Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes from the History of Kirkcaldy

Other names

  • The Pageant of Kirkcaldy

Pageant type


The pageant was organised by St Peter's Episcopal Church, Kirkcaldy.

Jump to Summary


Place: Dysart House Grounds (Kirkcaldy) (Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland)

Year: 1911

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 3


28 June–1 July 1911

The pageant was held on Wednesday 28 June, 4.30pm, and then twice on Saturday 1 July, 3pm and 6pm.5

Permission to use the grounds of Dysart House for the pageant was given by Michael Nairn. Nairn was a local linoleum manufacturer. It is likely that he was a long-time benefactor of the church as he had previously allowed St Peter's to establish a mission on the grounds of his factory. The house had extensive grounds. The estate was later gifted to Kirkcaldy for use as a public park.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Brewster, J. S.
  • Musical Director: Mr J.M. Cooper
  • Instructor of Gypsy Dance: Miss Taylor


The book of words indicates that the pageant master was from Edinburgh.

The pageant had several patrons named as follows:

  • The Right Hon. The Earl of Rothes
  • Rt. Hon. Provost R.C. Munro Ferguson, MP, PC
  • The Right Rev. The Bishop of St Andrews
  • John Oswald, Earl of Dunniker
  • Michael Nairn, Esq., Dysart House
  • Provost Dickson, Markinch
  • W.D. Dixon, Esq., Markinch
  • J. Davidson, Esq., Kirkcaldy
  • Peter Greig Pye, Esq., Kirkcaldy
  • Robert Stocks, Esq., Kirkcaldy
  • The Rev. Canon Harper, Dunimarle Castle, Culross
  • The Rev. C. Gardyne, The Rectory, Forfar

Names of executive committee or equivalent

Executive Committee:

  • Chairman: Rev. H.T.J. Waring, BD, The Rectory
  • Joint Secretaries: Mr J.E. Sproston; Mr W.T. Leck
  • Treasurer: Mr J.M. Brewster
  • Other Members: Mr J.S. Brewster [Pageant master]; Mr J.M. Cooper [Musical Director]; Mrs Greig Pye [Convenor of the Bazaar Committee]; Mrs Brewster, Mrs Sproston and Miss Atkinson [Convenors of the Ladies' Dress Committee]; Mrs Smith; Mrs Waring; Rev. H.G. Sclater; Mr J.L. Lumsden; Mr W. Butterfield; Mr A. Henderson

Baazar Committee:

  • Convenor: Mrs Greig Pye, Bogie

Ladies' Dress Committee:

  • Convenors: Mrs Brewster; Mrs Sproston; Miss Atkinson


The pageant master, musical director and convenors for costume and bazaar committees were all members of the pageant executive committee.

Women were well represented on the executive, although none was an office holder.

In addition to those named as convenors of the Dress Committee, there were 41 local women involved with costume making; also helping with costumes was an unspecified number of young women who were members of the Girls' Guild.6

Other committees not mentioned in the pageant book are listed in the local press, including a Properties Committee (eight members, all male), a Ticket Committee (fourteen members, all male) and a Grounds Committee (thirteen members, all male).7

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Macbean, Lachlan


The author Lachlan Macbean was responsible for the script. He was editor of the local Fifeshire Advertiser and well known as a collector and translator of Gaelic hymns. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his 1904 edition of the writings of the child diarist, Marjory Fleming. These diaries were first published under other editors during the nineteenth century and were extremely popular publications over many decades; Macbean further raised their profile in the twentieth century with a new edited version. Marjory Fleming was a distant relative of Sir Walter Scott. Successive editions of the diaries promoted the sentimental myth that the child had been a great favourite of Scott and that she was called 'Pet Marjorie' by him.8 All or most of the episodes included songs; Macbean may have written the lyrics for these, but, as they are not credited in the book of words, this is unclear.

Names of composers

  • Cooper, J.M.
  • Mendelssohn, Felix
  • Cooper, Harrison

Numbers of performers


The vast majority of the performers were children. It seems that horses were used.

Financial information

Object of any funds raised

The bazaar and associated historical pageant aimed to raise money for a new organ for St Peter's Episcopal Church.9

Linked occasion

Centenary of St Peter's Episcopal Church, Kirkcaldy.

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: n/a


The church dated its re-establishment following the Reformation to 1811.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

4s. 6d.–6d.

Ticket prices were as follows:

Wednesday performance: 4s. 6d. (reserved grandstand seats); 3s. (unreserved); 1s. 6d. (standing room). These prices were all reduced by 6d. if purchased in advance of the day of performance.

Saturday performances: 2s. 3d. (reserved grandstand seats); 1s. 3d. (unreserved); 9d. (standing room). These prices were all reduced by 3d. if purchased in advance of the day of performance.

Car parking was 2s. 6d. for the day.10

Pageant tickets also allowed admission to the bazaar.

Associated events

To conclude the centenary week, there were both morning and evening services held on Sunday 2 July in St Peter's Church. The Bishop of Brechin (Lord Primus of the Episcopal Church in Scotland) preached at both of these. Large congregations attended. There was a Sunday school service on the afternoon of the same day for children from St Peter's and two other Episcopalian churches in Kirkcaldy (St Columba's and St Michael's).
The pageant was held in association with a bazaar which took place in Dysart Park (Wednesday 28 June and Saturday 1 July, 3–8pm). Pageant tickets allowed admission to the bazaar. Alongside various stalls, teas were served, and there was a 'Cake and Lemonade Stall'.

Pageant outline

Episode I. Foundation, c. 500 AD

The scene takes place before a druidical altar concealed by a heap of brushwood. Two trumpeters enter and blow a fanfare; low music is heard, which increases to become a stirring march.13 Twenty warriors enter led by a chief and accompanied by two drummers beating drums. Druids appear, clad in green, and led by the Arch-Druid wearing a 'white turban bearing [a] Sun Banner—all singing (“la-la) in time with music'. The two parties counter-march, then halt and face the audience. From the rear and from both sides, women enter; they walk through the centre of the two groups and then stand behind them. Another trumpet call is heard. The Arch-Druid announces that this is a sacred spot, following which the warriors tear down the brushwood to reveal the altar. The warrior chief then announces that this place will be their home: 'our Caledonian city—Caer Caledon!' The entire assembly shout 'Caer Caledon' in reply. A song entitled Caer Caledon is then sung with women, Druids and warriors each taking a different verse.

While the singing is going on, three warriors exit; they return as the singing closes dragging a 'dishevelled man' whom they lay on the altar with brushwood spread below him as a Druid comes from the back of the assembly carrying a lit torch. The chief gives the sign to light the fire, and the Arch-Druid brandishes a sacrificial knife, holding it aloft. With arms aloft, the assembly cries out 'Belus, Bright Belus'. At this, there is a pause and singing is heard (The ‘Pater Noster’). A group of Christians enter led by St Serf who bids the druids to release the victim and refers to him as 'your brother'. A warrior declaims that he is no brother but a prisoner seized from the nearby Saxon colony. St Serf replies that 'all men are brothers', and this is greeted with laughter. One of the Christians then cuts the victim free and is attacked by a warrior and killed. While St Serf kneels beside him, the Christians sing 'Surrender', ending with the line 'he goes to larger life with thee'. The chief queries this and receives the explanation that if baptised they too with be 'saved from sorrow, sin and death'.

The natives decide to accept Christianity; all face the audience and sing a new verse of the song 'Caer Caledon' which celebrates their settlement as a Christian 'city of favour'. While the singing takes place, four Christians 'reverently bear away the body of their slain friend and several warriors rearrange the brushwood to conceal the altar'. Around 100 performers took part.

Episode II. Dedication, AD 1075

The episode, which had a small cast, opens with Queen Margaret and her ladies in the arena; the Queen says complimentary things about Kirkcaldy. King Malcolm III enters and the Queen asks that the town be given 'as a gift to God' by granting 'its power and wealth' to the abbey at Dunfermline. The King assents to this, and three priests enter one of whom is Ivo, Abbot of the Culdees. They all discuss in which saint's name the gift will be dedicated, and several names are offered including Saints Patrick, Michael, Columba, Peter and Brice. In the end, Malcolm states that all will have their wish. The song 'The Dedicated City' is sung.

Episode III. Restoration, AD 1451

In this scene, the wealth of Kirkcaldy is restored to the people. The Abbot of Dunfermline meets King James II at Kirkcaldy. The King states his intention to build a fortress nearby 'on yon rugged Raven's Craig'. Some bailies and councillors arrive and request 'the freedom of Kirkcaldyn'[sic] from your Abbey'. The King agrees and states that 'new times have come', and a bailie concludes that 'the old Dark Ages are departing'. The bailies and councillors discuss the heavy burden of administering the town but claim it will be a 'joy to bear'. The 'Symbol Song' is sung; this has the refrain ‘vigilando munio’. Around ten players took part in the scene.

Episode IV. Reformation, AD 1559–64

This episode had a large cast and a great deal of dialogue; it recalled the final days of Mary of Guise during the religious and political strife of the protestant reformation in Scotland. The scene begins with townswomen fleeing the onslaught of French troops in the town; the then protestant supporter Sir William Kirkcaldy defends them. Mary of Guise as the Queen Regent then enters accompanied by her entourage as well as bailies of the town and the protestant adherents the Earl of Argyll and Lord Balnaves (a native of Kirkcaldy). A conversation ensues in which Mary accuses many lords of intrigue with the English and the murder of her ally Cardinal Beton. Those she accuses include Sir William Kirkcaldy and Lord Balnaves. They entreat Mary to order the withdrawal of the French soldiers. She agrees stating:

So be it. I seek no bloodshed. Let the Lords who truck with England, and who for English gold now fight against both Crown and Church, answer to God.

The Queen, her party and the protestant lords all exit, and the Commendator of Dunfermline Abbey and Richardson of St Mary's Priory enter. The Commendator sets out the case that their church has been overthrown; Richardson states that he will buy the lands of Dunfermline Abbey and adds that in this matter the Commendator has no choice. A herald and trumpeters then enter and a fanfare is blown; the death of Mary of Guise is announced and the arrival of her daughter, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, proclaimed. The townspeople in attendance are scathing about a monarch raised in France and recall the behaviour of the French military in the town, but Mary, when she arrives on horseback accompanied by courtiers, is gracious about the town and declares her loyalty to it. Sir William greets her, and Mary asks for his loyalty. The royal procession then exit and is followed by Sir William and the bailies of the town. The scene may have ended with a song entitled 'Queen Mary at Kirkcaldy' which recalled the meeting between Mary and Sir William.

Episode V. Desolation, AD 1640–50

A large cast featured in this episode which takes place during the civil war and includes Oliver Cromwell, Charles I and several Scottish lords including the Marquis of Argyll, the Earl of Cassillis and the Earl of Wemyss as well as bailies of the town, quartermasters, townspeople, Cromwellian troops and a drill captain called John French. The drama begins with French rallying local men to arms, and a bailie states that any that do not turn out will be fined. Charles I appears and congratulates Kirkcaldy for remaining on his side; he grants a charter that makes Kirkcaldy a royal burgh in return for loyalty. The King's fleet is stated to be in the harbour; the King and his entourage depart. Argyll, Cassillis, Wemyss and Elcho enter; Captain French states that the town's 'canon' have been trained on the royal fleet but that their poor hopes of victory forbid action. A bailie declares that these lords will have the freedom of the town; they then depart alongside the men who have volunteered to fight for the covenanters’ cause. A bailie then enters together with two of the town's officers and a prisoner who is revealed to be a man called Saunders Robertson who has refused to doff his cap to a bailie. Robertson recalls the execution of a witch—Alison Dick—the previous year who before her death stated that the pride of such men would bring ill luck to the town and states that she was right. The bailie remains indignant. At this, a messenger arrives with news that all the Kirkcaldy men have been cut down at the battle of Kilsyth (1645) where the royalist troops have prevailed. Despair descends, and there is acceptance that the curse has come true. Oliver Cromwell arrives; he berates Kirkcaldy for sometimes standing with him and sometimes against and states that he cannot 'understand Scotch logic'. Another messenger arrives, stating that General Monk has now captured all Kirkcaldy's ships and stores, which had been stored at Dundee for safety, and that all is lost for Kirkcaldy. The scene ends with the song 'Sorrow', which bemoans the carnage of Kilsyth but ends with the optimistic note that Kirkcaldy 'will restore the city's fabric'.

Episode VI. Jubilation, AD 1689

The scene begins with a fanfare of trumpets, and the provost declaring the accession of William and Mary to an assembly of burgesses and sailors. A sailor reminds all that the Duke of Perth as supporter of James II had taken away the town's freedoms; another states that the Duke has just set sail from Burntisland in order to escape to France. The provost orders that his ship be intercepted and an arrest made. The sailors run off, and Lord and Lady Melville appear on the scene. The death of Graham of Claverhouse is announced, but Melville states that notwithstanding this the Stewart forces were not defeated and that only Kirkcaldy men had stood firm against the fierce Highlanders. The burgesses agree the returning men will be 'fain to feel at home in the Lang Toon again' [glad to make their return home to Kirkcaldy]. The sailors return with the Duke a prisoner. The burgesses order him to be taken to the tollbooth, and there is great rejoicing among the assembled crowd. The scene ends with the song 'The Deil's Deid'.

Episode VII. Invasion, AD 1745

The Jacobite uprising is the subject of this short episode; it includes the characters of the Earl of Kellie, the provost of Kirkcaldy, a town officer, town councillors, Jacobite highlanders and pipers, and an 'old lawyer'. The highlanders headed by pipers and the earl arrive at Kirkcaldy. The provost and his party come out to greet them. In this encounter, Kellie hands over a note to the provost who reads its content and tells all that Prince Charlie wants money from them; the provost then claims that the town has nothing to give. Kellie implies force, and two highlanders try to take the town officer's halberd away from him. The provost sends for a lawyer. In a comical scene, the lawyer transfers some money given by the provost to Kellie but at the same time manages to dupe both sides and makes off with a large fee for his services. All parties depart, and the song 'Jacobites at Kirkcaldy' is sung.

Episode VIII. A Constellation, AD 1778

This fantastical episode celebrates various historical figures that have a close association with Kirkcaldy, including the architect Robert Adam and the philosopher Adam Smith—both born in the town—and the locally famous secessionist clergyman Robert Shirra. The drama is set in 1778 when the sea adventurer John Paul Jones had returned to British waters from France. The pageant opens with townspeople in a state of excited anxiety, having spotted Jones's ship in the Firth of Forth: Jones is referred to as 'a Yankee pirate'. Adam Smith turns up and states that that they should have no fear for 'the wealth of nations is conserved by mutual confidence and open trading'. He advises they call for the provost and the town clerk but is told that the provost is locked up in his own home by half the council and that the other half have confined the clerk to the town hall. Robert Adam enters and remarks that the Lairds of Dunniker and Raith had divided them in King William's time into Whigs and Tories. He further says that they should let Jones blow up the shorefront to make way for better architecture; the townspeople are indignant at this. The Rev. Shirra comes on the scene; one woman remarks that some of the town's weavers have sympathy with Jones, and at this Shirra condemns them, saying he will go to the shore to asses this situation. As he leaves, a band of gypsy girls move forward from the back of the scene and perform a dance; the people join in, but Smith sits reading a book until the gypsy queen approaches him. She tells him that she stole him as a baby and took him to Leslie; Smith asks why she did not keep him, and she replies that she foresaw he would become a famous man. The townspeople suddenly return, calling out that the Rev. Shirra had prayed for a storm that had rid them of Jones. The song 'Famous Men' was sung.

Episode IX. Recitation, AD 1811

Walter Scott and the child writer Marjory Fleming appear in this episode. Scott enters carrying the child; he refers to her as his 'wee crodlin' doo' and asks her to read to him from her writing journal. She reads some passages and a piece of Burns' poetry she has learned. Scott then asks her to read the verse 'Rosabelle' [from the Lay of the Last Minstrel] which he has written for her recently. The child reads the verse and when finished wipes away a tear before leaving the stage. Scott picks up the copy of the poem and kisses it before also exiting. The text of a verse entitled 'Pet Marjorie' is included in the pageant book of words, but it is unclear if this was included as part of the performance. If included, it may have been either recited or sung.

Episode X. Vacation, AD 1811

The unhappy year that Thomas Carlyle spent in Kirkcaldy where he worked as a teacher is recalled in this episode. The scene opens with Carlyle behaving in a hostile manner towards pupils and stating his farewell to the town. The provost and his son Patrick enter, and the provost states his regret that Carlyle is leaving but adds that he does so with a testimonial that upholds that 'in science' he is 'amply furnished'. The children are evidently delighted to see him go. The local MP, General Sir Ronald Craufurd Ferguson of Raith and General John Townsend of Dunniker [a member of the prominent local Oswald family and a one-time Fife MP] both enter; the provost introduces them to the children as two great soldiers, and the children cheer. Carlyle's friend, Edward Irving, then appears and announces that he too will be leaving teaching at Kirkcaldy. The provost asks what will then become of the youth in Kirkcaldy; at this Bailie Philip enters and states that he will make sure that 'Kirkcaldy is all right' and that all of the young are schooled. Carlyle replies:

You will. If I'm a Seer, I foretell you will. But Patrick Swan [a later provost of Kirkcaldy] will do even more to benefit his native town. He will be first of a long line of town builders. Others will follow.... in far future years Kirkcaldy with its million happy homes will smile, far spreading as a busy garden city.

The scene ends with the provost declaiming the following:

Come all ye famous towns of Fife, join old romance with modern life; march out in all your brave array, scutcheon and ancient badge display….

Grand Procession

The book of words describes the entry of all of the actors, 'beginning with the more ancient'. Then in a procession maidens representing other Fife towns and villages including 'Dysart, Falkland, Buckhaven, Leven, Anstruther, St Andrews, Cupar, Burntisland, Kinghorn, Dunfermline, each with a flag and attendants', also enter, and at the end of the parade 'Kirkcaldy and her train enter, and she is enthroned on the Druidical Altar'.


For this, the book of words indicates that 'The Glory Song' will be sung, adding that it may 'have to be omitted through lack of time'. The pageant closes with singing of the hymn 'All People That on Earth Do Dwell'.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Margaret [St Margaret] (d. 1093) queen of Scots, consort of Malcolm III
  • Malcolm III [Mael Coluim Ceann Mór, Malcolm Canmore] (d. 1093) king of Scots
  • James II (1430–1460) king of Scots
  • Mary [Mary of Guise] (1515–1560) queen of Scots, consort of James V, and regent of Scotland
  • Mary [Mary Stewart] (1542–1587) queen of Scots
  • Kirkcaldy, Sir William, of Grange (c.1520–1573) soldier and politician
  • Campbell, Archibald, fifth earl of Argyll (1538–1573) magnate and protestant reformer
  • Balnaves, Henry (d. 1570) diplomat and religious reformer
  • Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Cromwell, Oliver (1599–1658) lord protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland
  • Campbell, Archibald, marquess of Argyll (1605x7–1661) nobleman and politician
  • Kennedy, John, sixth earl of Cassillis (1601x7–1668) politician
  • David Wemyss, second earl of Wemyss (1610–1679)
  • Drummond, James, fourth earl of Perth and Jacobite first duke of Perth (1648–1716) politician
  • Melville, David, third earl of Leven and second earl of Melville (1660–1728) army officer and politician
  • Adam, Robert (1728–1792) architect
  • Smith, Adam (bap. 1723, d. 1790) moral philosopher and political economist
  • Jones, John Paul (1747–1792) naval officer in the American and Russian services
  • Scott, Sir Walter (1771–1832) poet and novelist
  • Fleming, Marjory (1803–1811) child diarist
  • Carlyle, Thomas (1795–1881) author, biographer, and historian
  • Ferguson, Sir Ronald Craufurd (1773–1841) army officer and politician

Musical production

Kirkcaldy Amateur Orchestral Society provided live music. This was under the musical direction of Mr J.M. Cooper. Pieces included:

  • J.M. Cooper. 'Pater Noster' (Episode I); 'The Dedicated City ' (Episode II); 'Jacobites at Kirkcaldy' (Episode VII); and 'Famous Men' (Episode VIII).
  • A song entitled 'Caer Caledon' or the 'Warriors' Song', composer unknown (Episode I). This may have been written by Cooper, but this is not indicated in the pageant book of words.
  • Harrison Cooper. 'The Symbol Song' (Episode III).
  • 'Sorrow', sung to the air 'Bonnie Earl o' Moray' (Episode V).
  • 'The Deil's Deid', sung to the air 'The Keel Row' (Episode VI). 
  • Music by Mendelssohn was used in the song 'Surrender' (Episode I).
  • 'All People That On Earth Do Dwell' (Finale).
  • The National Anthem (Finale).
  • ‘The Glory Song', sung at the close of the pageant.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian
Dundee Courier

Book of words

Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes From the History of Kirkcaldy by L. MacBean. Kirkcaldy, 1911.

Price: 1s. Published by the pageant committee of St Peter's Church in Kirkcaldy.

Other primary published materials


References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • The National Library of Scotland: one copy of the book of words. R.245.e.
  • The British Library: one copy of the book of words. 011914089.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Macbean, Lachlan. Marjorie Fleming: The Story of Pet Marjorie Together With Her Journals and Her Letters. London, 1904.
  • Scott, Walter. The Lay of the Last Minstrel: A Poem. London, 1805. Many subsequent editions.

McBean's edition of Pet Marjorie is the obvious inspiration for Episode IX. This edition incorporates commentary from previous edited collections of the child's writing.

The poem Rosabelle from Scott's The Lay of the Last Minstrel is used in Episode IX.

The copy of the book of words in the British Library includes a photograph, cut from a newspaper, showing King Malcolm III and Queen Margaret in one of the dramatic scenes.

Neither of the extant copies of the book of words (in BL or NLS) has an illustrated cover.


Although historical processions and artistic tableaux vivants had been held in Scotland within the Edwardian period, and although 1911 was a coronation year during which many historical parades took place, pageant fever had not yet reached Scotland by this point.14 Indeed, it is probable that the children's pageant held in Kirkcaldy in 1911 was the first ever staging of a modern pageant in the style of its inventor Louis Napoleon Parker to take place in Scotland. The fact that it was a relatively small institutional affair held for a very prosaic, fundraising cause does demonstrate, however, that there was awareness in Scotland of this fashionable pursuit. Moreover, the success of the event shows that Scots were not immune to the charm of historical pageantry during these early years of its development, even if pageants were rather slower to catch on in Scotland compared to elsewhere in the UK.

St Peter's Episcopal Church celebrated its centenary year in 1911 and wanted to use this occasion to raise some money, including funding the installation of a new church organ.15 A bazaar would have been the usual fundraising mechanism, but, likely because of the anniversary, a pageant was conjoined to this. As part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, perhaps Scottish Episcopalians were more than usually attuned to the contemporary popularity of pageantry in England and quite comfortable with engaging in this type of historical celebration. (The denomination was a minority taste in Scotland: indeed, Scots often referred to it as 'the English Church', an epithet to which many Scottish Episcopalians took exception.) It is impossible now to know for sure. What we can surmise, however, is that even if its organisers had been influenced by pageantry down south, the event held concentrated very much on the local history of Fife in combination with larger events that were central to understandings of the Scottish national past. Even the title of the pageant advertises this, by using the shortened form of the ancient name for Scotland—Caledon (Caledonia).

Underlining the Scottish bent of the pageant, the writer commissioned to produce the script was a figure who was a well-known proponent of Scottish culture. Lachlan Macbean was a journalist in Fife but also a translator of his native Gaelic tongue (he was born in the Highlands) as well as a poet and writer. Macbean is described in his 1931 obituary as a 'typical Celt' who was a 'sentimentalist, poet, [and] visionary'.16 The result of his work was a pageant of ten episodes that covered a time span from 500 AD to the early nineteenth century. Around 500 performers took part, the vast majority of them children. The youngsters all had an association with the Episcopal Church, at either St Peter's in the centre of Kirkcaldy or at the two other small associated parishes that existed at opposite ends of the town at this time—St Michael's and St Columba's. In a town that had a total population of 39600 and in which the majority of families with a religious affiliation would almost certainly have been Presbyterians, to have such a number of willing young parishioners was impressive.17

Kirkcaldy, which straddles the east coast, has traditionally been known as the 'lang toun' due to its meandering main street which runs from one end of the town to the other for four miles. Considerable expansion due to the growth of industry in textiles and salt production, and the continued viability of the town's port, encouraged a large increase in population during the nineteenth century. A newspaper report on the pageant pointed out that while the topography of the town and its growth in inhabitants necessitated that St Peter's have two 'missions at each end', this was an expensive enterprise to run from 'a weak base at the centre'.18 Hence, no doubt, money was needed to increase the Church's ability to attract and retain congregants. The local press pointed out that this was no longer 'the English chapel' championed by the old nineteenth-century county set; instead, the composition of its parishioners in 1911 testified to more 'democratic days'.19 St Peter's, the ‘weak base’ referred to, was a church that was too small and inadequately furnished to provide 'dignified worship' for such an expanded congregation.20 However, as the paper also pointed out, St Peter's had always risen to the challenge of providing for their flock. It was in this spirit that the church and its two extension parishes took on the monumental work of a historical pageant. As well as the will to raise some money, there was no doubt also the aim to raise the profile of the church as a Scottish institution—and what better way to do this than to celebrate the Scottish past?

The pageant began in time-honoured style with an attempted druidical sacrifice, which was interrupted by Christians—in this case by St Serf and his supporters. It continued, in Episode II to highlight the town's Christian heritage when it was placed in the ownership of the monks at Dunfermline Abbey by Malcolm Canmore, who was persuaded to do this by his saintly wife Margaret. The good influence of Queen Margaret on her husband was a regular feature when the story of these two was told. Episode III tells of the dismantling of this arrangement by James II, which allowed trade to flourish and began a new era for the town as a burgh rather than a vassal to the monastery.

The subject of Mary Queen of Scots, which would become a favoured subject in Scottish pageants, was dealt with somewhat unusually in Episode IV, in that it took a religious theme and also featured her mother, Mary of Guise. Often the Catholicism of Mary Stewart was sidestepped in pageants, but here the treatment applied possibly reflects the fact that the pageant was organised by a reformed church which had not severed all ties with its pre-Reformation history. One historian has commented that Mary of Guise's abilities as regent have given her a positive reputation with both Catholics and Protestants.21 Yet as a devout Catholic and a thorn in the flesh of Scottish religious reform, she rarely makes an appearance in Scottish pageants. Though she is included in this particular storyline, the approach to her is a little ambivalent, neither condemnatory nor overly sympathetic. Certainly, the trouble caused to Kirkcaldy by French troops brought in by her is made abundantly clear, so she does seem to have been given an even-handed depiction. When her daughter Mary Stewart later arrives in Kirkcaldy, following her mother's death, she receives a slightly more sympathetic treatment; the Presbyterian adherent, Sir William Kirkcaldy, even greets her cordially. The song, which accompanied the episode, recounts these events and ends with grim foreboding as Mary's entourage departs the town:

Then on to Wemyss that pageant streams
But Sir William Kirkcaldy stood,
For with startled eye he had marked the sky
Grow black over Holyrood.22

This melancholy, tragic view of Mary Queen of Scots would become a familiar one in historical pageants.

Local loyalties again feature in Episode V, which covers the desolation into which the town was plunged during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms when many men from Kirkcaldy lost their lives. It ends with Oliver Cromwell berating the town for having switched loyalties at times over the period of the conflict, which was not, of course, unique to Kirkcaldy as the war progressed. The next episode moves the history of the town forward to the Glorious Revolution and appears to promote the idea that this was welcome in Kirkcaldy. It again foregrounds the great sacrifices made by the town through conflict. Given the turmoil experienced by the town during the reigns of the last few Stewart kings, the Jacobite rebellion of1745 induced the pageant organisers to adopt a comic approach in order perhaps to deflect from old enmities. A satirical take on this troubled period was offered by depicting the legend that the only person to profit from these events was a lawyer who—when a representative of the Prince arrived in the town to ask for aid—bamboozled both sides and made off with a hefty fee that both the town and the Jacobites paid for.

Episode VI continues in the fictional mode in order to present a drama that involves 'a constellation' of the town's most famous sons of the Enlightenment—the architect Robert Adam and the economist, Adam Smith. The drama is heightened by means of the threat posed to the town by John Paul Jones, whose ship was allegedly sailing in the waters off the east coast of Scotland. However, a local legend rather than a nationally well-known figure emerges as the hero of the hour when one of the town's ministers, the Rev. Shirra, takes advantage of having God on his side to call up a storm that rids them of 'the Yankee pirate'. Any gentle teasing of this Presbyterian minister's ability to command God's attention would have to be inferred, though it is entirely possible that Jones did sail past the coast of Fife on his meddlesome venture in 1778 towards making a raid on the Cumbrian port of Whitehaven. The penultimate episode concerned another character born in Kirkcaldy. This was the child diarist Marjory Fleming whose writings after her death at age nine were a Victorian fascination. The inclusion of this episode was probably thought suitable for a children's pageant and was of interest in any case to the pageant's scriptwriter who had edited a new edition of Fleming's writing aimed at a twentieth-century audience—an initiative that was no doubt lucrative for this journalist. Successive embellishments had been made to Fleming’s reputation based on her distant family relationship to Sir Walter Scott. In the sentimental tale told, the child had been a favourite of Scott, and in this mawkish (and to twenty-first century sensibilities more than a little distasteful) rendition, the two shared literary experiences. However fictionalised, there can be no doubt that for the audience in 1911 this relationship would have been a familiar and unquestioned aspect of Scott's life; such had been the power of the myth spun.

The final episode stayed with the goal of highlighting Kirkcaldy's famous associations, in this case with the essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle; but it also attempted to bring the town's progress up to date and foreground developments that would arrive after Carlyle's brief stay in the town. These, as the dialogue of the episode explains, would be the work of locally famous men who would go on to better the town through the building of homes and schools. This treatment implies that Kirkcaldy produced its own geniuses and had no need to import them. The sentiments expressed about Kirkcaldy's development remind us that pageants were not simply about wallowing in the past; often they expressed hopes for the future. One hundred years on from Carlyle's sojourn in Kirkcaldy, discussion of urban living—and planning to improve this—was of great contemporary interest in Scotland, with the likes of Patrick Geddes providing a vision for town planning that became internationally acknowledged. The garden city movement was also of great interest, and this type of model received a mention in the dialogue of the final episode as a hope for Kirkcaldy's future. Kirkcaldy was still very much a flourishing town in 1911 with vibrant industries, a thriving port and a growing population. Yet how to provide for such continuing growth must have been a concern to those who had a stake in the town's future, such as its religious institutions. St Peter's certainly appears to have been in this category.

For a small, institutional pageant, St Peter's did an admirable job. The pageant's dialogue was not presented in stodgy verse, and music was a feature of almost all the episodes, with songs sung either during or towards the end of each. As might be expected, it attracted no attention in the national press, but it does seem to have been a success in Kirkcaldy. Although no figures for financial achievement have been recovered, it is worth noting that the church did keep going; its organ was installed and attained some local fame as 'the finest instrument of its kind in Kirkcaldy'.23 Although its two extensions eventually floundered and St Peter's itself moved to a newly built church in the 1970s, it is still in existence.


  1. ^ Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes From the History of Kirkcaldy by L. MacBean (Kirkcaldy, 1911), front page.
  2. ^ Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes From the History of Kirkcaldy by L. MacBean (Kirkcaldy, 1911), 8.
  3. ^ See the history of St Peter's Kirkcaldy, accessed 24 February 2016,
  4. ^ See ‘Dysart House’, accessed 9 February 2016,
  5. ^ Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes From the History of Kirkcaldy by L. MacBean (Kirkcaldy, 1911), 8.
  6. ^ 'St Peter's Centenary Services', Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian, 8 July 1911, 2.
  7. ^ 'St Peter's Centenary Services', Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian, 8 July 1911, 2.
  8. ^ For information about Marjory Fleming and publications of her work, see Kathryn Sutherland, ‘Fleming, Marjory (1803–1811)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004), accessed 14 March 2016, Macbean's edition was published as Marjorie Fleming: The Story of Pet Marjorie Together With Her Journals and Her Letters (London, 1904); it had numerous subsequent imprints. For Macbean's obituary, see 'Death of Mr L. Macbean', Scotsman, 28 January 1931, 8.
  9. ^ 'St Peter's Centenary Services', Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian, 8 July 1911, 2.
  10. ^ Advertisement, Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian, 24 June 1911, 1.
  11. ^ 'St Peter's Centenary Services', Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian, 8 July 1911, 2.
  12. ^ Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes From the History of Kirkcaldy by L. MacBean (Kirkcaldy, 1911), 49.
  13. ^ Synopses based on information contained in Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes From the History of Kirkcaldy by L. MacBean (Kirkcaldy, 1911). Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations in synopses are taken from this source.
  14. ^ Examples are the Mary Queen of Scots Pageant held at Craigmillar near Edinburgh in 1906, the Scottish National Pageant of Allegory, Myth and History held in Edinburgh in 1908, and the Pageant of the History of Aberdeen organised in the eponymous city by the Northern Arts Club in 1908, as well as a historical pageant performed by students of Glasgow University (1908) and a historical masque organised by Glasgow Art School in (1909). The coronation in 1911 was celebrated with processions in many Scottish towns, including Arbroath and Perth; and at the Scottish National Exhibition staged at Kelvingrove in Glasgow in 1911, three short pageants were performed: The Pageant of the Bruce, Thomas the Rhymer and a pageant on the life of the poet Robert Burns. For discussion of some of these early masques and processions, see Juliet Kinchin, 'Art and History into Life: Pageantry Revived in Scotland', Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History 2 (1997): 42–51.
  15. ^ 'St Peter's Centenary Services', Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian, 8 July 1911, 2. The organ had been commissioned in 1909 at the cost of £435, but evidently more money was needed to allow for installation as well as other repairs to the fabric of the building. See history of St Peter's Kirkcaldy, accessed 12 February 2016,
  16. ^ 'Death of Mr L. Macbean', Scotsman, 28 January 1931, 8.
  17. ^ For population statistics for Kirkcaldy in 1911, see A Vision of Britain Through Time, accessed 10 February 2016,
  18. ^ 'St Peter's Episcopal Church: Centenary Celebrations', Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian, 1 July 1911, 2.
  19. ^ Ibid.
  20. ^ Ibid.
  21. ^ See Rosalind K. Marshall, ‘Mary [Mary of Guise] (1515–1560)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online:
  22. ^ Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes From the History of Kirkcaldy by L. MacBean (Kirkcaldy, 1911), 22.
  23. ^ See history of St Peter's Kirkcaldy, accessed 14 February 2016,

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Caer Caledon: Dramatic Scenes from the History of Kirkcaldy’, The Redress of the Past,