The Newport, Wormit & Forgan Archive

The New Statistical Account of Scotland: Vol. IX, Fife & Kinross (1838)

pages 505 - 516




Name. This parish is named Forgan or St Phillans. The former of these, which in earlier periods was written Forgun, Forgon, and Forgund, is supposed to be a Saxon word signifying foreground. The conjecture is, to a certain extent, justified by the appearance of the ground which, from a considerable elevation along the banks of the Tay, falls with beautifully sloping banks toward the south. When or for what reason the alternative name St Phillan was added, is not known.

Extent and Boundaries. The parish, which is of an oblong figure, is nearly 6 miles long and a little more than 2 broad. It is bounded on the north by the river Tay; on the west, by the parishes of Balmerino and Kilmany; on the south, by Leuchars and Logie; and on the east, by Ferry-Port-on-Craig.

Topographical Appearances. The general aspect is highly pleasing, from the irregular and undulating appearance of the ground. The only eminences that have received the name of hills are those of St Fort and Newton, the greatest altitude of which above the Tay is about 300 feet. There are several valleys or straths, the largest of which commences at a tract of flat land in the eastern extremity of the parish, and forms, with a slight interruption, the southern boundary, until it reaches the most westerly district, where it bends northward, and forms the west boundary at the Tay. Along this strath, there were several pieces of marshy ground or mires, all of which have been drained and brought under cultivation since the last Statistical Account.
The shore of the Tay, which extends nearly four miles on the north side of the parish, is covered with gravel or large stones, above sleech or clay near high water-mark, and at low water-mark it is entirely sleech or clay. The coast is uniformly of a bold or rocky nature, averaging from thirty to fifty feet above the adjacent shores. Wormit Bay, where the coast is more flat, forms the western extremity of the parish; besides which, there are creeks at Woodhaven and Newport, where there are small harbours. About half a mile east of Newport, there is a headland, which in a very ancient Atlas is marked under the name Skarness. It is now named Craighead.

Climate. The climate of the parish is dry and highly salubrious, which, in connection with its favourable situation for bathing, induces many families to resort to it in the summer season. There are numerous instances of longevity. Few epidemical diseases prevail; and it is remarkable, that during the time of Asiatic cholera not a single case occurred in the parish, although there was an hourly communication with Dundee, where the disease was general and fatal.

Hydrography. The width of the Frith between Newport and Dundee is one statute mile and a little more than a half, or about 2760 yards. During the ebb-tide, the water is brackish, but during the flood it is completely salt. The current is strong, particularly during ebb-tide, when it runs about four miles an hour. Springs of excellent quality are found in abundance throughout the parish.

Geology and Mineralogy. As forming part of the extensive tract of country that ranges from Alloa to the sea at St Andrews and Ferry-port-on-Craig, the district in which this parish is situated is intersected by a series of trap hills of various elevations. Sandstone and sandstone conglomerate form the basis; and the strata being elevated by the intrusion of the trap, rest upon it with a general inclination to the south-east. The greater part of the parish consists of a number of hills of greenstone, which is of a compact fine-grained quality, and of a dark colour, from a preponderance of augite. Along the banks of the Tay, rocks of amygdaloidal greenstone prevail. The base is an irregular, rather friable and porous greenstone, with numerous nodules, some composed of a greenish earth, others of calcareous crystals, and a great proportion of quartz, assuming the forms of agates, with beautiful concentric lamellar structure.

Soil. The soil, being formed in a great measure from the debris of the trap rocks, is generally of an excellent and fertile nature. The greater part is good black loam and clayey earth. Some portions of it being light and gravelly, are better suited for sheep pasture than for grain crops. In the diluvial soil, particularly in the western districts of the parish, there are numerous transported masses of rock or boulders, consisting partly of fragments of the surrounding trap hills, and partly of primitive rocks, which must have been conveyed by a powerful current from the north-west or Grampian range.


No history of the parish is known to exist; and the notices of it in Sibbald's History of Fife, and in Martin's Reliquiae Divi Andreae, are extremely meagre.

Land-owners. The chief land-owners are,
Henry Stewart, Esq. of St Fort, resident, valued rent, L 2349.6.8 Scotch.
William Berry, Esq. of Tayfield, do., 1082.3.4
David Gillespie, Esq. of Kirkton, non-resident, 711.0.0
The Right Hon. Lord Dundas, Newton, do., 640.10.0
Henry Scrymgeour Wedderburn, Esq of Wormit, do., 201.0.0
John Hay, Esq of Morton, do., 164.6.8
The estate of St Fort belonged for several hundred years, till the beginning of the last century, to a family of the name of Nairne, who, as appears from Douglas' Peerage and Sibbald's History of Fife, held various high offices in the State. A younger branch of this family was ennobled, in the reign of Charles II., by the title of Lord Nairne, which was forfeited at the Rebellion in 1745, and restored during the reign of George the Fourth. The estate of St Fort, along with several other lands belonging to the family of Nairne, was sold at the beginning of the last century; and since that time all the lands in the parish have frequently changed owners, with the exception of the small property of Morton, which has continued in the same family for a long period.

Antiquities. There are several cairns or tumuli, composed of small stones, in conspicuous situations of the parish, but they have not been thoroughly explored. A few urns of rude workmanship were found, a few years ago, in cutting the public road at Newport. They were injured by the workmen, and their contents, if they had any, were not ascertained. It is not improbable that a proper examination of these cairns might bring to light some interesting relics, in reference to the contests between the Danes and Picts near the entrance of the Tay.

Parochial Registers. The parochial registers do not extend farther back than 1701.

Modern Buildings. On the estate of St Fort, there has been recently erected a very spacious and handsome house in the Elizabethan form of architecture. The mansion house of Tayfield, several years ago, received large additions, in a similar character of building, so as to present the appearance of an entirely new structure, and from its delightful situation on the banks of the Tay, it commands a very extensive and beautiful view of the river and country to the west.


The population amounted in 1753 to 751; in 1793 to 875; By the Parliamentary census for 1801 it was 916; in 1811 it was 898; in 1821 - 937; in 1831 - 1090.
This increase of population in the parish is obviously caused by its contiguity to, and ready communication with, the town of Dundee, and it is highly probable that the thriving village of Newport will ere long become a large and populous town.
The village population is somewhat more than 600. Total number of families, 205. Of which employed in agriculture nearly 90. From 40 to 50 are artisans or connected with trade, and not more than 10 are engaged in seafaring occupations.
The yearly average of births for the last seven years was 23; deaths 22; marriages 7.

Character of the People. The parishioners are in general quiet and orderly in their deportment. Their houses are for the most part clean and well kept - while some of the cottages are distinguished for their neat and tasteful appearance.


The parish contains about 5000 acres, nearly 4000 of which are under cultivation. Of unarable land there are about 250; plantations 360; grass parks 370.

Plantations. Since the last Statistical Account, there has been a great increase to the plantations on the estates of St Fort and Tayfield. There is still, however, a considerable extent of rocky and hilly ground that might be planted with great advantage. The trees are chiefly of the fir tribe - but the soil is well adapted for the growth of such hard wood as the oak, ash, chestnut and beech. There are several old trees at St Fort and Newton. In regard to size, there are none deserving of notice, with the exception of three yews in the garden at Kirkton, which probably are not to be equalled by any in Scotland. The management in regard to thinning and pruning is excellent.

Rent of Land. The annual rent of land in the parish is from L. 1 to L. 3 per acre. Some near the Tay, from its local advantages, is let at L. 4 per Scotch acre. The general average is about L. 1, 15s. The rent of grazing is L. 2, 10s. per ox or cow, and 10s. per ewe.

Rate of Wages. Labourers earn from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 8d. per day, and have almost constant employment. Masons, carpenters, and other handicraft receive from 14s. to 18s. per week. The wages of ploughmen, paid partly in money and grain, vary from L. 20 to L. 28 per annum, a number of the farm-servants being allowed to keep cows.
The prices of all produce are regulated by the Dundee, Cupar, and St Andrews markets, where it is sold. In general, they are not so high as those obtained at Kirkcaldy, where there is a stock market, although the grain grown in the north of Fife is of excellent quality.

Husbandry. The tenants in this parish are distinguished by their intelligence, enterprise, and skill. They readily and spiritedly avail themselves of any improvements that may be introduced into the methods of cultivating the land, or of improving the breed of cattle. The system of husbandry pursued is the rotation of five and six years.*
The breeds of cattle most encouraged are the Fife, Angus, Ayrshire, and Teeswater. For the last of these the pasture is not considered to be very suitable. The sheep are of the Leicester and Cheviot breeds.
The general duration of leases is nineteen years, and from the respectability of the farmers, it may be inferred that these are favourable to the occupier.
The state of the farm-buildings is in general excellent. Some of the steadings have been rebuilt, improved, and enlarged within these few years. A number of inclosures, chiefly of stone and lime walls, have been made of late years by Mr Berry of Tayfield, upon whose property there are also several fields enclosed by hedge and ditch. On the estate of St Fort, there are also a number of enclosures. But there is still a considerable deficiency in this respect throughout the parish.
* The sheep husbandry has been carried on to considerable advantage by some of the farmers for improving their light lands, particularly on the farms of Kirkton and Newton.

Quarries. The quarries in the parish are all whinstone. They are wrought for building houses and enclosures. The freestone is brought either from Angus, or from the quarries on the south of the river Eden, a distance of about nine miles. The lime is also brought by sea, or carted from the lime hills at a still greater distance than the freestone.

Fisheries. There are several salmon fisheries in the parish. They are carried on by net and coble, a mode of fishing which is found to be very ineffectual in estuaries, so that the rents are of small amount, probably not exceeding L. 150 yearly. About the year 1797, stake-nets were introduced into the Frith, when in one season 7000 salmon were caught with a single net, a quantity nearly equal to a fourth part of the previous produce of the whole Frith and river. This immediately alarmed the proprietors of fisheries in the upper parts of the Tay, who had previously enjoyed a monopoly of the trade, and they accordingly brought an action before the Supreme Court, to have the new mode of fishing put down. This they accomplished after a litigation which lasted till the year 1812, when it was decided that the use of stake-nets in friths and estuaries fell under the prohibition of certain Scotch statutes. It is much to be regretted that a question involving so deeply the interests of those concerned should have been determined not according to the merits of the particular mode of fishing, (as was distinctly admitted both in the Court of Session and in the House of Lords,) but according to the construction put upon certain statutory words in the interpretation of the ancient laws regarding fisheries. In these circumstances, it is remarkable, that hitherto no united efforts have been made by the proprietors along the estuary of the Tay, (in conjunction with others similarly situated,) to bring their case in reference to their fisheries before the Legislature, and so to have it ascertained - not what was the law at a remote period, when the subject was little attended to, and but imperfectly understood, but what ought to be the law for carrying on these fisheries in a way that would at once secure the rights of private parties, and confer the largest amount of benefit on the public. From the evidence that was given before a Committee of the House of Commons, in the years 1824 and 1825, it appears that chiefly in the months of August, September, and October, the salmon ascend the frith for the purpose of spawning in the river, and that they keep the deep water of the mid channel as they pass through the estuary. They descend in the months of February, March, and April, when the kelts or spent fish with the fry keep in deep water; the clean fish roaming at large throughout the shallow and deep water.
The salmon that are caught are either sent to Dundee, or packed in ice, and exported by the Dundee steam ships to the London market.
It may be remarked, that, about thirty years ago, a large shoal of herrings made its appearance, in the winter season, opposite to Newport, which employed a number of boats and other vessels during its continuance; but there has not been any shoal known in the Tay since that time.

Produce. The average yearly value of raw produce raised in the parish after deduction for seed, &c. is nearly as follows:
Produce of grain, L. 10,360
Potatoes and turnips, 3,900
Hay, 630
Pasture, 1,250
Thinning and felling of woods, 200
Fisheries, 150
Total L. 16,490

Manufactures. There is some weaving in the parish, chiefly of the fabric suited to the Dundee manufacture of coarse linen, &c . The number of individuals thus employed does not exceed 20.


The nearest market-town is Dundee, which is only separated from the parish by the Tay. Cupar, which is also a market-town, is distant about eleven miles. Both of them are frequented by the farmers, weekly, for the sale of produce.
The parish enjoys the benefit of a ready communication with other parts of the country both by land and water carriage. There is a post-office at Newport, and there are two daily coaches communicating with Edinburgh, besides a daily mail-coach lately established. Roads. The principal turnpike road betwixt Edinburgh and the north-east of Scotland, by the ferry at Newport, runs through the parish for about two miles and a half. The other roads are, 1. the old turnpike to Woodhaven, the length of which within the parish is about three miles; 2. another turnpike road, which joins it about one mile and a half from Woodhaven, leading by Kilmany to New Inn, length within the parish two miles and a half. 3. the turnpike road from Cupar to Ferry-port-on-Craig, length about a mile; 4. a turnpike road made a few years ago betwixt Ferry-port-on-Craig and Newport, length in parish one mile and a half; and, 5. a road of communication betwixt Newport and Woodhaven, length one mile. There are also two parish or statute labour roads connecting the principal or turnpike roads. These are maintained in good order, particularly the great road which intersects the parish into nearly equal parts, and which is always in the best condition.

Ferries. Till the year 1822, there had been, from time immemorial, two public ferries in the parish communicating with Dundee across the Tay, viz. one at Woodhaven, and another at Newport, about a mile farther east. These ferries were supplied by sail boats of a small and inconvenient description.
About the year 1790, a new turnpike road was made to the ferry of Woodhaven, which, therefore, became for some time the principal ferry, and commanded the greatest resort of passengers, &c. But about the year 1806, by the exertions of the late Mr Berry and his son, the present proprietor of Tayfield, another turnpike road was made communicating with that betwixt Woodhaven and Cupar, at a point distant about four miles from Newport. In consequence of this and of the communication with Dundee by Newport being shorter and more convenient, the thoroughfare began gradually to change, so as at length to make Newport the principal place of resort for those travelling to the north-east. In the year 1807, the attention of the counties of Fife and Forfar was directed to the risk and inconvenience connected with the Ferry across the Tay. At that period, there were 25 boats on the passage, manned by upwards of 100 men and boys. But these boats and crews were found to be alike unsuitable for the safety and accommodation of the public; and as upon investigation it was found that the ferry produced a revenue adequate, not only for the maintenance of a better system, but for providing funds for the erection of suitable piers and landing-places adapted to all states of the tide, an Act of Parliament was obtained in 1819, constituting the Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of Supply in the two counties of Fife and Forfar, with some official persons, trustees for erection of piers, and otherwise improving and regulating the ferry.
Soon after this act had been obtained, the trustees were induced to direct their attention to the advantage of substituting a steam-boat in place of the numerous sail-boats by which the ferry had been previously maintained, and, after careful inquiries, they decided upon making the experiment with a double or twin steam-boat, such as had been in use on the American rivers, and also at Hamburgh, and on the Mersey, near Liverpool. A vessel of this description was accordingly built under their direction, at an expense of betwixt L. 4000 and L. 5000, and placed on the ferry about the end of the year 1821. This vessel was made to ply alternately from Dundee to Woodhaven and Newport, but, as this place was found to be very inconvenient for passengers, it was resolved, in July 1822, that the boat should call at Newport only. In consequence of this arrangement, a great advantage immediately arose to the public, and the intercourse rapidly increased; but as the trustees were bound to maintain a separate ferry at Woodhaven, a new Act of Parliament was applied for and obtained in 1822, by which the trustees were authorized to substitute one landing-place, and to erect piers at Newport and Dundee, for the purposes of the ferry. Very complete ferry harbours were accordingly erected at these places, and an additional double or twin steam-boat was procured. So that from having been, as it was at the date of the last Statistical Account of the parish, one of the worst and most dangerous, it now ranks among the safest, most expeditious, and convenient ferries in the kingdom. Besides the steam-boat, which during the day affords a passage hourly from each side, there are kept a large sail-boat and a pinnace and yawl, with crews at each station ready for the accommodation of the public, when required.
About two years ago, the trustees found it expedient to let the ferry for five years, and it is now maintained by the lessees, who have since placed upon it a single steam-boat of sixty horse power, which is a greater steam force than those formerly in use. The lessees, besides maintaining the ferry in terms of the regulations of the trustees, are bound to pay a rent of L. 2200 a year, out of which, interest at 3 per cent, is paid on the large debt of L. 40,000 incurred in the ferry improvements. The remainder of the rent goes towards the extinction of the debt.

For the year ending 31st December 1834, being the year previous to that on which the ferry was let, the following is an abstract of the number of passengers, cattle, horses, &c., which were conveyed across the ferry :
Passengers, 86,607
Four-wheeled carriages, 268
Gigs, 578
Horses, 3,794 Carts, 3,727
Cattle, 4,598
Sheep and lambs, 11,911
Carts of goods, 2,798
Barrels bulk of goods, 3,375

The following is the state of the revenue for each month of the same year:
January, L. 324.12.4
February, 315.8.0
March, 350.12.11
April, 383.8.9
May, 418.16.11
June, 470.0.0
July, 481.15.9
August, 520.9.2
September, 448.5.0
October, 442.9.0
November, 364.6.4
December, 324.1.3
Making a total amount of L. 4844 5s. 5d.
It may be important to observe, in regard to the above statement, as illustrating the beneficial results of affording good accommodation to the public, that since the improvements of a steamboat and low-water piers were introduced, the number of passengers has been increased by about 20,000, and the amount of revenue has been very nearly doubled.

Harbours. The harbours of Woodhaven and Newport are the private properties of Mr Stewart of St Fort, and Mr Berry of Tayfield. They can accommodate vessels of from 100 to 150 tons burden, and are kept in good order. They answer the purposes of exporting the produce of the neighbouring country, and of importing lime, coal, and other necessaries. The ferry harbour at Newport, which is the property of the ferry trustees, is a splendid erection. It is 350 feet long, and 60 wide, with a carriageway on each side, and with a depth of five feet water at low water of spring tides. This work was designed by the late Sir Thomas Telford.

Ecclesiastical State. The church is situated in a most beautiful and sequestered spot - but being at the south-east extremity of the parish, it is very inconvenient for the population in general, and particularly for those resident in the villages along the banks of the Tay, from whom it is distant from three to four miles. The date of its erection is not known. It formed one of the priory kirks belonging to St Andrews, and was built, according to tradition, in its present site, for the special accommodation of a wealthy lady resident in the adjoining mansion-house of Kirkton, who contributed largely of her substance for that purpose. It received a thorough repair in the year 1770, and was reseated at the commencement of the present century. It is seated for about 350, so that the extent of church accommodation is greatly under what is required for the population. During the last year, the heritors have contemplated the erection of a new church in a more central situation. And although some difficulty has been experienced in determining the site that would prove most advantageous for the parishioners, it is to be hoped, that this inestimable boon will not be long withheld, as it is at present impossible for the aged, the infirm, and the young to enjoy the benefits of religious instruction in the parish church.
There is a meeting house near Newport in connection with the Independents. The number of families belonging to it is about 10, and the clergyman is an individual who is highly respected for his personal piety, and his anxious endeavours to benefit the neighbourhood in which he resides.
The manse, which is in good condition, was built in 1803. The stipend is 15 chalders and 6 bolls of meal and barley in equal proportions. The glebe contains upwards of 9 acres.

Education. There are two schools in the parish. The parochial teacher's salary is the maximum, and the branches taught are English, writing, arithmetic, geography, practical mathematics, Latin, and French. The number of scholars is about 120, and the fees, varying from 2s. 6d. to 5s. per quarter, amount to L. 24 per annum.
A new school-house was erected by the heritors, about ten years ago, in a central part of the parish, in consequence of which the attendance has greatly increased. And an excellent dwelling house for the schoolmaster, with a suitable garden attached to it, has this year been built adjoining the school-house.
The other school is kept by two females, and is attended by about 30 very young children, who are instructed in some of the elementary branches of education.

Poor. The average number of regular paupers is from 4 to 6, who receive a weekly allowance of 1s., 1s. 6d., or 2s. There are from 12 to 15 more, who obtain occasional relief in money, and regular supplies of meal and coals. The church-door collections have hitherto been sufficient for defraying these expenses. But, for several years, a heavy charge has been incurred for the support of two lunatics, who are boarded in the Dundee asylum. There is also a fatuous young man, for whose maintenance a yearly allowance is given from the session funds.

Inns. There are two inns and four ale-houses in the parish.

Fuel. The only fuel used is coal, which is brought chiefly by sea, although tenants and cottars cart it occasionally from the Fife coal hills, about ten miles distant. The prices of that which is sea-borne is from 4s. to 5s. per bushel.


The more striking differences betwixt the present state of the parish and that which existed at the time when the last Statistical Account was published, consist in the improvements that have been made in agriculture, which have been such as greatly to increase the produce, and to improve the appearance of the lands; in the improved state of the roads, some of which, particularly the present great road to Newport, were at that time nearly impassable; in the important changes that have taken place in regard to the Dundee Ferry; in the large increase that has been made to the village of Newport; in the reclaiming and cultivation of much waste land; and in the plantations that have been made on the estates of St Fort and Tayfield.
By the number and excellent condition of the roads, and the ready means of communicating with other parts of the county, every obstacle to the farther improvement of the district has been removed; and from the character of the present proprietors and tenants, there can be no doubt that these advantages will be made available for advancing the prosperity of the parish, and promoting the welfare of its inhabitants.

January 1838.

Original at The Statistical Accounts of Scotland and Google Books


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