Fife Free Press Article by R.M.Livingstone

Ex Provost R.M.Livingstone, of Burntisland, wrote a number of articles in the local newspaper,'The Fife Free Press' in the 1960's and 70's. The following article from the series describes the Masonic Hall in Sommerville Square.

History Steeped 'Home' of Lodge Dunearn

Most of the old houses of Burntisland simply reek of history - none more so than the south side of Somerville Square, known last century as Quality Street, a name which was well earned. Much has been written about Mary Sommerville's house, but the house to the west was also the home of some interesting people.

In 1596, that house, now owned by the local Masonic Lodge, was the home of William Boswell. That was a name famous throughout the district as there were Boswells at Balmuto, Piteadie and Craigencot Mill.

Around 1628, Robert Angus became proprietor. He became a Baillie in Burntisland and his signature appeared in many title deeds concerned with the transfer of property.

Probably the most famous to own the house were the Robertson's of Newbigging. In June 1679 this was the home of James Robertson of Newbigging.

I have a copy of a burgess ticket dated 11th June 1667 which reads: "The which day in presence of Andro Smyth, ane of the Bailliesof the said burgh compeart Mr James Robertson, Fuar of Newbigging and was admittit and received Freeman Neighbour and Burgess of the said Burgh of Burntisland with all the privileges freedoms and immunities thereof. Who solemnly gave his Burgess Oath as use in promising to observe the same during all the days of his lyftime"

GENERAL ROBERTSON OF NEW YORK

James Robertson remained owner til around 1736 when George Robertson of Newbigging is recorded on the title deeds.

Probably the most famous person to come out of the house was General Robertson. In the Biographical Register of the St Andrews Society by Wm McBean, he is recorded as having been born at Newbigging, Fifeshire in 1720, and died in London in 1788. He enlisted as a private, became a sergeant and obtained an ensign's commission in 1740.

Robertson sailed to America in 1756 and was appointed Major General of the royal troops raised in America and was also Barrack Masetr at New York.

In 1772 he received a Colonel's commission and in the engagement between British troops and the colonists at Long Island. In1776 he commanded a brigade.

In 1779 Robertson was appointed head of a board of 12 commissioners for restoring peace and in May of the same year he became civil governor of New York.

In May 1781, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief in Virginia. He then sailed to Sandy Hook, but on hearing that Cornwallis had arrived with a commission which would supercede his, he returned to New York. On November 20, 1782, he was appointed Lieut.-General.

McBean writes that his title was His Excellency James Robertson Esq., Captain General and Governor-in-Chiefof the Province of New York and Territories thereupon depending in America, Vice Admiral of the same and Major General of His Majesty's forces.

This all sounds great but Jones, a historian, writes of him: "He showed the haughtiness. supercilliousness and contempt natural to the pride of a rich and opulent Scot and when appointed was infirm, paralytic and undignifiedly amorous."

In May 1781, Sir John Henderson of Fordell married Anne daughter of General Robertson, Governor of New York, with issue. Anne Isobel, born on 28th January, 1782, became second wife of Rear Admiral Sir Charles Calderwood Durham, KCB.

As Durham, was Provost of Burntisland 1815-1818, and Sir John Henderson was MP for Fifeshire, for Dysart, Kirkcaldy Burghs and for Stirling Burghs, between 1780 and 1807, this became a full circle from Burntisland, New York, Inverkeithing and back to Burntisland. Isabella died without issue in 1845.

From 1736 'til 1754 the owner of the house was George Robertson of Newbigging who sold the property to Thomas Frazer.

On 21st November 1763, a disposition by Thomas Frazer is descriptive of the property:"In presence of Robert Angus, of Balgony, Esq., Baillie in Burntisland, and David Grieve, Procurator Fiscal of Court as Procurator for Thomas Frazer and Margaret Davidson. Thomas Frazer, weaver in Burntisland, proprietor of the Tenement of Land, in Bond of Marriage with Margaret Davidson daughter of William Davidson taylor in Forteviot, presently servant to David Knox of Gedsmiln, maltman in Kirkcaldie. Property to longest liver and their heirs."

Property in the Midgait bounded between the lands of Captain Andrew Watson of Dunnikier, and now Mr Samuel Charters on the East - the lands sometime pertaining to John Short, taylor, and the heirs of the late Walter Archibald and now Andrew Hutson and the heirs of John Anderson on the West.

This was signed by witnesses Harry Bennett, Writer ir Burntisland, Charles Moyes, Baxter there, Henry Inglis Maltman and Brewer in the Greenhead of Leslie.

The forementioned deed did not last long as of 4th April 1764, Charles Davidson, uncle to Margaret Davidson sold the tenament to Thomas Stanhouse Weaver in Burntisland, for the sum of £9.5/-, Davidson being the nearest and lawful heir to Margaret Davidson brother of Willian Davidson, Taylor in Forteviot. The house was sold to Thomas Stanhouse and his wife Janet Blackwood.

There was trouble about the Stanhouse succession and on 15th March 1851, sitting in judgement, George Grant, Sheriff Substitute in Fifeshire in the petition of William Stanhouse, residing at Lower Gilmore Place, Edinburgh, found that Thomas Stanhouse, Weaver in Burntisland, grandfather of William, died on or about 20th November 1795, and judgement was given for William. Burntisland Town Council then met to restore the property to William Stanhouse on 23rd August, 1852. Later William Stanhouse son and heir of Wm. Stanhouse, Fishcurer in Burntisland, sold the property to David Reedie, Mariner in Burntisland for £325. This was on 26th January 1884.

Later, in 1911, there was a trust disposition of the deceased David Reedie, retired shipmaster, West Leven Street, Burntisland. Trustees were James Reedie, Edinburgh, Hugh Reedie, Joiner in Burntisland, David McIntosh, Wells Close, and George Robertson, Blacksmith, High Street.

In 1912 the property was sold to James Green, retired Maltster, High Street, Torryburn, for £300. In 1914, Green then of 99 High Street, Burntisland, received £260, paid by officials of Lodge Dunearn - Thomas Scott, Shipping Agent, in favour of Donald Ross Jolly, tailor's cutter , Burntisland, RWM, and Andrew Kilgour, tailor, secretary.

Later the Lodge borrowed £600 from Mrs Strachen, widow, Victoria Cottage, Burntisland. £200 was paid back in 1916 and another £400 in 1920 by James Ritchie, Railway Clerk, R.W.M., John Nicolson, Railway Clerk, Secretary, and Thomas Scott, Treasurer.

REFERENCES: R M Livingstone, Fife Free Press, (undated article, Burntisland Library ref 103). Dean of Guild Records (ref 1914, 105 and 113 and 1916,25) RCAHMS Inventory (1933) p40.

NOTES: In 1596 William Boswell occupied this building, with the Robertson's of Newbigging in ownership by 1679. George Robertson sold in 1754, and finally passed to the officials of Lodge Dunearn in 1914. (Lodge Dunearn 400 was consecrated in 1859 in the Forth Hotel). 17th Century inset panel (defaced) is inscribed "Blisst be God for all His vageis".