Hidden Burgh: restoring Cupar’s place at the heart of Fife

Thursday 6 December 2018

In this blog post, our new project archivist introduces herself to our online community, and especially to those who live in and around Cupar.

I am pleased to meet you. Who am I, you may be wondering? Well, my name is Christine Wood and I am the archivist working on the Archives Revealed project “Hidden Burgh: restoring Cupar’s place at the heart of Fife”. I am now into my second month at the University of St Andrews and am already finding interesting tidbits.

Cupar from the Air, J Valentine & Sons, 1937 JV-A-5085-B

First, let me explain a little of what the project is about. It is being financed largely by the Archives Revealed funding programme from The National Archives, the Pilgrim Trust, the Wolfson Foundation and the Foyle Foundation, and will last for one year. The University holds the records for the burgh of Cupar, Fife from 1364 to 1975 and the objective is to have them fully catalogued so that they are accessible to everyone. The final catalogue will be available online and will be searchable, thus making research much easier. The project will feed into the current regeneration of Cupar town centre, with the aim of inspiring the local community and students to engage in the rich heritage of the town.

Now, what about those interesting tidbits? Well, in one of the first boxes that I have explored I found that a Mr Jack had put forward a motion at the Cupar Guildry meeting on 7 May 1834 that the Church of Scotland be reformed and that the Church and State should not be united. This caused an uproar with a lengthy report on the feisty proceedings appearing in the Dundee Constitutional.

CU-5-1-5 Dundee Constitutional 18340507_1
Dundee Constitutional 7 May 1834 CU/5/1/5

Another event involving the Cupar Guildry was when they opposed the amalgamation of the Caledonian Railway and Scottish North Eastern Railway in 1866. They even went so far as to petition the House of Commons about the matter!

Guildy minute_1
Minute of Cupar Guildry 5 May 1866 regarding petition to House of Commons against amalgamation of the Caledonian Railway and Scottish North Eastern Railway CU/5/1/9

Philanthropists played an important role throughout Scotland in times past by aiding the poor and disadvantaged in various ways, and Cupar had its share of them too. In 1883 John Walker of Homelands, near Largo set up a trust of £250 for boys attending the Kirkgate School or the Second Division of the Madras Academy, who wished to learn or acquire a trade upon leaving school. Within the papers held are the exam results from Castle Hill School for the Walker apprenticeship prizes for 1893 – could any of your ancestors have been among them, I wonder? Another education trust was The Wordie Scholarships and Bursaries, set up in 1884.

CU-5-1-11 Castle Hill Exams p1_1
Castle Hill Exam results for the Walker Trust apprenticeship prizes, June 1891 CU/5/1/11
CU-5-1-11 Wordie Scholarships title page_1
Front page of booklet containing the Deed of Foundation of The Workie Scholarships and Bursaries, and Declaration of Trust for the John Walker Apprentice Fund, 1884 CU/5/1/11

An intriguing philanthropic document is a list of beneficiaries entitled “Mrs Gold’s Christmas Coals”. The list of recipients is given by street, but it is not dated. I am looking forward to finding out Mrs Gold’s identity and the time period during which she kindly provided coal at Christmas to the needy. And, did you know that James Home Rigg of Downfield provided the piece of land where the statue of David Maitland Makgill Crichton of Nether Rankeillour is situated, near the railway station?

CU-5-1-14 Disp re Crichton Statue p1_1
Page 1 of draft Disposition by James Home Rigg of Downfield disponing land for the erection of a statue of David Maitland Makgill Crichton of Nether Rankeillour CU/5/1/14

All of the above gems were found within one box of records! There are many more such treasures just waiting to be discovered within the Cupar Burgh records. I am looking forward to sharing with you, as well as those interested in the heritage of their town, what I am finding in the weeks and months ahead.

Christine Wood
Project Archivist

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10 thoughts on "Hidden Burgh: restoring Cupar’s place at the heart of Fife"

  • Susan Martin
    Susan Martin
    Wednesday 19 December 2018, 10.38pm

    Hello, this sounds fantastic my great grandfather David Wilson was a Police Officer in the late 1800/1900 and at one point based in Cupar. His notebook from that era is held in Markinch and has a lot of information regarding Cupar. Is this something you may be interested in. Also does Dairsie come under Cupar burgh

    • St Andrews Special Collections
      St Andrews Special Collections
      Thursday 20 December 2018, 9.19am

      Hi Susan, thanks for your comment. The notebook your grandfather kept will be part of the Police records which are held by Fife Archives in Glenrothes (formerly in Markinch). Dairsie was a parish within the County of Fife and was not part of Cupar Burgh. We are really interested in hearing about the history of Cupar. Please feel free to get in touch with us directly if you want to discuss the project and your grandfather’s history further ([email protected]).

  • “British Restaurants” in Cupar | Echoes from the Vault
    Thursday 20 December 2018, 3.00pm

    […] again from the Archives Revealed project “Hidden Burgh: restoring Cupar’s place at the heart of Fife”. It has been a busy time with the project, with the appointment of two volunteers who started […]

  • David Jack
    David Jack
    Sunday 23 December 2018, 4.16am

    Hi Susan, this project is of great interest as I am working on the Jack surname (goons) project and Fife is a centre of interest for me. I hold a little material but would like to be kept as an interested party if possible. I am a professional Genealogist based in New Zealand, and member of Register of Qualified Genealogists.

  • Mrs Margaret Mitchell Gold: Cupar’s Fairy Godmother | Echoes from the Vault
    Friday 5 April 2019, 11.01am

    […] may remember in my first blog about the Archives Revealed project Hidden Burgh: restoring Cupar’s place at the heart of Fife, I […]

  • Douglas Deacon
    Douglas Deacon
    Saturday 14 September 2019, 11.19pm

    Christine Wood is invited to contact me if she would like to request access to the archive documents of "Lodge Coupar o' Fife No. 19"-which go back to the 1700's.Facebook "Douglas Deacon".

    • Christine Wood
      Christine Wood
      Monday 16 September 2019, 11.44am

      Hi Douglas. Thank you for your invitation. My line manager, Maia Sheridan, Archivist and I would be delighted to accept your kind invitation to have a look at the "Lodge Coupar o'Fife No. 19" archive. Can you please let me know which days/dates are suitable for you? My email address is [email protected]. Best wishes, Christine.

  • Yvonne Melville
    Yvonne Melville
    Sunday 15 September 2019, 5.32pm

    Have you visited Cupar Library yet? And are you in touch with Andrew Dowsey Fife Cultural Trust Archivist? Be great to link information held in library and Fife archives with you project of you arent already

    • Christine Wood
      Christine Wood
      Monday 16 September 2019, 10.15am

      Hi Yvonne. Thank you for getting in touch. I confirm that I have visited Cupar Library and am in touch with the ONFife Local Studies Officer, Sara Ann Kelly and Andrea McMillan at Cupar Library. I Have also spoken with Andrew Dowsey, the Fife Archivist. We are all keeping close in touch as the project progresses. Thanks for taking an interest in the project. Best wishes, Christine Wood, Project Archivist

    • Christine Wood
      Christine Wood
      Monday 16 September 2019, 11.38am

      Hi Yvonne. Thanks for your comments. I have visited Cupar Library and do so every week on a Thursday morning when our community volunteers meet. They have wonderful resources there. I am also in close contact with Sara Ann Kelly, Local Studies Officer and Andrea MacMillan at the Library. In addition, I have met Andrew Dowsey, the Fife Archivist who, of course, deposited half of the Cupar Burgh/Town Council records with the University. Thanks for your interest in the project.


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