Margaret Paton’s donkey and Sir Arthur Halkett

Dear blog reader

I do hope you enjoy this description of one of Cairneyhill’s bygone modes of transport which I only discovered recently.





Many of our fellow townsmen will be unacquainted with old Margaret Paton, who acts as a carrier between Cairneyhill and Dunfermline with her donkey cart – but there will be few who have not cast an eye of admiring respect on the little stout and still rosy-cheeked old woman.

Margaret is now 84 years of age, and shows as firm a frame and undaunted a pluck as if she had a lease of signed and sealed to carry it out to the hundred. Besides her health, strength, and high spirits, she carries an honest, grateful heart beneath her druggit gown, and at the present time she has a noble story to tell that, while reflecting no small credit on herself, stamps the character of one of our neighbouring proprietors with the native and genuine superscription of ‘a gentleman and a Christian’.

A short time ago Margaret’s breadwinner, her donkey, was nearly done up, and on its last legs, and how to get another to replace it was beyond the depth of her purse, and, it may be, the extent of her credit. One day lately, as she was toiling along the road with her poor old ass, every footlift of which threatened to be its last, ‘Wha did I foregather wi,’ says she, ‘but his honour, Sir Arthur Hawkett.’ ‘Is this you, Margaret,’ says he? ‘Ye’re no very weel set on wi’ yer donkey, I see. He’ll tak a lang lang time to tak’ ye frae Cairneyhill to Dunfermline, I am sure, frae the pace that the puir brutes noo making.’ ‘Indeed, Sir Arthur,’ says I, ‘it took us the day three guid hoors to measure the road atween Cairneyhill and Crossford – it did a’ that’ – ‘That manna be ony longer,’ says he – ‘ye maun get a new donkey – but whether it is to be you or me that’s to be at the expense o’t? That’s the question.’ ‘Hoot yer honour,’ says I, ‘ye ken that had I haen the needfu’ o’ my ain I would haen anither donkey lang afore this. But times are sadly changed noo, Sir Arthur, and pouches are no sae bauld and buirdly as they aince war.’

‘Aweel then,’ says he, ‘since your pouch canna do’t, then mine mau, that’s a.’ ‘Ah, Sir Arthus,’ says I, ‘ye maun excuse me, I hae seen mony imperfect conclusions in mu lifetime, that I am a wee thing tarred wi auld Saunt Tammas’s unbelieving speerit. I maun find things just in my hand afore I’ll hae faith in them.’ ‘Never you fear, Margaret’ says he, ‘Awa ye gang and bargain for a new ass, and come doon to my house, and I’ll pay the price o’t.’ ‘Was that no noble offer in the guid young gentleman. It was keeping me frae beggin’, keepin’ me like an auld independent wifie. I gaed awa hame and sent aff a friend to bargain for anither donkey, it was this ane. Three pound was to be the price o’t, and the bargain was made, I set awa myself to Pitfirrane House. Losh [illegible] hoo I trummelled, as I gaed along a long trance under the guidance o’ a servant, trummelled like a juniper buss, as we drew near the room whar Sir Arthur was. At length and lang, he sees me and cries, ‘Margaret, hae ye bargained for an ass yet?’ Makin a curtchy, I said I had, and that it would cost three pounds. I had hardly got oot the words whan his han’ was in his oxter pouch, an’ oot cam’ the pocket-book, an in to my lap fell the three pounds. I tauld him that I would maybe gar twa o’ them do, and wishes him to tak’ back ane. ‘Toots,’ says he, ‘if ye can gar twa i’ them do, keep ye the ither, for ye well deserve it.’ There’s a man, an’ a gentleman, an’ a verra Nathaniel for you. I could kneel doon and’ kiss the verra shoe points o’ the noble youth. The blessin’ o’ God be wi’ him for ever more!’


It is believed this is the Arthur Halkett referred to:

Death of Mrs More, Seminary Founder



Our obituary last Saturday recorded the death of Mrs More, wife of the Rev John More, in the 74th year of her age.

Mrs More was the eldest daughter of the Rev Dr Paxton, of Edinburgh, a popular preacher in his day, and Professor of Divinity in the Original Secession Church, to which he belonged. Mrs More inherited much of the talent and genius by which her father was distinguished. Her life has been a useful and honoured one. The seminary at Cairneyhill for the training of young ladies, conducted by Mrs More and family, has long held a high place in public estimation, and exerted no little influence in reviving the standard of taste and education in the neighbourhood, and we believe, throughout Scotland.

The funeral of Mrs More took place on Monday, and was numerously attended, and amongst others there were present – Rev Dr Johnston, Limekilns; Rev Messrs McDowall, Alloa; Mathieson, Alloa; Welsh, Kincardine; Fleming, Inverkeithing; Grahame, Crossgates; Gilston, Carnock; Doig, Torryburn; Milroy, Torryburn; and Young and Russell, Dunfermline; Dr Dewar, Dunfermline; Thomas Grinton Esq, Thomas Younger Esq, William J Sloan Esq, William More etc etc.


Dear blog reader

As examples of those who attended Mrs More’s seminary, here are the young ladies who were attending the seminary at the time of the 1851 and 1861 censuses.


Elizabeth Kerr, 19, born East Indies
Jane Ure, 16, born Glasgow
Isabella Ure, 15, born Glasgow
Helen Neilson, 16, born Glasgow
Helen Yeamen, 18, born Dundee
Susan Anderson, 17, born Cupar Angus
Amelia Muir, 18, born Leith
Margaret Wilson, 16, born Limekilns
Agnes Banckenrigg, 13, born Edinburgh
Agnes Paton, 13, born Tillicoultry
Catherine Paton, 13, born Tillicoultry
Janet Tod, 9, born Balerno
Isabella Tod, 7, born Balerno


Christian Anderson, 16, born Dunfermline
Sarah H McGregor, 14, born England
Margaret Anderson, 14, born Pathhead
Isabella Nicoll, 12, born Dundee
Helen Christie, 11, born Perth

Cairneyhill Young Men’s Society – 1860




On Thursday evening a soiree, under the auspices of the Cairneyhill Young Men’s Society, was held in the village school-room – the Rev John More in the chair. Throughout Thursday the greatest demand for tickets continued up to the very hour of meeting; and though the school-room was crammed almost beyond endurance, multitudes had to forego the pleasure of being present through sheer want of room.

The meeting having been constituted by praise and prayer, the Rev Mr More inaugurated the proceedings by a brief and appropriate address. After a service of fruit, the Chairman called upon Mrs Taylor, who sung ‘Barney O’Hea’ with peculiar archness and excellence. Mr Locke having given ‘Corn riggs are bonnie’ in his own true and tasteful style, and Mr Miller having rendered with good effect ‘Woo’d and married an a’ ‘ – the Rev P C Duncanson delivered an address upon ‘Companionship’. This address has all the good qualities of a good soiree speech – lively without being flippant, and exhaustive without being tedious.

The vocalists having again regaled the company with several of the finest of all Caledonia’s airs, and another service of fruit having been partaken of, the Rev George Morris delivered an address on Egyptian antiquities, as illustrative and corroborative of the truth of the Bible. This address, well got up, and manifesting very considerable familiarity with the subject treated, was, upon the whole, too elaborate for the kind of meeting at which it was delivered.

The musical party having again sung some of the most appropriate of our national ditties, Mr Clark, Cairneyhill, in a neat speech, moved that the thanks of the meeting be given to the speakers; and a vote of thanks having been given to the chairman, the company, after singing ‘Rule Britannia’, broke up a little before eleven o’clock, highly delighted with the evening’s entertainment.

1923 Sale of a Cairneyhill Fruit Farm



For sale by private bargain, that property consisting of land and dwelling-house, on the south side of the Main Road in the village of Cairneyhill, near Dunfermline, and known as ‘Cairneyhill fruit farm’. The land, which extends to about two acres, is highly productive for market garden purposes. The present stock consists of about 5000 raspberry bushes, 400 red currant bushes, nearly three-quarters of an acre of strawberries, all in full bearing, while the remainder of the land is cropped with vegetables. There is also an acre and a half of land adjoining, which is used as a market garden, and of which a lease can be obtained. The dwelling-house, which is supplied with water and gas, and is at present vacant, contains three rooms, kitchen and conveniences.

The village of Cairneyhill is about three miles west of Dunfermline. The property is within two minutes’ walk of the railway station, and the buses between Culross and Dunfermline pass the door several times each day. There is a large population in the neighbourhood, and a great demand for all kinds of fruit and vegetables. Early entry can be arranged. Feu duty £1 19s 5d.

Offers will be received by Thomas Blair & Sons, Dunfermline, up to 21st August.

Electoral Roll 1879

Dear blog reader, this week a name-rich source for any of you with ancestors from Cairneyhill.




CARNOCK PARISH (which included Cairneyhill)

Bald, James, weaver, Cairneyhill
Blair, Thos, writer, Dunfermline, Cairneyhill
Brown, R Hope, clergyman, Cairneyhill
Bruce, Peter, factor, Cairneyhill
Bruce, William, carter, Cairneyhill
Calderhead, John, weaver, Cairneyhill
Chalmers, George, innkeeper, Cairneyhill
Cunningham, Alexander, carter, Cairneyhill
Deas, Henry, weaver, Cairneyhill
Dick, William, late farmer, Cairneyhill
Dobbie, Thomas, labourer, Cairneyhill
Drysdale, William, weaver, Cairneyhill
Duncanson, James, builder, Cairneyhill
Duncanson, J, draper, Burntisland, Cairneyhill
Duncanson, Peter C, clergyman, Cairneyhill
Erskine, Alexander, land labourer, Cairneyhill
Erskine, John, carter, Cairneyhill
Erskine, William, M.D., Cairneyhill
Fotheringham, William, labourer, Cairneyhill
Gardiner, John, Cairneyhill
Gilmour, John, weaver, Cairneyhill
Herron, Robert, Nether Pitdinnie
Howieson, John, joiner, Cairneyhill
Kerr, John, farmer, Pitdinnie
Lawson, John, retired farmer, Cairneyhill
Moir, John, clergyman, Cairneyhill
Morris, J, physician, Dunfermline, Cairneyhill
Morris, William, labourer, Cairneyhill
Paterson, George, weaver, Cairneyhill
Philp, John, labourer, Cairneyhill
Robertson, John, joiner, Cairneyhill
Thomson, John,carter, Cairneyhill
Thomson, Robert, draper, Cairneyhill
Watt, David, farmer, Pitdinnie
Young, Alexander, labourer, Cairneyhill
Young, George, labourer, Cairneyhill

1868 Church Minister’s opinion on walking speed

Dear blog reader

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that David Borland, the Cairneyhill Church minister in 1868, felt the need to write to The Scotsman about walking speed and so this week I share this quirkiness with you.






Cairneyhill U P Manse, March 19, 1868

Sir – I notice in today’s Scotsman an extract from a Yankee newspaper (the Boston Advertiser), in which a dinner was eaten and an ovation held by Mr Dickens and his friends over the astounding feat of performing twelve miles’ walking in two hours and forty-eight minutes. You will observe this is just 168 minutes to twelve miles, or one mile in fourteen minutes.

Now, we can scarcely conceive of a person who can do his thirty miles ‘on end’ calling this ‘pretty tall pedestrianism’. We fear Yankee nerve and muscle must have lost somewhat of their elasticity on the other side of the pond. I remember once, after a walk of over twenty miles on a hot July day, doing an additional eight, just by way of finish, within an hour and three-quarters; and I have a vivid recollection of once, when a lad of sixteen, cutting a caper at the half-way milestone between Edinburgh and Lanark, having accomplished that distance – sixteen miles – in just forty-two minutes more than these tall Yankees took to their dozen. But what I consider a greater feat that either of these was a ten-mile walk accomplished in two and a half hours on soft snow, eighteen inches deep; and after that, with fifteen minutes’ breathing, conducting with my usual comfort a double diet of worship in a country church, preaching twice without an interval.

I do not make such statements to make folks stare and cry, ‘Bravo! What a pretty fellow he must be;’ but simply to prick this wind-bag of Yankee bounce.

I am, &c,


Why David Borland resigned as Church Minister


The dispute between the Rev Mr Borland and the Cairneyhill United Presbyterian Congregation in as much as its unfortunate termination – the resignation of the minister – have lessons which ought not to be overlooked by young clergymen and the members of country churches. Cairneyhill is one of the numerous villages which are rapidly depopulating, and where, necessarily, year by year the problem of how a minister is to be supported becomes more difficult of solution. The majority of people who form the congregation belong to the agricultural class, who have been accustomed to get their spiritual instruction at a cost far below the market rate – the stipend of their former pastor for many a year did not exceed £100, including the value of the ‘glebe’ – while the minority, though in a better position in respect of earthly possessions, and, like the remainder of their fellow-congregationists, thoroughly drilled in the orthodox fundamentals of the UPs, have not distinguished themselves by their appreciation of the practical outcome of Voluntaryism. However democratic they may be in their notions about the land questions, and the injustice of the monopoly of the lairds; however great their desire that as in Cairneyhill so over broad Scotland there should be no other denominational name known among men then United Presbyterianism, they are conservative enough in following the example of their douce and worthy ‘faithers’ in their limited supply of ordinances. Hence it is that money matters have had some share in the causes which led to the rupture between Mr Borland and his people; and while we cannot altogether exonerate the congregation, and have a deep sympathy with the underpaid minister, we at once recognise the difficulties of the people. Perhaps a tenth of their number have not ‘five notes in a stockin’ ‘ which they can call their own, and to the parting with a copper coin weekly is a matter of some consequence; at the same time such an apology cannot be offered for the prosperous farmers, and the better class of the congregation.

But pecuniary considerations have not been the exclusive cause of the unfortunate relations between the manse and the village. There have been influences at work since the memorable day, nearly a decade ago, when Mr Borland, a young man of superior talents and great promise, was ‘settled’ as colleague and successor to the late Mr More – a ‘house-going minister’ who won a ‘church-going people’ – a pastor of the old school, who during a ministry extending over half a century gave practical proof of his acceptance of Cowper’s declaration –

‘Tis pitiful to court a grin when you should win a soul, to break a jest when pity would inspire pathetic exhortation.’

The introduction of a young man with new and modern ways into this scene was necessarily attended with considerable difficulty. From the statements made at the Presbytery meeting where Mr Borland’s resignation was announced, it appears that his appointment to the charge was opposed from the first, and that he was not so successful as could have been desired in conciliating the objectors. Possibly he loved his home and his books to much to suit the tastes of a flock accustomed to frequent pastoral visits, and who dearly loved to converse with their minister about ‘thrums and threeds’ or their ‘horses, pleughs and kye’. Certain it is, according to the testimony of his brethren in the Presbytery, he never succeeded in gaining popularity, not withstanding his acknowledged gifts as a scholar and preacher. Possibly petty criticism put him out of temper, and created a feeling that he was superior to his situation. Assuredly his position for years was disheartening; and, while there may be blame on both sides, it seems as if the Cairneyhill congregation failed to give Mr Borland the encouragement they promised, when, fresh from the Theological Hall, he made the sacrifice which the comparative isolation of life among them involved. The congregation may have had grievances over and above those which recent proceedings have made us familiar with, but it is certain that in parting with Mr Borland, they are losing a minister possessed of great talents, a Voluntary of the soundest type, and one whose position now, though it may look like a misfortune, will prove but a stepping-stone to his speedy promotion and the benefit of a more easily-satisfied congregation. Probationers ought to think well of Mr Borland’s experience, and feeble congregations like that of Cairneyhill should learn from it to a be a little more chary of picking quarrels, and to limit their desire for personal attention. The only pleasing feature of the dispute is the amicable arrangement which has been made for the winding up of the engagement between the parties. They are separating on tolerably friendly terms – the congregation offering Mr Borland the use of the manse for a period which will prevent him being put to personal inconvenience, and the minister taking the step he has done believing that it will be for the benefit of the little village church, which he prays may prosper.


Dear blog reader

That was a very interesting insight into Cairneyhill in the 1870s. It sounds like more details of the dispute was available at the time – if I find them I will share them with you.


Straying Cattle



In Dunfermline small-debt court yesterday, Sheriff Umpherston heard proof in an action by James Macdonald, nurseryman, Cairneyhill. Pursuer claimed payment of £13 10s from defender in respect of damage done to growing chrysanthemums by cattle which were negligently permitted to stray into the nursery. It was argued for defender that he took all reasonable precautions with the cattle, and that the only negligence in this case was that pursuer left the gate of his nursery open; otherwise the cattle could not have entered.

Sheriff Umpherston, deciding the case for pursuer, and awarding £13 10s damages with expenses, said that a farmer was, of course, entitled to drive cattle along the highway, through the streets of a town, or through villages; but he did not insure all the proprietors of places that cattle passed against any damage that might be done if some of them happened to break loose, through some accident. At the same time, a farmer was bound to take reasonable precautions that he would drive these cattle without injury to the proprietors of the places that they passed. The precautions that he must take did not depend entirely on the number of cattle that were being driven. They depended just as much upon the places through which the cattle were being driven, and also upon the nature of the traffic on the roads that they might be expected to encounter. The place where these cattle were being driven was perfectly well known to defender; he knew the conditions of Cairneyhill fairly well; and he knew the kind of traffic, such as motor bus traffic which was likely to be encountered on the road and which, according to defender, frightened the cattle when they were leaving the grazing field at the side of the road).

The suggestion that the gate leading into pursuer’s nursery should be kept shut was, in the circumstances, out of all question. One could hardly imagine a place like Cairneyhill, with all the gates shut. It would suggest that all the people had gone out of business. One might as well suggest that the entrance into a farm should be kept shut, except when traffic was going in or out. In this case, defender had not exercised all reasonable precautions in taking the cattle along the road. He had one man, who had a dog, and he was there him-self, with his motor car. The man was engaged collecting the cattle in a field, and driving them to the gate, and there was no person to control them once they were on the road, except defender himself, who was more hampered than anything else by the possession of his car at the moment. It was more his direct negligence in the method he took of trying to control the cattle than anything else which ultimately led to the damage done.

Cairneyhill Fatal Accident Inquiries




Sheriff Umpherston and a jury at Dunfermline to-day conducted inquiries into six fatal accidents in West Fife [2 of which concerned Cairneyhill].

The first enquiry was into a motor accident in Cairneyhill on 11th July, the victim of which was Joan, the three-year-old daughter of Police-Constable David Thomson Maxwell, Cairneyhill.

She died in Dunfermline and West Fife Hospital shortly after the accident from injuries received by her in Main Street, Cairneyhill, through being knocked down and run over by a motor car.

Constable Maxwell said his daughter went out to play, and was brought back to the house shortly afterwards with severe injuries.


The statement that she saw the child run right in front of the motor car was made by Mrs Janet Wright, Main Street, Cairneyhill, while standing at the front of her house. She said she noticed some boys playing on the street with a ball, and the girl was also on the street, when the motor car came along towards Dunfermline, travelling at a moderate speed.

‘I was absolutely unaware of any child with whom I had collided. I thought something had broken in the car’ said the driver of the car, David Hugh Kirkman Welsh (30), teacher, Craigflower Torryburn.


His attention had been fixed on the boys, he said, when all of a sudden he heard a crash. He did not draw up straight away, because he thought it was a mechanical breakdown.

On seeing a man hold up his hand he stopped, and saw a child lying on the road. This was the first time he had seen the child.

Corroborative evidence was given by Jeffrey Peter Sergeantson (32), a fellow teacher, who was with him in the car. This witness said he had a glimpse of a child in pink walking across the road. A formal verdict was returned.


The second inquiry was also into the death of a Cairneyhill resident, William Templemen, a master builder, who died on 27th August at Cults Farm steading, Saline, having been buried beneath about five tons of material by the collapse of a wall which he was undermining.

Two labourers who were with him at the time, John Wilson (57), Main Street, Cairneyhill, and David Smith (38), labourer, ‘Studyhouse’, Culross, said that they were filling a cart while Templeman was using a pick, undermining the wall. They heard a crash, and found that the wall had toppled over and overwhelmed Templeman.

He was dead when they got him out. It was an old stone and lime wall, with no particular foundation, and very little adhesion between the parts.

Templeman had not appreciated the risk of working on this wall. A formal verdict was also returned.

[The next inquiry was in respect of an explosion at Valleyfield Pit and the court was then adjourned].

Orchard robbery – 1906



Robbing an orchard

James Scott, labourer, was convicted on evidence, in the Dunfermline Sheriff Court yesterday, of having, in the garden of Christina Wilson Crombie, spinster, stolen a quantity of growing apples.

It was stated that the accused shook an apple tree, but was unable to take any of the apples, as Miss Crombie appeared on the scene.

Mr John Fenton, accused’s agent, asked the he be dealt with under the First Offender’s Act, but Sheriff Shennan said they were giving too much of the First Offenders Act in these petty thefts. They must take something out of their pockets. He imposed a fine of 10s, or four days’ imprisonment.