I am ashamed to say that this picturesque village is a short bus ride a long the coast from me and is yet another place I had not visited before....West WemyssThe word Wemyss comes from the Gaelic “weems” for the sandstone caves that are common on this part of the coastline.
…it is said it was built by the Wemyss family, to save the worshipers their walk in to East Wemyss each Sunday.
It is thought that in January of 1941 a special constable was told of a mine being washed towards the shore on the tide, he, a member of the Home Guard, two other miners and a young pit lad sacrificed their lives in order to move the beast away from the village, knowing that had the mine exploded along side, a greater tragedy would have occurred. The blast, it is said, was so strong that the castle orangery, standing high above the coastline, lost some of its windows. Sadly all five lost there lives but it is believed that they understood the danger they were putting themselves in.
I have come across many contradictions in dates, as I tried to research this village’s history but I have done my best to untangle them and hope I will be forgiven for any errors.
The white tower is part of theToll Booth …first built in the late 1500’s with a two prison cell beneath ... but was rebuilt in the 1700’s…in the Dutch style by David the 4th Earl of Wemyss, , with the Wemyss crest of a swan, made in gold, set on top as a weather vain.
...whose original construction began in the 13th century. The castle was rebuilt and extended over the following centauries and is still used by the Wemyss family today. It was at the early castle that Mary, Queen of Scots, met Lord Darnley, who became her husband in 1566.
The village and its harbour, known as "Haven Town of Wemyss" by the locals, came into its own in the early 1500’s due to salt and coal. Salt had become a major industry in Wemyss.
Sadly, towards the end of the century, a ship brought in the Plague to the harbour … it spread quickly through out Fife, dramatically reducing the population.
The Wemyss family had a new harbour constructed around 1620 ... it was to be an important port of call for ships exporting and importing goods. The early1600’s also brought the first glass making factory in Scotland, to just outside the the village.
By the end of the seventeenth century it was thought to be a major harbour for the exporting of coal. Wemyss land, itself was rich in coal and stretched far into Fife and now had many pits including at least one that stretched beneath the Forth. The ships that exported the coal and salt would return with imports of iron, timber and flax .
The middle of the 1800’s saw other docks emerge, or be increased in size, and the salt industry go into a decline.
The railway, towards the end of the century, had connected the pits to the harbours and docks and also connected many of the villages along the coast. Ships were still being built there in 1900 but the village’s decline started slowly with the opening of the new enlarged Methil Docks, further along the coast to the east, in 1907 and the demand for the West Wemyss harbour decreased.
Over the decades that followed the decline set in and by the 1970’s the pits and railways here and along the coast were gone (thanks to Lord Beeching) …the harbour was largely filled in.... and what remains I didn't get a shot of as I turned back to get a coffee at the Walk Inn…even West Wemyss’ school was demolished and the population was in total decline.
It is this decline, that the residents today are fighting to reverse, with the creation of The Walk Inn. They want to preserve the small but loyal, caring community and give themselves something to work towards,to be proud of creating and a reason to join together keeping the village of West Weymss alive and kicking.
For many years this village has not even had a shop, café or public house but the community took on the challenge to buy the empty Wemyss Arms and create a café, a bistro, a shop and a small walkers hostel. They applied for a lottery grant and after some hard work, actually were awarded one … and work began.
When I visited, the café only was open and they were having teething problems with the power …well it was only a few days after opening after all …but I can’t wait to return when everything is up and running. Our tea and homemade cakes were delicious and the service and friendly atmosphere was one which many may have thought was long gone … the young might never even have realized it ever existed. It will be a wonderful community meeting place but also a fantastic place for visitors, regular or casual, to partake of refreshments during a day out.
Hope you enjoyed the trip to West Wemyss .... Part 2 ...Dysart .... next week.
Take Care xx