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Going north from North Queensferry for about 1.5miles is Inverkeithing. This is a very old and historic town although most people seem to simply pass through it on their way to the very busy railway station without noticing the historic sights.

St Peter’s church at Inverkeithing.

St Peter’s Church (16) is the ancient parish church. Opinions differ as to when a church was first built on the site. A plaque on the wall beside the church entrance proclaims that St Erat used to preach on that site. Some say that was as early as the 5th century. But St Erat is very difficult to find out about and some sources say he was a disciple of St Ninian which would not be until several centuries later. In any event it is believed that there have been several successive church buildings at this site. The tower of the present church dates back to the 14th century and is all that remains of a rebuild at that time, the rest having been destroyed in a fire and subsequently rebuilt more recently. There is no doubt that this is an important site but it seems purely Scottish without European connections so why is it included in this walk? The answer is because the refurbishment of the 14th century tower was aided by a donation from a local bank in Wilhelmshaven in Germany. Although Dunfermline is twinned with five different European towns the twinning is mainly seen in exchange visits and social collaboration. But this is one instance where support was given to a historic building to celebrate the twinning.

The Father of the Russian Navy was from Inverkeithing. Just 100m south of St Peters Church on the east side of the town square is a pub called the Half Crown (17).

The Half Crown pub in Inverkeithing Square.

This building is over 300 years old and in the early 18th century was the home of the Greig family who were shipowners. In 1763 Catherine the Great asked Britain for assistance with the organisation of the Russian Navy. A number of naval officers were sent to Russia, one of whom was Samuel Greig (1735-1788) from Inverkeithing. His cousin William Roxburgh, also from Inverkeithing, answered this call, but his house no longer stands. Samuel was so successful helping in Russian naval achievements that he was decorated by Catherine and popularly called the Father of the Russian Navy. A statue in his honour was erected in Tallinn, now the capital of Estonia. A plaque commemorating him is on the front wall of the pub as shown below.

The sign on the Half Crown pub.

The Inner Bay of Inverkeithing. Two of the old industries of Fife went hand in hand – coal and salt. Coal from the mines was used to evaporate seawater to produce salt.  Many may be familiar with the superbly restored windmill and salt pans near St Monans. But that is only a small part of the industry. From the 16th to the 19th century the Fife coastline was covered with salt pans at about 24 sites from Crail to Tulliallan and this included Inverkeithing and Culross. Some of the salt produced was exported to the Netherlands and to Baltic states. Inverkeithing Harbour, at the mouth of the Keithing Burn into the Inner Bay, was a busy port in the past and some of the salt would have been exported to mainland Europe from here as also would have been some coal. It has been said that returning ships from mainland Europe would carry Dutch roof tiles as ballast and this accounts for the red pantile roofs in coastal villages in Fife.

Other industries were present around this bay including paper making, shipbuilding, shipbreaking and quarrying. One of these which had a strange European link was the scrapyard in the southwest corner of the Inner Bay. More recently concerned with breaking up railway wagons, this used to break up large ships including ocean liners but between the two world wars a sort of European connection was the scrapping of vessels from the German WW1 fleet which had scuttled itself in Scapa Flow at Orkney. Following refloating some of the vessels were towed to Inverkeithing for breaking up and some went to Rosyth Dockyard for this.


Image credits – Martin Wilkinson