The village of Blebocraigs, Fife (click to enlarge)
About Blebo Craigs
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(Extracted from A Short History of Kemback Parish by Maurice Milne, Session Clerk at Kemback Parish Church)

Blebo Craigs Main Street (circa 1917 & 2001)

Vast deposits of sandstone are to be found in Kemback Hill. Because of its silicon content it was easy to hew and dress and had the added quality of taking a fine polish. Consequently it was in great demand by builders and a thriving industry developed with Blebo Craigs as its centre.
A 100 acres of the lands of Blebo were feued in lots of 2 - 15 acres and nearly all reclaimed from unproductive heath. The cottages built thereon - 20 initially - housed quarrymen and tradesmen. The land was cropped, mostly to feed horses which were used in considerable numbers to convey stone downhill to St. Andrews and throughout the countryside.
Cows were kept for milk and every cottager throughout the parish kept a pig for his own use. There was a cartwright and a blacksmith. A tailor, whose descendants are still with us, had a wide clientele and travelled the district by pony and trap. Market gardens were later cultivated as it virtually became a self-contained community.
One has only to follow the tracks through Kemback Wood to see the extent of workings and to obtain some idea of the great quantity of stone which has been removed - and the toil of both man and beast which it must have occasioned.
The quarries are of two types - one where everything in front, above and to the sides was removed as quarrying progressed - and the other where tunnels were driven deep into the hillside with columns of stone left to support the roof. You would find these most impressive, but be warned - these old workings, long since abandoned, are dangerous.


Blebo belonged to the Earl of Douglas in the time of David II's minority. The Trail family settled here in the 14th. century. One of its most distinguished members, Doctor of Civil and Canon Law, Walter Trail, was Bishop of St. Andrews from 1380-1401. He was appointed by Pope Clement VII whose throne was at Avignon and who is quoted as saying that 'Walter was an honour to the place and not the place to him'. Numerous branches have come from the family - such as Dr. Thomas Trail, Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at Edinburgh, editor of one of the editions of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica and Robert Trail, minister of Greyfriars, Edinburgh. Three generations of his descendants were ministers of Panbride in Angus, to which charge a minister of Kemback was translated in 1979.
In 1649 Blebo was purchased by Andrew Bethune, one of the Bethunes of Balfour. Two sons of the house of Balfour had been Archbishops of St. Andrews - James and his nephew David, the notorious persecutor of WIshart and who was himself murdered in 1546. General Alexander Bethune, an illustrious soldier member of the family, is buried at Kemback.
The present mansion was built by the Bethunes - pronounced Beaton - in the 18th. century to replace the original house at Blebo Hole. The estate remained with the family until 1900 when the Bethunes moved to Mountquhanie and it was bought by the late William Low, founder of the grocery chain, who extended the house and completely renovated the interior. In 1951 the late Miss Janet Low sold the estate and moved to 46 South Street, St. Andrews, the residence at one time of Cardinal Beaton, the murdered Archbishop. In 1958 the house and policies were bought by the Orr family since when it has passed to the Myers.
While still on Blebo, in 1722 on the lands of Myreton, now Blebo Mains, owned by the Bethunes, a quantity of lead ore was found on the surface. Mining began and although a vein was discovered, the hardness of the rock and the expense of blasting caused the enterprise to be abandoned. Some time later, more lead ore was discovered, quite by accident, about half a mile to the west. A vein of pure metal and, it is said, some silver was also discovered. Much annoyance was occasioned by water and this project too was abandoned.


Neither Leighton nor Millar, from whom much of this history is obtained, include Clatto in their histories of Fife. All I know has been gleaned from reading 'Fifty Years with John Company', a biography by Ursula Low, from letters of her grandfather, General Sir John Low, a soldier and diplomat of the East India Company and so much a part of the British Raj in India. Closely associated with two Governors General, Lord Dalhousie and Lord Canning, his letters not only show the self-sacrifice of these great men but the integrity and strength of character of John Low himself. He died in 1880 aged 91 and is buried at Kemback. The memorial tablet in the church refers to his younger brothers family.
His sister Susan, wife of General Foulis of Cairnie Lodge, was not only a close mend of Dr. Thomas Chalmers, founder of the Free Church, but also a follower and did a deal of proselytising for the cause. Another sister Maria married General Alexander Bethune of Blebo.
They were a remarkable family, connected through marriage to such literary greats as William Shakespeare and William Makepeace Thackeray. Sir John Low's aunt Maria married Sir William Fettes, founder of Fettes College.
From the Lows, who are not connected, as far as is known, to the Blebo Lows, Clatto passed to the Curries, shipping people, to the Mackenzies, then to the Sibbalds and now the Frasers.

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