full length of one side of the building, and is filled with paintings, but especially (as at Drumlanrig) of the great ancestors of the house of Rothes or Lessly at full lengths, and in their robes of office or habits of ceremony; particularly the late Duke of Rothess, who built the house, and who was Lord High Chancellor of Scotland.
I do not forget that the rooms of state at Kinross are well supplyed with pictures and some very fine and valuable pieces, as particularly those of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria his queen daughter of France. But almost if not all the full lengths in this gallery of Rothess, are of the family, and the immediate ancestors from whom in a direct line the present earl is descended, having been peers, and in some or other of the greatest offices of trust in Scotland, from the year 1320 to 1725; so that there may well be enough to cloath a gallery, and they are there to be distinguished by their robes and different habits down to the great founder of the house, who was Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament, Lord High Treasurer, and Lord Chancellor; and was created a duke for his own life only, so that his successors are now but earls: But the family are still in the highest esteem, and have gone thro' divers posts of honour and trust. The house indeed is magnificent, I cannot say the situation is so much to advantage as some other seats; nor is there any large avenue or prospect from the entrance, but it is a prospect in it self; it is situated on the banks of the Leven just where another smaller river joins it, and the park on the south side of the house is very beautiful, six miles in circumference, walled about, and in several parts, little woods of firr-trees planted with vistas reaching to them from the house, which gives a very beautiful prospect. The gardens are at the E. end of the house well planted, and well designed, extending to the angle or point, where the two rivers meet; so that the gardens are as it were watered on the north and on the east side, and on the south side are parted from the park with a wall; the west end of them beginning from the house.
This house was built for the duke mentioned above, in the reign of King Charles II by that man of art and master of building Sir William Bruce mentioned there also, so that the building is wholly modern. It is a square, and the fronts every way are plain, that is, without wings, and make a square court within: Here it was King James II lodged, most part of the time, when he was obliged by his brother, King Charles II to retire into Scotland while he was Duke of York; and his apartments are marked in the house and called the Duke of York's Lodgings to this day. They had a communication with the long gallery, and with the great staircase at the other end.
The town of Lessly is at a small distance west from the house or a little north-west. There is a good market, but otherwise it is not considerable. The house is the glory of the place, and indeed of the whole province of Fife.
From Lessly, we turned away south to the coast, and came to Bruntisland; this is a port upon the Firth of Forth, and lies opposite to Leith, so that there is a fair prospect as well of the road of Leith, and the ships riding there, as of the city and castle or Edinburgh. There is a very good harbour which enters as if it had been made by hand into the center of the town; for the town is as it were built round it, and the ships lay their broad sides to the very houses. There is water enough at spring-tides, for ships of good burthen to come into the basin; but at low-water some of the ships lye a-ground: But want of trade renders all this useless; for what is the best harbour in the world without ships? And whence should ships be expected without a commerce to employ them; it is true, the ships of several other towns on the coast frequently put into this harbour, to lay up, as we call it, and to lye by in the winter: But this does not so much better the town as to make it be called a trading town; so that, indeed, the place is unhappy, and must decay yet farther, unless the trade revive, which, I confess, I do not yet foresee.
Here is, however, a manufacture of linnen, as there is upon all the coast of Fife, and especially for that they call green-cloth, which is now in great demand in England for the printing-trade, in the room of callicoes, which were lately prohibited.
Next to this is Kinghorn upon the same coast, where, not the sea, but the manufacture upon the land may be said to maintain the place; for here is a thread manufacture, which they make very good, and bleach or whiten it themselves. The women, indeed, chiefly carry on this trade, and the men are generally seamen upon all this coast, as high as the Queens-Ferry. Where I observed the men carryed on an odd kind of trade, or sport rather: of shooting of porpoises, of which very great numbers are seen almost constantly in the firth; when they catch them thus, they bring them on shore, and boil the fat of them as they do of whales, into train-oil, and the like they do with several other great fish, which sometimes they find in the sea there; and sometimes they have grampusses, finn fish, and several species of the small whale kind which come up there, and which they always make the best of, if they can take them. One year in particular there came several such fish on shore, which they could find no name for; there was eight or nine of them, which I saw lying on the shore of Fife, from Kinghorn to the Easter Weems, some of which were twenty foot long and upward.
But this sort of fishing is but by accident, and the profit's not certain; the firth affords a much more certain and profitable fishery lower down, of which in its place. The ferry, from Leith to the shore of Fife, is fixed in this town, though sometimes the boats in distress, and by force of wind and weather, are driven to run into Bruntisland, This constant going and coming of the ferry-boat, and passengers, is also a considerable benefit to the town of Kinghorn, and is a very great article in its commerce.
East of this town is Kirkcaldy, a larger, more populous, and better built town than the other, and indeed than any on this coast. Its situation is in length, in one street running along the shore, from east to west, for a long mile, and very well built, the streets clean and well paved; there are some small by streets or lanes, and it has some considerable merchants in it, I mean in the true sense of the word merchant. There are also several good ships belonging to the town: Also as Fife is a good corn country, here are some that deal very largely in corn, and export great quantities both to England and Holland. Here are great quantities of linnen shipped off for England; and as these ships return freighted either from England or Holland, they bring all needful supplies of foreign goods; so that the traders in Kirkcaldy have really a very considerable traffic, both at home and abroad.
There are several coal-pits here, not only in the neighbourhood, but even close to the very sea, at the west end of the town, and where, one would think, the tide should make it impossible to work them. At the east end of the town is a convenient yard for building and repairing of ships, and farther east than that several salt-pans for the boyling and making of salt.
Kirkcald, is a member of the royal burroughs, as are also Bruntisland, Kinghorn, and Dysert, tho' almost all of them together are not equal to this town: So that here are no less than four royal burroughs in the riding of five miles.
Dysert is next, a town that gives the title of noble or baron to the Lord Dysert, who resides in England, tho' the property both of the town and the lands adjoining, belong to the Lord Sinclare or St. Clare: but be the estate whose it will, the town, though a royal burgh, is, as I said before of Dumfermling, in the full perfection of decay, and is, indeed, a most lamentable object of a miserable, dying Corporation; the only support which, I think, preserves the name of a town to it, is, that here is, in the lands adjoining, an excellent vein of Scots coal, and the Lord Dysert, the landlord, has a good salt-work in the town; close to the sea there is a small peer or wharf for ships, to come and load both the salt and the coal: And this, I think, may be said to be the whole trade of the town, except some nailers and hardware workers, and they are but few.
I take the decay of all these sea-port towns, which 'tis evident have made a much better figure in former times, to be owing to the removing of the court and nobility of Scotland to England; for it is most certain, when the court was at home, they had a. confluence of strangers, residence of foreign ministers, being of armies, etc. and consequently the nobility dwelt at home, spent the income of their estates, and the product of their country among their neighbours. The return of their coal and salt, and corn and fish, brought them in goods from abroad and, perhaps, money; they sent their linnen and other goods to England, and received the returns in money; they made their own manufactures, and though not so good and cheap as from England, yet they were cheaper to the public stock, because their own poor were employed. Their wool, which they had over and above, went to France, and returned ready money. Their lead went to Holland, and their cattle and sheep to England, and brought back in that one article above £100,000 sterling per Ann.
Then it was the sea-port towns had a trade, their Court was magnificent, their nobility built fine houses and palaces which were richly furnished, and nobly finished within and without. They had infinitely more value went out than came back in goods, and therefore the balance was evidently on their side; whereas, now their Court is gone, their nobility and gentry spend their time, and consequently their estates in England; the Union opens the door to all English manufactures, and suppresses their own, prohibits their wool going abroad, and yet scarcely takes it off at home; if the cattle goes to England, the money is spent there too. The troops raised there are in English service, and Scotland receives no premio for the levies, as she might have done abroad, and as the Swiss and other nations do at this time.
This I take to be the true state of the case; and as this is not foreign to the design of this work, I am the longer upon it. I gave a particular account in my description of Glasgow, Irwin, and Dumfries, to shew you how those places were enriched by the increase of their commerce, and how the commerce was encreased by the Union of the two kingdoms. I must likewise, in justice, demonstrate how and why these sea-ports, on the east coast, decline and decay by the same occasion, and from the same cause.
It is true, Scotland would have an advantagious trade with England, and not the worst for the Union, were not the Court removed, and did not their nobility dwell abroad, and spend their estates abroad: Scotland has a plentiful product for exportation, and were the issue of that product returned and consumed at home, Scotland would flourish and grow rich, but as it is, I may venture to say, it is not to be expected. For example; The product of Scotland, I say, is very considerable, I mean that part of it which is exported to foreign parts, for what. is consumed at home is nothing, that is to say adds nothing to the public stock of the nation, speaking of Scotland as a nation by herself.
All the product of Scotland which is sent abroad, and exported to foreign countries, and consumed there, is so much clear gain to the public stock, excepting only the cost of its manufacturing at home, or curing and sending out; and except so much as is brought back in goods of the growth, and manufacture of foreign countries, and is consumed in Scotland, which is not reckoned as gain, because consumed; if it is exported again, the article goes to the account of public gain again. Now to state the case briefly between the exportation and importation of goods in Scotland, that the difference, which is the balance of the trade, may appear.
The product of Scotland, which it exports into foreign countries, England included, for I am now considering Scotland as if not united, is as follows.
- To England: corn; black cattle; sheep; wool; linnen of several sorts; some woollen manufactures; stockings in particular. All these carried to England and that in great quantities.
- To Holland, Bremen, and Hambrough: corn; lead; salt; coal; barrelled pork; salmon. N.B. The Dutch buy the barrelled pork from Aberdeen for victualling their East-India ships, it being much better cured than from any other country.
- To Norway: salt; oatmeal; salmon; lead; stockings; linnen.
- To Sweden, Dantzick, and to Riga: salt; woollen manufactures of Sterling and Aberdeen;
- To Spain and the Straits: herrings pickled; barrelled and dryed salmon; herring and white fish.
- To France: coal; salt; lead; herrings; white fish; wool.
For all these exportations the returns are, or at least were before the Union:
- From England: pewter; block-tin; wrought iron; glass ware; sugars; tobacco; drugs; and dyers' stuffs. N.B. All the English woollen and silk manufactures were prohibited upon the several penalties; so that the returns from England, in goods, were very small; the grand return from thence was in specie: And 'tis known, that above an hundred thousand pounds a year was paid into Scotland every year; for cattle only.
- From Holland: fine linnens, not much, because of their own; lace and fine threads, gimp, incle, &. East-India goods; linseed, and lint or flax; linseed-oil; train-oil; and whalebone.
- From Norway: pitch and tar; deals and firr-timber.
- From Sweden: iron in bars and copper; deals and timber.
- From Dantzick, Koningsberg, Riga, Narva, and Petersburg: plank, called east country; clap-board, or wainscot; oak timber, and in quarters; hemp; pitch; tar; turpentine; tturgeon; tlax.
- From France: wine; brandy; apples (rennets); rosin; cork; paper; wrought silks; raw silk; toys; perfumes, etc.
- From Leghorn: way of The Royal Canal thro' France; oil and Italian pickles.
- From Hamburgh: staves for casks; clap-board; Rhenish wine; old hoch.
All these goods, indeed, come to Scotland, but then the quantities are very small: 'Tis evident, the chief articles are, to sum up all in a little, sugar and tobacco from England; wine and brandy from France; naval stores from the East Country; iron and copper from Sweden; deals and timber from Norway; and lint and linseed from Holland.
And all these put together, if I am rightly informed, do not balance the lead, coal, and salt, which they export every year: So that the balance of trade must stand greatly to the credit of the account in the Scots commerce.
And what then, would not such an annual wealth in specie do for Scotland in a year, if there was not a gulph, into which it all runs as into a sink?
I know this is abundantly answered, by saying that Scotland is now established in a lasting tranquillity; the wars between the nations are at an end, the wastings and plunderings, the ravages and blood are all over; the lands in Scotland will now be improved, their estates doubled, the charges of defending her abroad and at home lies upon England; the taxes are easy and ascertained, and the West-India trade abundantly pours in wealth upon her; and this is all true; and, in the end, I am still of opinion Scotland will be gainer: But I must add, that her own nobility, would they be true patriots, should then put their helping hand to the rising advantages of their own country, and spend some of the large sums they get in England in applying to the improvement of their country, erecting manufactures, employing the poor, and propagating the trade at home, which they may see plainly has made their united neighbours of England so rich.
Why might not the wool, which they send to England, be manufactured in Scotland? If they say they know not how to make the goods, or how to dispose of them when made, my answer is short; I know 'tis not the work of gentlemen to turn manufacturers and merchants: And I know also a number of projectors, that is to say, thieves and cheats, have teased and hanged about them, to draw them into manufacturing, only to bubble them of their wool and money.
But here is a plain scheme, let the Scots gentlemen set but their stewards to work to employ the poor people to spin the wool into yarn, and send the yarn into England; 'tis an easy manufacture, and what the Scots are very handy at, and this could never be difficult. They may have patterns of the yarn given them here, a price agreed on, and good security for payment: This can have no difficulty; the Irish are fallen into this way, to such a degree, that 40,000 packs of wool and worsted yarn are brought into England now every year, and sold here, where, about thirty years ago, not a pound of it was imported ready spun.
This, and many such advantages in trade, Scotland might find in her own bounds, her gentlemen assisting the poor only with their stocks of wool; by which means the poverty and sloth of the meaner people would be removed, and Scotland enriched: But I have done my part, and have not room to enlarge; nature will dictate enough to the gentlemen to go to work upon it, if they have any design to do their country good, and if a narrow and selfish spirit does not continue to prevail among them.
The decayed burghs being passed, we came to a village called the Weems, or by way of distinction, the Wester Weems, or Wemys. This is a small town, and no burrough, belonging to the Earl of Weemys, whose house stands a little farther east, on the top of a high cliff, looking down upon the sea, as Dover Castle looks down upon the strait, between it and Calais, tho' not so high.
The account given lately of this noble castle of the Weemys is very romantick, and must necessarily be laughed at by the family itself who know the house. It is a very good house, and has one large front to the sea, but without any Windsor-like terrass between the house and it, as is represented. At the west end, upon the same cliff, is a small plain, where had been a bowling-green, and where the late earl, being admiral, had some small field-pieces planted to answer salutes. Behind the house is a small and irregular court-yard, with two wings of building, being offices to the house on one side, and stables on the other. Nor is there any gardens, or room for any, much less a spacious park, on the north side of the house; but the road from the Wester Weemys to the Easter passing between, there is a large, well planted orchard, and it is no other, nor otherwise intended; and as to a spacious park, there is nothing like it. There is a piece of waste ground planted with firr-trees, at the east end of the house, but they do not thrive; nor would any man call it a park, especially for a nobleman too, that had seen what a park means in England; but, indeed, in Scotland they call all enclosed grounds parks, whether for grass or corn: And so they call all gardens yards; as St. Ann's Yards, at the palace of Haly-Rood House, and the like in other places.
From hence you pass through the East Weemys to another village, called Buckhaven, inhabited chiefly, if not only, by fishermen, whose business is wholly to catch fresh fish every day in the firth, and carry them to Leith and Edinburgh markets. And though this town be a miserable row of cottage-like buildings, and people altogether meer fishermen, as I have said, yet there is scarce a poor man in the town, and in general the town is rich.
Here we saw the shore of the sea covered with shrimps, like the ground covered with a thin snow; and as you rode among them they would rise like a kind of dust, being scared by the footing of the horse, and hopping like grasshoppers.
The fishermen of this town have a great many boats of all sorts and sizes, and some larger, which lye upon the beach unrigged, which every year they fit out for the herring season, in which they have a very great share.
|To Letter 13 Part 2|