The following is an excerpt from the County of Fife published in 1840 which highlights some of our Celtic connections and provides a brief historic background for Lochgelly and some of the surrounding communities;
I. The name of this parish is unquestionably of Celtic origin. We are perfectly aware of the fallacy attending derivation of names, yet we give the following as having occurred to us. In the ancient British, Uch means high, or a height, tire, land, and darran, an oak forest; the meaning of the name would thus be the high land of the oaks; or if the last syllable of darran be supposed to be the Celtic word an, water, the name would then signify the high land of the stream of the oaks. The parish lies south-west of Kinglassie, and is in form an exceedingly irregular parallelogram. It is about 4 miles in length from north to south, and about 3 miles in breadth from east to west. On its eastern boundary, however, a portion of the parish extends not above J of a mile in breadth for above 2 miles towards the east, between the parishes of Abbotshall and Kirkaldy on the south, and Kinglassie on the north. The parish is bounded on the south by Auchtertool, Abbotshall, and Kirkaldy; on the east by Dysart and Kinglassie; on the north by Kinglassie and Portmoak; and on the west by Ballingry, Beath, and Auchtertool. Near Lochgelly, in the south-west of the parish, the ground rises to the height of 620 feet; but in other parts, towards the east and north, it is not above 200 feet above the level of the sea. The lake of Lochgelly is about 3 miles in circumference, and from it flows a small stream which joins the Ore near Cardon mill. The river Ore, which rises in the neighbouring parish of Ballingry, and which is increased on the western border of this parish by the Fitty, flows through it from the west to the east; while the Lochty, which rises also in the parish of Ballingry, skirts its northern boundary.
The only village in the parish is Lochgelly, which contains a population of about 612. At one time there were 4 or 5 markets for cattle held here in the year, but these, as in many other places, have now decayed. A colony of gipsies were long established here, who migrated during the summer months, and returned in winter. Many anecdotes of the leaders of these worthies were given by Sir Walter Scott, in some of the earlier numbers of Blackwood’s Magazine. They professed the trade of tinkers and horners, but adopted the other practices of their brethren for increasing their earnings. It is probable that, as elsewhere, some of the descendants of these sorners may still be found about Lochgelly; but they have now been obliged to approximate more to the habits of the rest of the population, to whom they were at one time objects of fear and dread.
The population of the parish in 1755 is said to have been 1,194; and in 1791 it was 1,200. In 1801 it was reduced to 1,045; but it has since been on the increase. In 1811 it was 1,138; in 1821, 1,488; and in 1831, 1,590, of whom 786 were males, and
804 females. The number of families was 351 ; and of these 71 were employed chiefly in agriculture, and 77 in trade, manufactures, and handicraft. At that time there were also 77 males employed in coal mines.
II. At the south-west corner of the parish, on the north side of the loch, and between it and the village, are the lands and mansion-house of Lochgelly, the property of the Right Honourable the Earl of Minto, anciently belonging to the family of Kininraonth, the heiress of which married Sir Alexander Murray of Melgund during the 17th century. Their descendants for a time held the lands, but the family again ending in an heiress, Agnes Murray Kynynmond, who married Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3d baronet of Minto, he thus acquired Lochgelly and Kininmonth. He was a lord of the admiralty 1756, treasurer of the chamber 1762, keeper of the signet for Scotland 1767, and treasurer of the navy 1770. His eldest son, Sir Gilbert Elliot, was viceroy of Corsica in 1795, and was raised to the peerage in 1797, by the title of Lord Minto. In 1799 he was envoy extraordinary to Vienna; and in 1806 was president of the board of control for Indian affairs. From 1808 to 1812 he was Governor-general of India; and was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Minto, Viscount Melgund, in 1813. The present Earl, who is first lord of the admiralty, succeeded his father in 1814. East of Lochgelly-house, and at the end of the loch is Powguild, the property of R. Wardlaw Ramsay, Esq.; and on the south-east of the loch, Glenniston, formerly the property of a family of the name of Glen, afterwards to a cadet of the family of Boswell of Balminto. North-east of Lochgelly are the lands of Cardon, on part of which are the remains of an old tower. These lands belonged of old to a family of the name of Martin, from whom they were purchased by a gentleman of the name of Betson. His daughter married a younger son of Edmonston of that ilk, who sold them to the Earl of Melville; and by his descendant they were sold, with the Raith estates, to the ancestor of the present proprietor, Robert Ferguson, Esq., of Raith. Adjoining these lands are Dundonald, the property of R. Wardlaw Ramsay, Esq.
North of the lands of Cardon, and on the north side of the Ore, are the lands of Bowhill, at one time belonging to a family named Scrimgeour, the representatives of the Scrimgeours of the Myres, now the property of the heirs of the late John Ayton, Esq. of Inchdairnie; and north of Bowhill is Little Balgony, at one time belonging to a family of the name of Dewar, and now to the heirs of the late Andrew Clephane, Esq. East of Little Balgony is the parish church of Auchterderran; and east of it, on the borders of the parish, is Balgreigy, the property of the heirs of the late Mrs Sinclair Ayton, of Inchdairnie. North-west of the parish-church are the lands of Pitkenny, the property of David Wemyss, Esq., anciently belonging to a family of the name of Sinclair, descended from the lords Sinclair, and north-west of Pitkenny is Capledrae, the property of James Ayton, Esq.
III. The parish church is situated near the east side of the parish, and is rather distant from the village. The average number of the communicants is 300. The stipend is meal 128 bolls; barley 128 bolls; and money £8 6s. 8d. sterling. There is a good manse, and a glebe of 14£ acres, valued at £30 per annum. The present incumbent is the Rev. A. Murray, D.D.; the patron Boswell, Esq. of Balmuto.
There is a chapel at Lochgelly, connected with the United Associate Synod, of which the Rev. William Reid is minister. The parochial teacher has the maximum salary and the legal accommodation. The school is attended by from 90 to 100 pupils. There are two unendowed schools in the parish, at each of which about 70 pupils attend. A savings bank has existed in the parish for many years. The number of poor on the roll varies from 15 to 22, who receive on an average 3s. per month. The sources of their support are the collections at the church door, and the interest of £700 sterling, belonging to the Kirk Session; with occasional voluntary assessments from the heritors.
IV. The greater part of the soil of the parish is clay, with a mixture of sand; and the rest black earth resting on whinstone. Great improvements have been made in bringing in portions of the parish previously unprofitable; and about 500 acres are under wood. About i of the parish is in pasture. The average rent of land in the parish is £1 4s. per acre. The total real rent is estimated at £7,000 sterling; the valued rent is £7,437 Scots. There are very extensive coal works in the parish. The average output at Cluny coal works, previous to 1836, was, great coal 70,449 loads at lid. per load, which are entirely sold for home consumption: the output at Lord Minto’s coal work was, great coal at the rate of 46,800 loads at lid. per load, and chews at the rate of 20,800 loads. At Mr Wardlaw Ramsay’s coal work, the output was much less than at either of these. A fourth large coal work has within the last few years been opened by Mr Ayton on his lands of Capledrae. There are, besides, excellent limestone quarries in this parish. It is at present in contemplation to construct a railroad from Lochgelly to the harbour of Inverkeithing, and should this be done, as there seems every probability will be the case, the facility of conveyance will increase in an important degree the quantity both of coal and lime put out of the mines and quarries on this parish.
History of the County of Fife by John M Leighton, James Stewart. Published in 1840