A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE AREA
The following is taken from the introduction to Dalgety Bay, Heritage and Hidden History, a book written by Eric Simpson and produced by the Community Council. Copies price £6 are available from The Dunfermline Building Society at Regents Way, from Dalgety Bay Library, or direct from the author at 27 Briarhill Avenue, Dalgety Bay, Dunfermline KY11 9UR. In the last case postage will be charged. Eric Simpson has also written a number of other books on the history of our area.
Dalgety Bay is a new town in the west of Fife, situated between Inverkeithing on the west and Aberdour to the east. As the first private enterprise new town in Scotland, its origins go back a mere thirty odd years. As a place of human settlement, however, it goes back a very long way as recent archaeological excavations make only too plain.
The historical record, reconstituted from the evidence gleaned from buildings and structure and the written word, is also rich, since the parish of Dalgety in which the new town is located is an area with a long and fascinating history. Although today parishes are redundant in local government terms, they played until comparatively recent times a very important role as units of civil and ecclesiastical government. The "prehistory", so to speak, of the new town of Dalgety Bay, is, accordingly, the story of the parish of Dalgety. In terms of its population it was by no means an important parish, there being, until the recent development of the new community of Dalgety Bay, no considerable town or other centre of population within its boundaries. Yet, within this small parish, there are quite a few places and features of considerable historic interest. The built heritage includes St Bridget's, the intriguingly distinctive former parish kirk, and several notable towers and historic mansions. The most striking of these are the romantic old castle of Fordell and the now resuscitated Donibristle, the former seat of the Earls of Moray where in 1592 the Bonny Earl of ballad fame was foully slain.
There is also within the parish what I term the hidden history. Concealed below the streets and dwellings of the new town of Dalgety Bay are the fields and ornamental parklands of a great landed estate. The Earl of Moray's Donibristle estate had already undergone substantial change during the First World War when the earl handed over part of his grounds for the construction of a military airfield. The two World Wars made a major impact on the parish and its people, with the construction, as well as an airfield, of a major aircraft repair yard which did sterling work for the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War. A rare survival from this period is the Swordfish Torpedo-bomber depicted on the back cover of Eric Simpson's book Dalgety Bay - Heritage and Hidden History. The military fortifications of this period also merit close attention. Although they do not have the same aura of romance, they are, in their own way, as significant as the average medieval castle.
Hidden and forgotten too is the now largely vanished mining village of Fordell in the northern tip of the parish. Many new residents too are perhaps unaware that the brand-new residences at St Davids adjoin a once busy coal port and that one of the oldest waggon-ways in Scotland once linked the coal-pits of Fordell to St Davids. Not all of this past is completely out of sight and it is one of my purposes to draw attention to those traces and reminders that are still visible and tangible. Faint though some of these traces may be, they are still part of the past around us that helped to shape the Dalgety of today.
In recent decades Dalgety has seen dramatic change. The growth of the new town has brought a substantial influx of population. We have seen too the development of large industrial estates and the construction of a number of factories, some of which are among the largest employers of labour in Fife. That Dalgety Bay is a town of busy and profitable commerce and industry making a major contribution to the economy of Fife seems to have escaped many people's attention, not least in the national media and in places of regional power. The fact that Dalgety Bay is more than a purely residential community is perhaps part of the hidden or concealed history of modern Fife.
Much of the industrial estate to the north of the town is built on the runway of the airfield, small sections of which are still to be seen. The tennis courts are based on the concrete floor of a hanger where once aircraft were repaired. Evidence of the earliest settlers exists in the stones of a bronze age cist placed in the grass at the Regents way shopping centre car park. The cist was uncovered during building work at Carrick Drive and it was excavated by members of St Andrews University revealing a fine dagger now on display in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Other historic building in the town include St Bridgets Kirk, the Chapel to Donibristle House, and Donibristle House itself, or at least the servants wings, converted to serve a useful purpose as homes. The site of Donibristle House is occupied by a new building which reflects the style and proportion of the original, destroyed by fire in 1858. The largest preserved structure is the sea wall which protects the coast on large sections of the bay, with the New Harbour, now fittingly in the sailing Club grounds, as it was originally built for the Earl of Morays yacht!