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Glimpses of the Past

Earlier posts on our Facebook page have shown some of the pottery finds from the beach beside Bathing House Wood, but Blair and his family’s walks along the shore continue to uncover more examples of the past of this part of Dalgety Bay. 



All of the items appear to have spent some time rolling around in the sea and some, as shown by the Forth Royal Garrison Artillery Crest, originate from the crockery used by the soldiers stationed in and around that piece of woodland during the First World War.  This is probably also the source of the fragment with the maker’s mark and a date.



Other pieces indicate a greater age and probably represent discarded broken pottery from the time of the “Big House”.  Before 1858, when the main building of Donibristle House was destroyed by fire, there would have been meals to prepare and serve when the Morays were in residence, and these may well have included picnic parties in the Summer House shown on the 6 inch OS map of 1856 located by the shore just inside Bathing House Wood.  In addition, at the NE end of Donibristle Bay, the same map marks an “Old Harbour” tucked into the headland, so there would also have been some small craft using the bay at that time.  Broken and discarded pottery could have come from any or all of these sources, and some of the blue and white glazed ware looks old enough to date from before the mid-1800s.

As well as the simple patterned wares, this piece is more intriguing, with the rear of a horse in front of a distant equestrian statue.  In this year of rememberance of the battle of Waterloo, it would be nice to think this was part of an old Waterloo commemoration plate.

Tastes in drinks are revealed by the local ginger beer bottles, this one from Kirkaldy; the glass coffee & chicory essence bottle from Symington of Edinburgh; and the glass seal of Simon Rynbende & Zonen of Schiedam which comes from a 19th Century gin bottle shipped from that original home of gin, The Netherlands.

Fragments also occur of that remind us of that other way of relaxing and passing the time; smoking tobacco.  Before the advent of cigarettes, simple clay pipes were commonly used.  This one still has decoration visible on the side of the bowl.

Perhaps most interesting is a find that has all the appearance of a flint scrapper.  It is certainly the right shape and size, and fits well into the hand, and it does not appear to be a rock type of the immediate area.  Whether it is of flint itself is unclear as it looks too porous.  Its appearances may however have changed as a consequence of long immersion in the waters of the Forth, and not all stone tools were made of flint.  If it is a stone tool it would have been in use during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods which would make it around 3 to 4,000 years old.  This may however all be just wishful thinking and it may be no more than a piece of stone included among the coal used by a passing steam ship.

It is hoped that some of the finds shown here, and the many others in Blair’s collection, could eventually be transferred to a local school or museum so that they can be kept for future generations to see.



While I am sure that experts in the field of identifying pottery shards and other items would be able to say much more about them; their likely ages; where they were made; and what they might have been used for, this brief examination of some of the finds is a reminder that people have been living, working and relaxing in this area for very many years before the advent of the massed housing that is now “Dalgety Bay”.


Dick Alderson

5 October 2015

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