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.

Sergeant John Erskine VC

This blog post is going to be about Sergeant John Erskine VC whom I have always been aware of because he is both on the war memorial and named on his family’s headstone in the graveyard in Cairneyhill.  I will be looking at John Erskine’s family and his pre-war life, his war service, his Victoria Cross and his death.

Here is the side of the family headstone which names John:

John Erskine’s family and his pre-war life

John Erskine was born on 13 January 1894 at 6pm at 30 Bridge Street, Dunfermline to William Erskine a master draper and Elizabeth Erskine ms Dick.

In 1901 the family were living at 32 Bridge Street, Dunfermline and the family consisted of: William Erskine aged 50, a draper who was born in Carnock, Fife, Bessie Erskine, William’s wife, who was 33 and born in Dunfermline and their children, John aged 7, William aged 5 and Bessie aged 3.  The children were all born in Dunfermline and in 1901 John was attending school.

In 1911 the family (excluding William Erskine senior who had died in 1908) were living in Eskbank, Park Avenue, Dunfermline and the household now consisted of Elizabeth, 43,  the mother (who was calling herself Bessie in 1901) and children John 17, William 15, Bessie 13, David 9, Gilmour 7, Stuart 3 and Harold 2.  John was already working as a drapery apprentice (see below for further information on who John worked for).

John Erskine attended Dunfermline High School and was then employed as a draper with Robert Maule & Son, Edinburgh (again, see below for a quote from Robert Maule) and also with Pettigrew & Stephen in Glasgow.  John was following in his father’s footsteps – William Erskine senior was a partner in the Dunfermline drapery firm of W & J MacLaren & Co of Bridge Street, Dunfermline.

John Erskine’s war service

John Erskine joined the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) first of all as a private and was then promoted to a sergeant.  To be specific he was in the 5th/6th Battalion and he was in D company.  John enlisted in Glasgow and he first arrived in France on 5 November 1914 so he must have enlisted pretty soon after war was declared.  John’s regimental number was 7064 and then 20047614.  The medals that John was awarded were the Victory, British War and 1914 Star medals which are the 3 standard medals for people who saw overseas service during WW1 plus the Victoria Cross (see next section).  Unfortunately John’s WW1 service record is among the 70% that didn’t survive a bombing raid during WW2 so we are unable to discover any more information about John’s war service.

John Erskine’s Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the presence of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Common wealth Forces.

In my opinion, the best way to convey John Erskine’s bravery is simply to quote directly from the citation for John Erskine’s Victoria Cross as published in the London Gazette on 4 August 1916:

‘For most conspicuous bravery whilst the lip of a crater caused by the explosion of a large enemy mine was being consolidated, acting Sergeant Erskine rushed out under continuous fire with utter disregard of danger and rescued a wounded sergeant and a private.  After seeing his officer, who was believed dead, showed signs of movement, he ran out to him, bandaged his head and remained with him for fully an hour though repeatedly fired at, whilst a shallow trench was being dug to them.  He then assisted in bringing in his officer, shielding him with his own body in order to lessen the chance of his being hit again.’

The war diary for the 5th/6th Battalion confirms that the officer was a Lieutenant Stevenson.

I find extremely poignant the reaction of John’s mother as reported in The People’s Journal on 12 August 1916:

‘I know my laddie deserved the VC which his majesty has been pleased to award him for he always worked hard and tried to do his duty happily and carefully even when things looked their blackest’.

I also like the reaction of John’s former employer Sir Robert Maule as quoted in the Courier on 19 August 1916:

‘To me the character of his exploits seems to touch the very highest pinnacle of courage and self-sacrifice’.

John Erskine’s Victoria Cross medal is now in the Cameronian’s museum in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.

John Erskine’s Death

Unfortunately John died on 14 April 1917 near Arras in France without ever having been personally given his Victoria Cross.  To make this even more tragic, John has no known final resting place.

John is commemorated on the Arras memorial, on his family headstone in the graveyard in the village of  Cairneyhill, on the Cairneyhill war memorial and on the Dunfermline war memorial.

Here is the other side of the family headstone:

Here is the official reaction of the Dunfermline provost as reported in the Dunfermline Journal on 19 May 1917:

‘The provost said that they had now a very different and unexpected sequel to that period of rejoicing which was seen in the town when the news first came regarding the heroic action of the young man.  The act of bravery was typical of unselfishness, he (the provost) was satisfied that the act of bravery for which the honour was given would have gladdened the heart of Mr Carnegie for it was one to save the life of others’.

‘Mr Carnegie’ is Andrew Carnegie, a Dunfermline-born steel baron and philanthropist.

I am gong to finish this blog post with the reaction of John Erskine’s mother on being presented with John Erskine’s Victoria Cross by the King and Queen on 2 June 1917 at Hyde Park as reported in he Courier on 4 June 1917:

‘The King and Queen showed particular interest in her (Mrs Erskine) especially the latter who patted her on the hand when Mrs Erskine showed signs of emotion on the record of her son’s bravery being read out’

Sudden death while playing the organ

Arbroath Herald and Advertiser 29 November 1900


A painful sensation was created in Cairneyhill (Fife) United Free Church on Sunday. The last hymn was being sung, and Mrs Beveridge, the wife of Mr Beveridge, farmer, Crombie, was officiating at the organ, when she suddenly fell forward.

She was conveyed to the manse, where restoratives were applied, but she died in the evening.

Mrs Beveridge was a daughter of the late Rev James Young, minister of Queen Anne Street United Presbyterian Church, Dunfermline, who also died very suddenly, having dropped down dead at a curling match.

1950s Cairneyhill Business Ads

Fife Free Press 3rd April 1954

McDonalds Nurseries Limited

Cairneyhill Nurseries, Dunfermline

Specialist suppliers to 2000 customers of:
All vegetable plants
Bedding plants
Tomato plants

Any quantity

Wholesale trade catered for

Tel: Newmills 215

Dundee Courier 7 May 1955

Loudon Cox Autoparts, Cairneyhill, near Dunfermline

Now dismantling the following:

1939-48 Wolseley 18
1937 Morris 12
1936 Austin 10
1939 Austin 12
1934 Standard 10
1937-38 Vauxhall DX

Spares, new and used, for many others. Let us know your requirements. S/H tyres and accessories.

Phone Newmills 344 and get on the road.