As an author with a keen interest in Scottish history, Fife man Leonard Low often finds a lot of his source material from original manuscripts, diaries and vellum documents dating back centuries.
In the past, he has uncovered original manuscripts for the Barony of Kilconquhar 1591, Carlowrie Castle 1590 in Edinburgh and many letters concerning the Lindsay family from the 17th century.
What’s important to him is deciphering the documents and getting them back to the right people.
So when St Monans-born Mrs Fay Will, who lives in Leven, approached him a few months ago with an old document she had preserved for many years, Leonard was keen to get to the bottom of its significance then find it an appropriate home.
The document had been gifted to Mrs Will by a friend simply because she was from St Monans.
However, it turned out to be a copy of a highly significant document as it was the St Monans Harbour charter from October 28, 1622.
“I examined the document which was written from the now ruined Newark Castle by the Sandiland family in 1622,” explained Leonard.
“The document is a declaration of making St Monans harbour a freehold. This was a very generous gift from the Sandiland lords.”
Quoting from the document, Leonard explains how it declares the right ‘To create a free Burgh and Barony and the Port as haven there of in a free port as confirmed by the Archbishop of St Andrews (Spottiswood) the immediate superiors of this town lands and tennantrie”.
With this gift comes the promise of a Tollbooth and Town house jail to be built – “the upbigging of a Tollbooth and Common House for the administration of justice”.
The document also mentions several locals as keeping yards and pubs in the village, including names still found in the area to this day.
“Thomas Brown, Grizzel Millar (tavern keeper) William Rollo (Smith), Jamer Rining and Anabel Martine” are mentioned, and we also learn from this document that the fishing fleet was trading as far as Shetland and Orkney.
“The suggestion I had was that the manuscript belonged in the small museum the village has,” said Leonard.
“Billy took interest immediately and informed the right people. The manuscript was examined, and the council agreed it should be taken by them.
“Mrs Fay Will agreed the document deserved to be with St Monans – her birthplace.
“So, a document missing for 400 years, has now made its way finally back home to St Monans where it truly belongs.
“With this return Bill Morris is suggesting to the council to make some celebration next year of the document and with the date being 2022, which will be exactly 400 years after this document’s creation and the freedom of St Monans harbour being granted.”