A History Within Itself

                                  Clan MacDuff

This very interesting information prepared for those that want to delve into a serious study of the Weems family roots. I commend it to you. I am not sure who MAHAR is but his scholarship is excellent.

               Dr. John E. Weems

Although the MacDuffs Earls of Fife have always played a prominent part in Scottish affairs, the MacDuff family is not conspicious in the more recent periods of clan history. Tradition says that the MacDuff who opposed Macbeth and assisted Malcolm to the throne of Scotland, was the 1st Earl of Fife. The MacDuffs enjoyed the privilege of crowning the King and of leading the Scottish army. The old Earldom of Fife became extinct in 1353 on the death of the 12th Earl, Duncan but in the following centuries, seperate families of Duffs and MacDuffs featured prominently. In 1759 William Duff, Lord Braco was created Earl of Fife in the Irish peerage of Great Britain as Baron Fife. The Earls of Fife built Duff House, Banff and founded the town of Dufftown in 1817 having a barony from MacDuff on the Moray Firth. Alexander born in 1849 was Duke of Fife and Earl of Macduff and became Lord Lieutenant of the county of London.He married the daughter of King Edward VII, Princess Alexandra Victoria in 1889. He was succeeded by his daughter who married Prince Arthur of Connaught in 1912. In north-east Fife near Newburgh there is the cross of MacDuff where according to ancient tradition sanctuary could be claimed by any kinsman of the MacDuffs.
Another account of the Clan

BADGE: Lus nam braoileag (vaccineum vitis idea) red whortle berry.

PIDROCH: Cu ‘a Mhic Dhu.

ANDRO of Wyntoun, in his famous chronicle, tells the story of the circumstances in which the early chief of this clan rose to note and power. It was in the middle of the eleventh century, when Macbeth, one of the greatest Scottish kings, afterwards to be so sadly defamed by Shakespeare, was in the seventeenth year of his reign. Macbeth, like the later James I., had made "the key keep the castle, and the bush the cow " throughout Scotland. As Wyntoun put it,

All hys tyme wes gret plente
Abowndand bath in land and se.
He wes in justice ryclit lawchfull,
And till hys legis all awiull.


A New look at MacBeth

As was to happen afterwards in the case of James I., however, Macbeth’s strictness of rule and justice of government made him many enemies among the nobles of his realm, who found themselves subject to law equally with the humblest peasant. In the end it was the king’s insistence on fair play which brought about his downfall.

 A New Look at MacDuff

The chronicler tells how Macbeth was building his great new castle, of which the traces are still to be seen, on the little mount of Dunsinnan in the Sidlaws. For this work of national importance the lieges had to furnish teams and working parties. As he watched the building, Macbeth one day saw one of the teams of oxen engaged in drawing timber fail at its work. On inquiry he was told that the inferior oxen had been furnished by Macduff, Thane of Fife, and with indignation he threatened to put the Thane’s Own neck into the yoke and make him draw. Macduff knew that the king was apt to be as good as his word, and he forthwith fled.

He went first to his castle of Kennachy, then took boat across the Fifth of Forth from the spot still known from that circumstance as Earlsferry. At Kennachy his wife, who seems to have been of stouter heart than her husband, kept the pursuing king in treaty till she saw Macduff’s boat safely reach the middle of the Firth. From this occurrence arose the rule down to a recent period that any fugitive taking boat at Earlsferry was protected from pursuit till he had made his way halfway across the Firth.

Macduff fled to the court of Siward, Earl of Northumbria, where he represented to Macbeth’s cousins, sons of the late Duncan, King of Scots, that the time was ripe for them to secure possession of their father’s throne. Duncan’s legitimate sons held back, knowing that they were Macbeth’s natural heirs, who must shortly succeed to the crown without effort. But an illegitimate prince, Malcolm, son of King Duncan and the miller’s daughter at Forteviot, saw his opportunity, and seized it.

All the world knows how, helped by Siward and guided by Macduff, he invaded Scotland, drove Macbeth from Dunsinnan to Lumphanan on Deeside, and finally slew him there. Afterwards, Malcolm III. being firmly seated on his throne, Macduff asked, for his services, three special boons: first, that in all time coming his descendants should have the privilege at royal coronations of leading the king to the coronation chair; second, that, when the kings of Scots made war, the Thanes of Fife should have the honour of commanding the vanguard; and third, that if the Thane or his kindred to the ninth degree should slay a man he should be entitled to remission on payment of a fine, twenty-four merks for a gentleman and twelve for a yoeman, while if anyone slew a kinsman of the Thane he should be entitled to no such relief. As a result of this last boon, as late as 1421 three gentlemen in Fife who could claim kin with Macduff obtained a remission for the slaughter of Melville of Glenbervie upon payment of the stipulated fine.

A more famous occasion on which the Boon of Macduff came into play was at the coronation of King Robert the Bruce. Duncan, the Earl of Fife of that time, had married Mary de Monthermer, niece of Edward I. of England, and was upon the English side, acting as Governor of Perth. His sister Isabella, however, who had married John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, was an ardent Scottish patriot, and at Scone in 1306 exercised the right of her house, and brought the sanction of ancient usage to the ceremony, by leading Bruce to the place of coronation.

Both the Thane and his sister suffered from the contrasting parts they played. Falling into the hands of the English, the Countess of Buchan was imprisoned by Edward I. in a cage on the walls of Berwick, while Earl Duncan and his wife were captured by Bruce and imprisoned in the castle of Kildrummie in Aberdeenshire, where the Earl died in 1336.

Gilmichael, fourth Earl of Fife, who died in 1139, left two sons, of whom the elder, Duncan, carried on the line, while Hugo the younger, became ancestor of the house of Wemyss, which now probably represents the early thanes and earls of Fife.

Duncan, twelfth Earl of Fife, who was killed in 1353, was the last of the direct line of these early thanes. His daughter Isabella, who died without issue, conveyed the property and title of the earldom to the third son of King Robert II., who afterwards became notorious in Scottish history as the first Duke of Albany. During the Duke’s lifetime the title of Earl of Fife was borne by his son Murdoch, and upon the execution and forfeiture of this Murdoch, Duke of Albany, by his cousin James I. in 1425, the earldom at last became extinct.

MacDuff Crest

The name Duff is believed to be the Celtic Dubh, which was given as a descriptive name to any Highlander who might be dark-complexioned, like Sir Walter Scott’s famous character, Roderick Dhu. The numerous families of Duff, therefore, who afterwards appeared as respectable burgesses of Aberdeen and Inverness, may not all have been descended from the original stock of the Thanes of Fife.

The family of the name which was afterwards to attain most consequence had for its founder a certain Adam Duff, tenant in Cluny Beg. One of the two sons of this farmer, another Adam Duff, born about 1598, by his remarkable shrewdness and sagacity, laid the foundation of the future greatness of his house. In the wars of Montrose and the Covenanters, he took part on the Royalist side, and was fined in consequence; but he died between 1674 and 1677 in possession of considerable wealth. His eldest son, Alexander Duff, took advantage of the great depression which prevailed in the country just before the Union with England, and purchased the lands of many of the old lairds in Banffshire and Aberdeenshire.

Among the lands which he obtained on wadset or mortgage, and which the proprietors were never able to redeem, was Keithmore, a possession of the Huntly family, from which he took his designation as Alexander Duff of Keithmore. He also further advanced the family fortunes by marrying Helen, daughter of Grant of Ballentomb, ancestor of the lairds of Monymusk. This lady’s prudence and industry, not less than her wealth, went far to raise the fortunes of the family. The eldest son of the pair, again, Alexander Duff of Braco, continued to add to the family estates, which now included Aberlour, Keith-Grange, and Mortlach. At the time of the union he was Member of Parliament for Banffshire. He and his son, William Duff of Braco, were men of great importance in their district. Among other events in which they were concerned was the arrest in romantic circumstances of the cateran James MacPherson.

William Duff, however, died without surviving male issue, and the family estates passed to his uncle, another of the same name. This individual had already acquired immense wealth as a merchant in Inverness. According to Cosmo Innes, in Sketches of Early Scottish History, " he was a man of very general dealings—large and small. He could take charge of a commission for groceries, or advance the price of a barony, on good security.

He had formed extensive connections, and was the first man in the north who dealt in money on a large scale, and he laid the foundation of a very noble fortune." This highly successful merchant acquired large estates in Morayshire, including Dipple and Pluscardine, and was known as William Duff of Dipple. On the death of his nephew, William Duff of Braco, in 1718, the older family estates also, as already mentioned, came into his possession, and when he died himself in 1722 he left his eldest son the landed proprietor with the largest rent-roll in the north of Scotland £6,500 sterling all clear.

As a result that son, still another William Duff " of Braco and Dipple," was M.P. for Banffshire from 1727 to 1734. In the following year he was made Baron Braco of Kilbride in the peerage of Ireland, and twenty-four years later was raised to be Viscount Macduff and Earl Fife in that same peerage. He continued the policy of his family by purchasing further large estates in the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray, and managed all his possessions with much care and ability.

Two years after his father’s death he rebuilt the castle of Balveny, and between 1740 and 1745 he built the splendid mansion of Duff House at a cost of £70,000. During the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 he joined the Duke of Cumberland, and offered the Government his free services in any way that might be desired. By his first wife, a daughter of the Earl of Findlater and Seafield, he had no children, but he married again, a daughter of Grant of Grant, and two of his sons in succession inherited the earldom.

James, the elder of these, was Member of Parliament Successively for Banff and Elgin, and was made a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Fife in 1790. By careful purchase he nearly doubled the size of the family estates, and he changed the name of the town of Doune, where Duff House was situated, to Macduff, procuring for the place at the same time a royal charter as a burgh. He married the only child of the ninth Earl of Caithness, but died without male issue, when his peerage of the United Kingdom of course expired.

His brother Alexander, who succeeded as third Earl in 1809, married a daughter of Skene of Skene, and in consequence his son James, who became the fourth Earl, succeeded to the estates of Skene and Cariston in 1827. This Earl. distinguished himself during the Peninsular War. He volunteered his services, became a Major-General in the Spanish army fighting against Napoleon, and was twice wounded, at the battle of Talavera and at the storming of Fort Matagorda near Cadiz. In consequence, he was made a Knight of the Order of St. Ferdinand of Spain and of the Sword of Sweden.

He was also made a Knight of the Thistle and G.C.H., and in 1827 was made a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Fife. In private life he was notable as an art collector, and the towns of Elgin, Banff, and Macduff owed much to his generosity. He died, however, without issue, and was succeeded by James, son of his, brother, Sir Alexander Duff of Delgaty Castle, as fifth Earl. This Earl’s wife was a daughter of the seventeenth Earl of Errol and Lady Elizabeth Fitz Clarence, daughter of King William IV. He was Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire, and was made a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Skene in 1857 and a Knight of the Thistle in 1860.

The only son of this peer, who succeeded him in 1879, was Alexander William George, sixth Earl Fife, who was to be the last male of the more modern line. Before succeeding to the peerage he became Lord-Lieutenant of Elginshire, and he was M.P. for Elgin and Nairn from 1874. He was also Captain of the Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, and was a highly popular peer. The climax of the fortunes of his family was reached when in 1889 he married Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise, eldest daughter of the Prince of Wales, afterwards the late King Edward.

Already, in 1889, he had been created an Earl of the United Kingdom, and two days after his marriage he was made a Duke. In 1900, seeing he had no sons, he was further created Earl of Macduff and Duke of Fife, with special remainder to his first and other daughters by the Princess Louise, and their male issue, and in 1905 his wife received the title of the Princess Royal, while her daughters were ordained to bear the title of Princess and to rank immediately after all members of the Royal Family bearing the style of Royal Highness.

A great sensation was caused, when in 1912, the vessel in which the Duke and his Duchess, with their two daughters, were sailing to the east, was shipwrecked in the Mediterranean. None of the family was drowned, but the Duke’s health gave way, and he died shortly afterwards. He was succeeded in the honours and estates of the dukedom by his elder daughter, Her Highness the Princess Alexandra Victoria Duff, who in the following year married H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught. The ancient line of the Duffs, therefore, has now merged in a branch of the reigning house of these realms.

Among distinguished people of the name of Duff has been the famous Indian missionary and publicist, Alexander Duff, D.D., LL.D., Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church in 1851, and one of the framers of the constitution of Calcutta University, who founded the Missionary Chair in the New College, Edinburgh, and was the first missionary professor. During the Irish insurrection of 1798 it was General Sir James Duff, commander of the Limerick District, who rendered the important service of keeping Limerick quiet.

It was Robert Duff, who, as senior officer of a squadron in 1759, drew the French into the main body of the British fleet, and brought about the battle of Quiberon Bay. He became Commander-in-Chief in Newfoundland in 1775, and as Vice-Admiral co-operated at the siege of Gibraltar in 1779. And Sir Robert William Duff, who for a time bore the name of Abercrombie, was successively M .P. for Banffshire, a commander in the Navy, a member of the Liberal Government, a Privy Councillor, and was made G.C.M.G. and Governor of New South Wales in 1893.

Septs of Clan MacDuff: Duff, Fife, Fyfe, Spence, Spens, Wemyss.

Our thanks to James Pringle Weavers for the following information

MACDUFF (MacDhuibh) was the patronymic of the Celtic Earls of Fife who claimed a descent from DUBH, King of Scots 962-6. Between Dubh and the first recorded Earl fact has been obscured by fantasy, largely due to Shakespeare's 'MacBeth', wherein the Fife inheritance had more than a passing mention. Of Dubh's line the first recorded Earl was Abbot Ethelred of Dunkeld, son of King Malcolm III (Canmore) and Queen Margaret.

From their kinship to the Crown the Earls gained certain privileges thereafter known as the "Law of Clan MacDuff", and referred to in an Act of 1385. By these unwritten 'Laws' they held the right to inaugurate the King on the Stone of Destiny, of leading the Scottish army into battle, and rights of sanctuary at Cross MacDuff near Newburgh in Fife. In 1306, Robert Bruce was 'crowned' at Scone by Isabel, Countess of Buchan, sister of Duncan, the last MacDuff Earl of Fife, even though her husband, Comyn, was Bruce's mortal enemy.

In 1425 the Celtic Earldom of Fife passed to the crown. The name of Duff continued to thrive in lands more northerly than Fife, for numerous families became established and held considerable lands in Banffshire and throughout north-east Scotland. The Duffs in Banffshire assumed the representation of their race and, in time, the chiefship passed to William Duff (Lord Braco) who was created Earl of Fife and Viscount MacDuff in 1759.

This representation became dormant in 1912 with the death of Alexander, 6th Earl, who had become Duke of Fife in 1889 on marrying the Princess Louise, daughter of Edward VII. Earlier, in 1757, Lyon Court had recognised Wemyss of Wemyss as chief of MacDuff, he being the direct descendant of Gillemichael MacDuff in the 12th century. Clan MacDuff had been the premier clan of mediaeval Scotland, and the chieftains of their most prominent branch were hereditary Abbots or Lords of Abernethy. The chiefship is presently dormant the crest & mottoes given belong to Duff of Braco,the last identified chief.

Hope this is of some help.



The information below is contained elsewhere in this thesis but it is important information. I am confident no one is going to plumb the depths of this every growing document, consequently, I am including it here. Many thanks to the scholars that worked very hard to prepare it.




 Surname: Wemyss

Recorded as Wemyss, Weems and Wemes, this is an ancient and noble Scottish surname. It is locational or territorial from the estate known as "The lands of Wemyss" in the county of Fife, and according to certain sources the meaning of the surname is "The caves". What is certain is that it has been recorded since early medieval times, at the very begining of the creation of surnames, with Michael de Wemyss being a charter witness on behalf of the abbey of Arbroath in the year 1202.

             Map Of Wemyss Caves 


Sir David Wemyss was the ambassador to Norway in 1286, chosen it is said because he had some grasp on the language. However the family fell foul of King Edward 1st of England in 1306, when Sir Michael Wemyss chose to side with Robert, The Bruce, against the appointees of Edward, known as "The Interregnum Government". It seems that Sir Michael must have entered into an agreement previously with Edward 1st, which he felt compelled to break.


In the long term this does not seem to have done the nameholders any hard as by the 14th century the clan had achived nobility status being known as "Wemyss and all that Ilk". Alternative spellings of the surname made their varied appearance over the centuries including Weems and Weemes being recorded in 1597 whilst as Oysmes the name is recorded in the Scots Guards of the king of France in 1550.

© Copyright: Name Orgin Research www.surnamedb.com 1980 - 2007

                                Wemyss Surname Origin

(Locality). First assumed by the proprietors of the lands anciently called Wemyss-shire, in Fife-shire, Scotland, which contained all that tract of ground lying between the lower part of the waters of Ore, and the sea. These lands received their name from the great number of caves that are there, all along the sea-coast. A cave in the old Gaelic or Celtic, was called vumhs or wamh; from that these lands received the name of Vumhs-shire--Wemys-shire. The family of Wemyss derive their origin from the family of Macduff, Maormor of Fife, in the reign of Malcom Canmore. The lands now forming the parish of Wemyss, are said to have been part of the estate of Macduff, Shakespeare's well-known Thane of Fife.


(origin: Local) First assumed by the proprietors of the lands anciently called Wemyss-shire, in Fife-shire, Scotland, which contained all that tract of ground lying between the lower part of the waters of Ore, and the sea. These lands received their name from the great number of caves that are there, all along the sea-coast. A cave in the old Gaelic or Celtic, was called vumhs or wamh; from that these lands received the name of Vumhs-shire--Wemys-shire. The family of Wemyss derive their origin from the family of Macduff, Maormor of Fife, in the reign of Malcom Canmore. The lands now forming the parish of Wemyss, are said to have been part of the estate of Macduff, Shakespeare's well-known Thane of Fife.


                                    Last Name Origins

Researching surname origins, and the effort required to trace back even the most common surname, is quite a daunting task. Yet many genealogists have the expectation that the research has already been completed, while others believe there must be a simple formula. As complicated as it is to locate the true origin of a surname, knowing what country you should be tracing for your family surnames is an essential element of research.

     Quick History of Surnames

For thousands of years first (or given) names were the only designations people needed, as the world was much less crowded and every one knew their neighbors. Over time, it became increasingly difficult to distinguish individuals who lived relatively close to each other and possessed the same name.

While there are several different versions of when surnames were first given, it is generally agreed by most that the birth of the surname can be attributed to the Normans [the race, not the family]. In fact, the Domesday Book of 1086 (referred to in America as the Doomsday Book) was commissioned for the purpose of designating property ownership, thereby formalizing taxation, and is a fascinating study of early 11th century life and family heritage.

Shortly thereafter, surnames established themselves as part of the bearer's individuality; and as they were passed down from generation to generation, they became the symbol of a whole family and all that it stood for. As surnames were added to baptismal (or given) names, they began to make ones' identity more specific and helped distinguish family relationships.

                             Basic Construction of Surnames

Most surnames can be traced back to one of five groups: (1) formed from the given name of the sire (common in English-speaking countries); (2) arising from physical characteristics or dispositions; (3) derived from locality or place of residence; (4) derived from occupation (crafts and trades common during medieval times); or (5) invented for their pleasing sound, as a nickname, or simply out of necessity.

Over time, some countries developed specific rules, publishing "Naming Systems" for use in developing surnames. These systems, for example, promoted the use of suffixes like I, II, or III, which when used, the eldest son's name could be the same as that of the father. The Normans also introduced the Sr. and Jr. suffixes to distinguish father and son.

Regionally there are commonalties among the way heritable surnames were derived. The English terminated names with "son", "ing", and "kin", which are comparable to names prefixed with the Gaelic "Mac", the Norman "Fitz", the Irish "0", and the Welsh "ap". There are also German, Netherlands, Scandinavian, and other European surnames of similar formation, such as the Scandinavian names ending in "sen". In the Slavic countries, the "sky" and "ski" played the same role.

The Italians used a variety of prefixes for their naming practices. The prefix "di" (meaning "of") was often attached to an otherwise ordinary Christian name to form a patronym; "da" and "di" (meaning "from") often associated a place of origin; and "la" and "lo" (meaning "the") often derived from nicknames.

While these are examples of a structured approach to naming descendants, all too often other circumstances existed and our ancestors opted for (or were forced into) an alternate approach.

                            More Exceptions than Rules

It is important to keep an open mind when trying to determine a surname's origin for genealogical purposes. Specific individuals may have not known (or cared) about naming customs of their times. Or, in a variety of instances, they may have voluntarily (or not) accepted a change in their surname imposed by another party.

Surnames that seem to defy classification or explanation may be merely a corruption of ancient forms that have become disguised often beyond recognition. This may have resulted from ignorance of spelling, variations in pronunciation, or merely from personal preference. Some families even came to America without a fixed surname; and emigrants from continental Europe frequently translated or otherwise modified their names upon arrival.

If an eldest son assumed the given name of his father for a surname, as was the tradition in certain cultures, he would be designated as such in legal records. On his father's death, however, the son might revert back to his father's surname for the purpose of inheritance. It is possible to have multiple documents with the same name, but actually be different individuals.

Similarly, the terms "Senior" and "Junior" following a name did not necessarily imply a father and son relationship. It could have been an uncle and nephew who had the same name and lived near each other; a grandfather and a grandchild living together; or even two unrelated individuals with the same name but of different ages who lived near each other. In these cases, the suffix merely meant the older and the younger respectively.

                                         Final Thoughts

Fascination with surname origins is common among genealogists. Conversely, how to make the best use of that information is quite subjective. As with anything you discover while researching your roots, use the origin of your surname as a source of clues for where to look and what to be looking for. If your surname is based on a location, find out more about that place; an occupation, learn what those skills entailed (during the respective time period); an ancestor, see if you can trace the pattern, or physical attributes, look at old photos and see if anyone fits the description.


                                    A Brief Wemyss' History

                            submitted by Jock-the-Pom (Thankyou!)

From Dysart, near Kirkcaldy, drive along the A955 north. To the left is what is left of Frances Colliery and at the junction with the road to West Wemyss is the octagonal Bowhouse Toll built in 1800 and rebuilt in 1906.

The A955 skirts the castle and estate of Wemyss, belonging to the ancient Scottish family of the same name. The family and three villages take their name from the numerous large "weems," or caves, along the coastline: some of the caves still exhibit a variety of inscriptions from the prehistoric double disc symbols to the graffitti of unfolding ages. The caves were often used as hideaways for smugglers, outlaws and gypsies, and many have names, like King's Cave, where King James IV is deemed to have settled a dispute among a band of his robber subjects during one of his incognito journeys through Fife. The caves have suffered an incredible civic and public neglect over the years and have been repeatedly vandalised: now a Save the Caves Society has been launched to give them some sort of care and protection.

It was here too in 1610 that George Hay built Scotland's first glassmaking factory. Wemyss .incidentally, lends its name to that kind of pottery made in or near Kirkcaldy. Items of pottery were made by several factories, including Methven & Sons of Kirkcaldy and the Fife Pottery. One of the characteristics of Wemyss ware was its lavish floral decoration on toilet sets, mugs, vases etc.

The village of West Wemyss winds its way down to the shore of the Forth, and although it offers a maritime appearance, its people long depended on the coal industry. The village grew up around Wemyss Castle and is now a conservation area. Locals once referred to the 16th century port and village of West Wemyss as the "Haven Town of Wemyss" and were proud of its status as a burgh of barony, granted by King James IV in 1511. West Wemyss Tolbooth is of the 18th century, replacing the building erected "for the cribbing of vice and service to crown by David, 4th Earl of Wemyss [1628-1720]". The old Miners Institute[1927] is now the Belhaven Hotel [1979]

The earliest part of Wemyss Castle dates from the 14th century, but it has been added to and altered many times and is still the home of the Wemyss family today. It was at the old Castle of Wemyss that Mary, Queen of Scots, met Lord Darnley, who was soon to become her husband in 1566. St Adrians church below the castle along the shore was built by the Wemyss family in 1895 and it contains a rare example of a modern alter mural.

At West Wemyss is the southern outlet of Lochhead Tunnel which was used to transport coal [via a pulley system] to Coaltown of Wemyss and hence to Methil Dock. To the west of the village, past the tunnel's sealed entrance, lies the remains of St Mary's Chapel, a pre-Reformation church, now the burial place of the Wemyss family.

Coaltown of Wemyss is bisected by the A955 and takes its name from the old mining activity at the Bell pits. Originally, it was two villages, Easter and Wester, but when the miners distinctive cottages were expanded by the Wemyss Coal Co in 1860, the two villages were amalgamated as a "model mining village". The village also had a public house of the Gothenburg system, now known as the Earl David Hotel. The rounded houses are an interesting feature of the village.

The Wemyss School of Needlework was first established in 1877 at Wemyss Castle  by Lady Dorothy Wemyss and opened its present building in 1880. The School began as a charity and now repairs old tapestries and undertakes orders for embroidery.

East Wemyss was once called "Castleton" because of its nearness to MacDuff Castle. This was the original home of the Wemyss Family before they built Wemyss Castle  in the 14th century. It is believed that MacDuff Castle was the home of MacDuff, Thane of Fife, from whom the Erskines  of Wemyss claim descent. The term "thane" come from the old English "thegrian" which means "to serve".

East Wemyss is the home of the Wemyss Environmental Education Centre, an imaginative venture set up in 1977. The aim of the centre is to develop an interest in the environment and a concern for conservation and care: it has a large amount of interpretive material on local industry, people, history, flora and fauna.

The church of St Mary's-by-the-Sea at East Wemyss dates from the 12th century, but it was closed for worship in 1976 and is now a private house, although its graveyard is open to public access. The village once relied on the Michael Pit for its major employment. It was opened in 1898 by the Wemyss Coal Co. and closed in 1967.


                                                West Wemyss

The name Wemyss comes from the Gaelic “weems� for the sandstone caves that are common on this part of the coastline.This was a port established for the transport of coal from the close Lochgelly mines. It was the coal that made the Earls of Wemyss so wealthy. Although the port is no longer in existence the community retains the 18th C Tolbooth. Close by is Wemyss Castle (15th C) the more extensive and comfortable replacement to the now ruined MacDuff castle. It is said that it was in the Wemyss Castle that Queen Mary first met Darnley in 1565.

                                                East Wemyss

Perhaps best know for the Caves it is also the location of the ruined MacDuff Castle. Some of the caves are named, the Glass Cave where one of the earliest glassworks in the country was established, the Court Cave named after an encounter between James V and some gypsies and Well Cave just below the MacDuff Castle.

                                            MacDuff, Earl of Fife

The first Earldom of Fife is recorded in 1139.This title has passed from the Duncan line via Robert Stewart to eventually the Duffs of Braco. However the MacDuff name was associated with Duncan and this has been strenuously retained by the Duffs so that the eldest son of the Duke of Fife is now Earl of MacDuff.

                                           MacDuff Castle

This has been a ruin since the Restoration, although the 2nd Earl of Wemyss had already moved from the castle to the new Wemyss Castle prior to its demise. The castle was originally 14th C but what is seen today are the ruins of the 16th C additions. This started on land owned by the Wemyss and was associated with the "Thane of Fife" before passing into other ownership before it return to the 1st Earl.























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