Dunfermline: Auld Capital - The Kingdom Of Fife

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Dunfermline: Auld Capital

Town & Districts

In current times, Fife is the smallest administrative region within a devolved Scottish Parliament of the United Kingdom and has a total population of about 350,000 people. There are no cities in Fife but the region lies centrally between Edinburgh, Dundee and Perth. More than a third of the population live in the four main towns of Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and St Andrews. This section describes these four communities.

City of Dunfermline?
On the front page of this web site, we stated there were no cities in Fife. Some readers have challenged this assertion as misleading and wrong and citing Dunfermline as a prime example. After checking through notes and conducting further research, the statement has been proved accurate and correct.

City Status is the preserve of the Monarchy in the UK and not an automatic translation of 'Royal Burgh' to that status. As such and prior to Unification of the Crowns, there were no communities awarded the title of city in Scotland and none afterwards until 1889 when Dundee petitioned to obtain that status and attained the appropriate Assent and Charter.

Aberdeen followed in 1891 and both were further confirmed as 'counties of cities' by the Local Government (Scotland) Act of 1929 and which included Edinburgh and Glasgow. Two more cities have been designated in recent years. Inverness became a city as part of the Millennium celebrations and Stirling as part of the Queens Jubilee in 2002. Perth was restored to city status in Queens Diamond Jubilee Year of 2012.

In 1856, the town of Dunfermline began to use the title of city in all official documents and largely based on its former status as a royal burgh and capital. This status has never been officially recognised. An Internet search on 'Scottish Cities' correctly returns seven locations; Inverness, Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow even though the population of some are actually les than some Fife towns.

Local History And Features Of Dunfermline
King Malcolm III saw great potential in Dunfermline and effectively made this the capital town of Scotland in the mid eleventh century and it remained so until the assassination of James I in 1437. Having said that, it was Malcolm's second wife, the Saxo-Hungarian Princess Margaret, who often initiated and persuaded her husband to undertake many beneficial and lasting changes. She was a deeply pious woman who prompted Malcolm to establish a Benedictine Priory later referred to as Dunfermline Abbey and where this Romanised form of religion eclipsed that of the Culdees. Margaret sought to make it easier for pilgrims to visit the Abbey and to venture further to St Andrews and a regular ferry service was established across the Firth of Forth for this purpose.

The 'Queen's Ferry' ran between the towns of North and South Queensferry located on either side of the Forth Estuary and on a route roughly mimiced by the Forth Road Bridge. The ferry operated for about eight hundred years but closed on the day when the Forth Road Bridge was opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth in 1964. This comparatively modern construction should not be confused with the much older and distinctive rail bridge still in regular use and service since construction over one hundred and ten years ago.  By comparison, the newer construction has proved far less durable and is due for replacement in the near future. Work on this has already begun at this time of writing in 2012.

At the peak of its influence and power, Dunfermline Abbey controlled four burghs, three courts of regality ( as given to by royalty) and owned huge estates of land from Moray in the North of Scotland down into the  border regions close to Berwickshire. The Royal Palace was connected to the Abbey and this was where the first known document concerning the 'Auld Alliance' between Scotland and France was signed on 23rd October 1295. King Charles I, the second Stewart monarch ruling over Scotland and England, was born in Dunfermline Palace on 19th November 1600.

His father, James VI of Scotland and 1st of England granted Dunfermline the status of 'Royal Burgh' in 1588 but the Union of the Scottish and English Crowns brought this to an end when James relocated the Scottish Court to London in 1603. In addition, the reformation of 1560 had reduced the importance of Dunfermline as an ecclesiastical centre.

In 1624, a major fire storm left much of the town in ruins. The Palace, Abbey and Abbots House escaped from the worst effects of the fire. It took a long time for the town to recover and by the early eighteenth century, Dunfermline was beginning to recover some degree of its former prosperity. Popular author, Daniel Defoe, best known as the creator of 'Robinson Crusoe' visited the area and doubtless heard about a local Fife sailor who had survived alone on a South Pacific island for four years.

It was about that time when damask linen (the name derives from the City Name of Damascus and where the weave technique was well established long beforehand) became popular and where the town employed many people in its production. One former factor, shown on the right has now been converted into residential flats. Textiles formed the core industry of Dunfermline in the past but this has largely disappeared in current times and have been replaced by a more diverse base of engineering, defence, electronics and service related employments. Halifax Bank Of Scotland (HBOS) and satellite broadcaster BSkyB are the largest employers in Dunfermline at this time of writing in 2012 and where about 87% of the towns employment is reliant on financial and service sector jobs. The former Royal Navy Dockyard at Rosyth just South of the town is another major employer in the area and where a new generation of Navy aircraft carriers will be completed in the near future.

Unemployment levels in the Dunfermline area are typically below the Scottish average and where the town generates about 30,000 jobs in the town centre and in surrounding business and industrial parks.
Some years ago, there were high hopes for a new state-of-the-art silicon chip manufacturing facility in which sizeable amounts of taxpayers money was given over to the project but it turned out to be one of several inward investment projects in Fife that failed to mature and in common with many similar investment programs elsewhere in the UK. For many years, the building lay derelict while potential buyers of the highly expensive facility were sought but without success. At this time of writing in 2012, the main facilities are being torn down with only the small office area remaining with intended use by small businesses. It was a major blow to hopes in the town but times have changed.
Today, one of the first major buildings anyone sees upon driving into Fife from Edniburgh on the M90 motorway is a massive warehouse proudly bearing the name of Amazon. It's the largest Amazon facility in the UK, employs over seven hundred and fifty people and exceeds one million square feet. Not bad for a company that started life in a disused church in Seatle, Washington State, USA just a few decades ago! Other World Class companies in the Dunfermline area include Shering Weighing with an impressive track record in the expertise of weighbridge and traffic management systems used by many companies in the UK and abroad. FMC is a major mechanical supplier to the oil industry and has recently taken delivery of a huge wind turbine investment in the hope of reducing costs by a significant factor and illustrating confidence in the future.

The Kingsgate Shopping Centre is located beside the pedestrianised High Street. A £50 million extension of this facility increased retail space to around 370,000 sq ft and was completed in August 2008. Dunfermline has the only Debenhams store in Fife!

The most recent estimate of population, made in 2008, suggests that Dunfermline has a population of 46,430 and is thus the second largest town in Fife. The 'Greater Dunfermline' conurbation includes the smaller towns of Rosyth, Inverkeithing and North Queensferry and has a total population of 78,550 people.
Dunfermline has four secondary schools and twelve primary schools. Other educational facilities include a private school and a school for children with learning difficulties. A new £10 million Dunfermline Museum and Art Gallery is planned for the near future. The towns football team is Dunfermline Athletic whose home for many years is East End park.

Dunfermline has been bequeathed two theatres, Carnegie Hall on East Port and the Alhambra on Canmore Street. Carnegie Hall was built between 1933 and 1937 and is a 540-seat theatre complete with a restaurant and adjacent music institute. The Alhambra, opened in 1922, claims to have one of the largest stages and seat capacities in Scotland. There are many 'night life' venues in Dunfermline with many dedicated to live music and mostly located in the town centre. Famous popular music bands originating from Dunfermline include the Skids, Big Country and Nazareth.

The town's most famous son is Andrew Carnegie, a name forever synonymous with the Pittsburgh Carnegie Steel Company, Carnegie Mellon University and the many great gifts he donated to his birthplace in Dunfermline on the pretext to "bring into the monotonous lives of the toiling masses of Dunfermline more sweetness and light." His donations include the Carnegie Swimming Baths, now expanded and called the Carnegie Leisure Centre, the Carnegie Library, Pittencrieff Park and much more. Andrew Carnegie House is located on the edge of Pittencrieff Park and serves as the headquarters of the Dunfermline Carnegie Trust, the Carnegie Hero Fund, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust since the completion of the building in 2008. Carnegie College is located in the Halbeath area of the town and caters to over 10,000 students annually. The college has particular specialisms in Business, Technology, Creative Arts and Construction courses. You can read more about Andrew Carnegie in the 'Famous Fifers' section of this web site.
Dunfermline lies on the northern spur of the Fife Circle rail line and close to the intersection of the M90 motorway and the A92 regional road thus providing it with good communications to other parts of Scotland. Five rail stations serve the conurbation with two serving Dunfermline directly.  Dunfermline Town Station is located close to the town centre while Dunfermline Queen Margaret is located close to the Queen Margaret Hospital; one of Fife's two major hospitals. Other stations at Rosyth, Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay serve outlying areas to the South of the Town.

The main bus terminus is located on a site to the north of the town centre. A regular ferry to and from European destinations operates from nearby Rosyth while the nearest International Airport at Edinburgh is just thirteen miles away.

Photographs by McWesty, Ian Mitchell, Kilnburn and Public Domain Sources.
Text by Alandon. Photo Effects and Page Design by Advision ProServe.

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