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.

‘Storm in a Teacup’ – Cairneyhill assault 1933


‘Storm in a teacup’

Man fined for assault at Dunfermline

A dispute regarding a wall dividing the gardens of two Cairneyhill men resulted in the appearance of one at Dunfermline Sheriff Court to-day on the charge of assault.

William Watson, Main Street, Cairneyhill was charged with having in the garden at the rear of the house in Main Street, Cairneyhill, occupied by Mr William Sellar, assaulted James Fairley, nurseryman, Cairneyhill, by striking him on the forehead with a hammer.

Accused, who pleaded guilty, said he was carrying out some repairs on the property when Mr Fairley interfered with him.

On his behalf Mr T Blair, solicitor, Dunfermline said it was really a storm in a teacup. There was a wall dividing the gardens of the two properties, and Mr Fairley had been in the habit of utilising this wall, which belonged to accused, and he objected. Accused removed a trellis arrangement on the wall and Mr Fairley tried to put it back.

The depute-fiscal, Mr Allan, said accused had objected to the trellis, which was on the complainer’s side of the wall, and he had no right to take it down, but when complainer was re-erecting it, accused came forward and struck him on the head with a hammer.

Sheriff Umpherston said he would let him go this time, and warned him to behave himself in future.

Assault near Myrend Farm




A Dunfermline contractor, George Paul Birnie, was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment at Dunfermline Sheriff Court today for a serious assault on a ten-year-old boy.

The charge against him was that on 22nd November, on the service road in Carnock parish from Cairneyhill to Myrend Farm, he assaulted Donald Drummond, aged 10, adopted son of Donald Smith, labourer, Cook’s Buildings, Cairneyhill, and struck him on the head with a piece of wood, fracturing his skull and endangering his life.


Mr J Soutar, procurator-fiscal, said that the accused was coming from Myrend Farm, Cairneyhill, out to the public road with a cart loaded with bundles of straw, and there were some boys standing at the side of the service road looking at the 2 men who were engaged in tree cutting in the neighbourhood. Just as he was passing a bundle of straw fell off, and they called on him, but he did not hear, and as one of the boys was coming up to him he struck at him with a piece of wood like a broom handle and ringed with iron. He cut him on the forehead and fractured his skull. Fortunately the little chap was now of danger, but had he been a little nearer Birnie the probability is a fatality might have been caused, as instead of a glancing blow he would have got a direct one. It had been suggested that the stick fell out of Birnie’s hand and that he had no intention to hit the boy, and it was to be hoped said the Fiscal, that he did not deliberately intend to strike the little fellow with that particular article.


Mr John Wright, solicitor, who appeared for accused, said that on the face of it this was a very serious charge, but he thought he could convince his Lordship that the whole affair was more an accident than anything else. On the day in question Birnie was engaged in carting manure from Dunfermline to Cairneyhill. He was a well-known figure in the countryside, and was the subject of many gibes and practical jokes, and he was continually being annoyed by the school children and by the younger fraternity. and they appeared to rely more on their agility to keep out of harm’s way.

Your Lordship, continued the agent, my client is not what might be termed an agile person. He seems to be built more for comfort than speed. (Laughter).

While delivering his load at Cairneyhill he was continually being annoyed by the school children, but he did not retaliate in any way.

On this occasion, however, when he had to call at Myrend Farm, he had again to run the gauntlet of the school children. The road at this part is very narrow, and as they were running round the cart he was afraid they might get jammed between the wall of the school, which is situated there, and the cart, and he turned round all of a sudden and told them to go back, and as he swung round the stick fell out of his hand. He had no intention whatever of striking any of the boys, but the stick inadvertently slipped out of his hand and hit the boy.


Accused was not aware he had struck anyone at the time, and he was only informed after going a distance of about twenty yards by another carrier who was waiting to let him past. This carter told him that the boy had been hurt, and immediately Birnie went back to the boy’s assistance, and the boy was taken home, and Birnie went there and expressed his sorrow to the parents and the boy, and explained that the whole thing was a pure accident. He had been a hard-working man all his life, having been engaged in carting, contracting, navvying, and had been a hut-keeper for some time, and the agent produced two certificates to show that this was in accordance with fact.

Sheriff Umpherston – The trouble with you is that you cannot always control your temper, and it seems to me that this has been another instance of an outburst of passion on your part. Your sentence is four months’ imprisonment.

Peculiar farm fire in 1913



Fire broke out in a rather peculiar manner yesterday evening at the farm of Muirside, Cairneyhill, tenanted by Mr John Lamont.

Threshing operations were in progress, and a belt from an oil engine, which supplied the driving power of the threshing mill, slipped from the pulley and knocked down a cistern full of paraffin.

The oil came in contact with a small jet used to keep the engine going, and immediately the paraffin burst in to flame. Information was sent to Dunfermline, and the fire brigade were soon in attendance.

On their arrival the firemen directed their attention to preventing the fire spreading to the other farm buildings. Danger was threatened to the barn adjoining, in which was stored a large quantity of straw and grain.

The efforts of the firemen were successful, but the oil engine and the building in which it was situated were destroyed.

The damage, which is covered by insurance, is estimated at £200 or £300.

Political Hustings in Cairneyhill 1859

Dear blog reader,

Some background to the below article.

In 1859 there was a UK general election and the Liberal candidate standing (who won) in Fife was James Hay Erskine Wemyss:

James Hay Erskine Wemyss represented Fife in Parliament from 1859 until his death in 1864. He was also Lord Lieutenant of Fife for the last month of his life.

He wasn’t the only politician in his family. His father James Erskine Wemyss was Fife MP from 1820 to 1831 and from 1832 to 1847. James Hay Erskine Wemyss’ grandfather General William Wemyss was MP for Fife from 1787 to 1796 and from 1807 to 1820.



On Friday night Mr Wemyss addressed the electors of Torryburn, Cairneyhill and Crossford, in the United Presbyterian Church at Cairneyhill. The Rev John More, having been called to the chair, introduced Mr Wemyss to the meeting, in a feeling and complimentary speech, alluding to the services of his late father, who had so long and so faithfully represented them in Parliament, and expressing his conviction that, from all that he had heard and seen of his son, he would prove no unworthy successor to him.

Mr Wemyss then gave a clear and distinct statement of his opinions.

After satisfactorily answering various questions put to him by electors and non-electors, a motion was proposed, and carried by nomination, that Mr Wemyss was a fit and proper person to represent the county in Parliament.

A vote of thanks was then cordially given to Mr More for his conduct in the chair; and the meeting dispersed – large numbers accompanying Mr Wemyss to his carriage with hearty cheers.

Cairneyhill Soldier’s Narrow Escapes

Dundee Courier 25 December 1914

Private James Donald, Highland Light Infantry, who has returned wounded to his home at Cairneyhill, has some interesting tales to tell of his experiences at the front.

He was hit in the foot by a shrapnel bullet, which passed right through. The HLI were in the trenches at the time, and were attacked by overwhelming numbers of the enemy. Donald lay wounded for two hours and amid a heavy rain of shells. He was then taken to the nearest hospital.

Private Donald has had several narrow escapes. He has six bullet holes in the collar of his coat. On another occasion a shell burst in front of him and singed the hair off his face. He jocularly remarked, “I got a shave which I did not expect that day”. Another bullet buried itself in the equipment over the right breast. He speaks of the light-hearted spirit of the men in the trenches, and observes that when a newspaper arrives the first thing looked for is the football results. There is a great deal of interest taken in the sport, although the papers are usually ten days old.

Ordination of David Borland

Dunfermline Saturday Press 27 July 1867

Ordination at Cairneyhill

Om Wednesday, the United Presbyterian Presbytery met in Cairneyhill Church, to induct Mr David Borland as assistant and successor to the Rev Mr More. The numbers of Presbytery present were – Rev Dr Johnston, Limekilns; Rev Messrs Young and Russell, Dunfermline; Fleming, Inverkeithing; Graham, Crossgates; Reid, Lochgelly; Welsh, Kincardine-on-Forth, and McDowall, Alloa. Mr More, the pastor of the congregation, was also present. The Church was filled by the members and adherents of the congregation. The Rev Mr Welsh preached a suitable discourse from 1st Corinthians 1:22 at the conclusion of which:

The Rev Dr Johnston said that some time ago the Cairneyhill congregation, having resolved to call a colleague to aid their respected pastor, who had so long ministered amongst them, made application kin the usual way to the Presbytery of Dunfermline, with which they are connected. The Presbytery, being satisfied with the arrangements, agreed that they should hear probationers for a time, to give them opportunity of making a choice. Probationers were heard from time to time, until at length, at a recent meeting of the Presbytery, application was made to moderate in a call. Only one preacher was mentioned as the person whom they wished to call as their minister; that person being Mr David Borland. The call was regularly signed and presented to the Presbytery and sustained. The ordinary trials were prescribed to Mr Borland, and these were about a month ago delivered, and were cordially accepted by the Presbytery, who agreed that Mr Borland should be ordained on that day in that place, and appointed the persons who were to take part in the services.

An edict had been served to be read for two Sabbaths previous to the ordination, and the Presbytery had that morning had evidence that the edict had been read to the congregation. The Presbytery met a short time ago and caused intimation to be made since they (the congregation) met together to the effect that if any person had objections to make to state them. No objections were made, and he would now proceed to put to Mr Borland the usual questions.

The usual questions were then put by Dr Johnston to Mr Borland and members of the congregation, and responded to satisfactorily. Mr Borland was then ordained in the usual form, after which he received the right hand of fellowship from his brethren in the Presbytery.

Eviction in 1924

Dundee Courier 14 June 1924

Cairneyhill ejection action succeeds.

Principally, it was stated, on account of the fact that he desired additional accommodation for his twenty year old son, who suffers from chronic asthma, a Cairneyhill joiner brought in Dunfermline Sheriff Court yesterday an action for ejection.

Giving evidence, pursuer, Thomas Arnott, Cook’s Buildings, Cairneyhill, stated that he purchased Erskine Cottage, Main Street, Cairneyhill, which was presently occupied by Alexander Gibb and his wife. They occupied two of the three rooms, and were paying 4s a week. Other houses in the village had been vacated, and defender had ample opportunity in which to get one.

Defender’s contention was that no suitable alternative accommodation had been offered.

Sheriff Umpherston gave decree – ejection to take place within a fortnight.

1920s Crime in Cairneyhill

Dundee Courier 7th August 1925

David Kirk, oncost worker, Cook’s Buildings, Cairneyhill, was fined £1 at Dunfermline Sheriff Court yesterday for having had three cigarettes in his possession in No 2 pit, Valleyfield Colliery.

Dundee Courier 10th May 1927

For defrauding the Ministry of Labour of 4s 2d, Alexander Deas, miner, Main Street, Cairneyhill, was fined 10s in Dunfermline Sheriff Court yesterday.