The recording of Peter Burman's talk 'Stories of remembrance' is now available to view.

Falkland and its People 1901–1913

A review by Bill Pagan

Falkland is a unique Scottish town, and this book pays tribute to it, and to its families.. It is a substantial work, the fruit of considerable research, which paints a fascinating picture of the Royal Burgh, in the years leading up to the First World War. It is difficult to read about Falkland’s menfolk during these years without wondering what would happen to them during that terrible conflict.

Sadly, the book records the deaths in the war of several of the characters, high-born and low-born, who catch the reader’s attention. Falkland had a proud military tradition, with its well-used Drill Hall long before Lord Haldane’s Reserve Forces Act of 1908 established the Territorial Army.

At first, the reader may wonder whether the book will turn out to be a list of events, a mere town diary, but it quickly develops into a fascinating narrative, as one stores in memory the gallery of people, events and places which recur – such as the Lawson boys and their frequent visits to justice, followed by their inevitable birchings, ordered by regretful and sympathetic authority, with the encouragement of despairing parents.

Finishing as it does in 1913, the book cannot describe the wholesale social changes which the war brought to Falkland as elsewhere. The reader knows, however, that the book speaks of a bygone age. It is said of Covid-19 that the longer it goes on the less the future will look like the past, and that will have been as true of the years which followed the period covered by this book. After the war, a selected milk cow, the pick of the herd, would not be allocated to provide the needs of the laird’s new-born, as is described here.

In light of renewed interest in the reign of King James V, his imprisonment when young at Falkland, and the later progresses of his Royal Court to Falkland, it is particularly appropriate to read of the 1910 New Year celebrations by extravagantly dressed members of Fife’s wealthy families in historical tableaux. It must have been watched over by the sixteenth century Sir David Lindsay of Cupar, who was tutor, then courtier, then Lord Lyon to James V, still revered for his Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, whose characters, like those in the political tableau performed in Falkland in 1908, rejoiced in descriptive titles such as “Prosperity”.