There has been a strong link between the Royal Navy and the small town of Rosyth located just south of Dunfermline for at least a century or more.
Rosyth was often considered as a port for Dunfermline but from about 1909, the dockyard area assumed greater importance and where the Royal Navy established the land base of HMS Cochrane in 1938. HMS Cochrane had an intermittent career being opened and closed several times before final closure in 1996. In 1987, the government awarded management of the dockyard to Thorn EMI who ran the government owned facility on a contractor basis and prior to the dockyards being fully privitised in 1997.
Over many years, Rosyth dockyard has been a preferred contractor of many Royal Navy ships ranging from nuclear submarines to aircraft carriers and it remains as a principal employer in current times.
Rosyth dockyard is the projected assembly point site where various component sections of the new generation 'Queen Elizabeth' class aircraft carriers are due to be assembled with the bow section being built locally. Weighing in at an estimated 65,000 tons, the two vessels planned for will be the largest aircraft carriers ever built in Britain and designed to accomodate the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II multi-role fighter and in which the UK has already contributed substantial sums to design and development alongside the USA and other European countries.
The current plan to build these carriers has come at a time of great economic stringency and where cuts by the Conservative-Liberal coalition government has already decommissioned 'HMS Ark Royal', the last remaining CVS aircraft carrier in the Royal Navy and restricting the ability of the Navy in major fashion for several years since the first of the new carriers will not be available for several years. Limits have also been placed on the construction of the second aircraft carrier and where it may not be fully operational for a long time into the future.
The name, ‘Inverkeithing’ provides clues as its origin. The small burn (river) that runs through the town is known as the Keithing Burn. In old Scot’s tongue, Inver, suggests an inflow and it may be that tides did back up at the mouth of the burn and hence the name Inverkeithing! Inverkeithing was the last place where King Alexander III (1241-86CE) was last seen alive. Having crossed a stormy estuary, and anxious to meet again with Yolande de Dreux at Kinghorn, he set off on his horse ahead of his entourage. His body was found on the beach beneath the bluffs of Pettycur Bay.
On the 20 July 1651, and during the third and final part of the ‘English Civil War’, the important ‘Battle of Inverkeithing’ was fought here and where the Scottish army failed to prevent their English counterparts from establishing a beach head and breakout. According to records of Clan McLean, they had volunteered 800 warriors with only thirty-five surviviors but this seems like an exageration since the death toll on the Scottish side, in total, was probably about that number.
In the 1960s, the town’s largest employer was Thomas W Ward who owned the maritime scrapyard nearby. The hull of the RMS Olympic, sister ship of the ‘RMS Britannic’ which sunk after hitting a mine near Greece in wartime and the infamous ‘RMS Titanic’ which crashed into an iceberg during her maiden voyage, was dismantled in Inverkeithing having served a longer and perhaps less illustrious career.
In 1965, the RMS Mauritania was expertly steered into the facility to be broken up. This wasn’t the sister ship of the famed Lusitania, torpedoed and sunk in 1915 off Southern Ireland, but rather the second of that class bearing the same name. Even so, it had been built to similar high-class standards of comfort and this author has been told by several people that many leather covered seats saw further service in a local tavern for several years afterwards!
Photographs from Open Source. Text by Alandon.