the district's past alive
Fife's wealth of history is kept alive in many ways, such as the restoration
of buildings and historic sites, but its proud past is often a lifetime's
passion for some in the area.
That is certainly the case with Peter Baillie, who has been involved with
Torryburn and District Local History Group for almost 16 years.
Peter chairs the group, which has a thriving membership of 84, drawn from
as far afield as Dunfermline and Clackmannan.
Over the years Peter has built up a massive collection of carefully-filed
historic photos and postcards, backed up by an impressive collection of
knowledge, coupled with information passed on to him by local folk, gives
him a unique insight into days gone by in the area.
His home village of Torryburn - like several along the Fife coast - was
infamous in the mid-1500s for witchcraft, when Alan Logan was the self-appointed
Any suspected witches met a grim death, usually being publicly burnt at
the stake or drowned, generally at Dunfermline or Edinburgh.
It was during the same era that Torryburn and Culross were hit very hard
by the plague when everyone rallied round to offer some nursing care in
A particularly well known nurse hailed from Torryburn, Alison Cunningham,
whose dedicated work was acknowledged in the 1800s by the famous Scots
writer Robert Louis Stevenson, best known for 'Treasure Island.'
As a token of thanks for the nursing he received from 'Cummy', he dedicated
his book 'Children's Garden of Verses' to her. A copy is still held by
a family in the village.
was also famous for its shipping and exporting, with 13 ships registered
in the village in 1810.
Coal was one of the main exports to the Continent, with the ships being
loaded at the long-gone Torry Pier at Newmills.
The worldwide-known phrase "Women and children first," cried
out by captains manning their sinking ships, can trace its origins to
Captain Salmond, from the village, is credited with making the remark
when his 'Birkenhead' troop ship ran aground in South Africa and he was
organising the transfer of everyone to rowing boats.
Royal Research Ship Discovery, made famous by 'Scott of the Antarctic,'
even had local links. Captain Graham Ford, who took the helm in 1905,
was from Newmills and married a local lass.
Peter, who spent much of his working life down the local coal mines, also
has great interest in the industry which once dominated the area.
"At one time, when a colliery was sold, its workforce was sold with
it, although that changed in 1779. It was also quite common for women
and children as young as five to work in the mines."
the postcards provide a fine record of life 100 or so years ago, they
had a far more important role in the early 1900s.
Peter explains: "There would be four or five deliveries of mail a
day between the surrounding villages, and families used the postcards
to keep in touch like we use the phone today."
and District Local History Group meets every fortnight between October
and March, in Torryburn Hall.
The group invites speakers, with slide presentations often shown.
Further information from A. Macdonald - email firstname.lastname@example.org