Burgh of Monifieth

Over the centuries the name of this ancient settlement has changed many times, as has the various conclusions as to the possible reasons for the title. The registered coat of arms carries the feature of a stag’s head and a hill, signifying the combination of two Gaelic words, Monadh Feidh. However, I am more in favour of another two Gaelic words, Monaich fother, meaning Monks land, or Holy Place. Undoubtedly over the passage of time Monifieth has indeed been regarded as a historical holy place.

St Rules Parish Church has been a place of worship for Christians for well over 1400 years. The present Church standing on a site previously occupied by a Celtic or even Pictish religious community.

St Rule the Patron Saint of the Burgh reputedly a follower of Columba, allegedly brought the relics of the martyred St Andrew to Scotland from Patras in Greece. How long this hazardous journey lasted is unknown, some learned men have estimated several years.

The journey ended in shipwreck off the mouth of the river Tay, near Kilrymont, later becoming the place known throughout the World as the town of St Andrews. The journey of St Rule did not end there in Fife. St Rule set out again with the precious relics and his followers in search of the local ruler, Hungas, King of the Picts. After crossing the river at a ford near Forteviot in Perthshire, he met the King’s three sons, who were able to tell him that their father was on a mission of War against King Athelstane, King of the Saxons. Their mother, wife of Hungas, Queen Fichem was living at what was thought to be the home of her family Moneclatu, later to be known as Monichi. Translated as Monks house. Nearby this place was to be found a fortified stronghold of the Picts on Laws Hill. The treasured bones of St Andrew rested overnight at the home of Queen Fichem and later a Chapel was built to recognise the historic place. This was named Eglismonichty.

According to notable historians the story of St Rule is mythical, but both King Hungas and Queen Fichem were rulers of the Picts in mid eighth century. The bringing of the relics to Scotland has been attributed to the efforts of Bishop Acca of Hexam circa the year 732 AD. This would indicate that the story related rather to the Bishop, than Rule who came to Scotland with Columba in the fourth century to form the Columban or Celtic Church. Fearing persecution from the Pope and the Pictish King, the monks became hermits and recluses, who secretly carried out their good work in caring for the sick.

Communities of these Monks of the Celtic Church formed into communities of beehive type cells known later as Culdees. The name supposedly derived from the Irish, Ceile De, or Companion of God.

The Church of St Rule in Monifieth is built on what at one time in the past had been a centre of worship for the Companions of God and the Celtic Church of Columba. Several ancient Pictish and Celtic stones have been uncovered within the area of the Church and are now to be seen in the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh. Further evidence of the ancient past may be witnessed in the viewing today of Souterrains or Earth houses all within the Monifieth district.

The Culdees belonged to the Church of Monifieth until circa 1202 , when a charter signed by Malcolm, Earl of Angus (derivation of Hungas) , granting to Nicholas, son of Bryce,” preist of Kerriemure,” the heritage of the whole land of the Abthein or Abbey of Monifieth.

In 1242 in another charter, Matilda, his daughter granted the whole land to the south of the Church of Monifieth ” which the culdees held in the life of my father, with the entire croft to the east of the church, with common pasturage and rights of peats from these lands”.

Around 1310 Michael of Monifieth, Lord of Abathania, most probably a descendant of Nicholas agreed to pay the Abbot of Arbroath, dues on the croft & feu farm he held in Abthania.

Grange, an estate within the Parish boundaries of Monifieth was at one time the ‘home farm’ of Arbroath Abbey. As the Grangaria or place where the tiend sheaves or tithes, dues to the church, were delivered and deposited

Early in the fourteenth century the Grange became separated from Arbroath Abbey and was granted to Sir William Durham, by King Robert the Bruce for services rendered as a knight.

For nearly four hundred years the Grange remained in the possession of the Durham family.

Lady Jean Durham of Grange was a central figure in a historic incident connected with the parish when she organised and almost succeeded in the escape of the famous Marquis ofMontrose, who was lodged overnight at Grange house, on his journey to Edinburgh and execution.

Around the central Church many notable families built their residences or castles. The Maule family. Earls of Panmure, had a castle at Ardestie in Monifieth. The main residence the Castle of Panmure was in a ruinous condition and in 1648 bought land to build a new family residence. National troubles delayed the building of Panmure House until after l666. Work was not completed until sometime between the death of George the second Earl, who died in 1686. These delays resulted in Ardestie Castle becoming the main family residence of the Maules for almost forty years.

James Earl of Panmure, was born at Ardestie Castle. James was a staunch Jacobite and for his devotion to ‘the cause’ at the battle of Sherrifmuir lost his title and estates. Over the years small pendicles or crofts gradually appeared around the area of the Parish Church. This became known as Kirkton of Monifieth.

In the early eighteenth century the main industries included quarrying, weaving within the home and the start of manufacturing of linseed oil at a water powered mill by the Dighty burn, later named as Milton of Monifieth. Although Monifieth had no harbour a considerable amount of cargo from coastal vessels was off loaded on the sands at low tide and moved by horse drawn vehicles to nearby destinations. Salmon fishing was a very profitable trade at Milton of Monifieth. In 1825 the rent of the fishings was £15000 and as many as 729 fish were recorded as having been taken during a tide. Another popular past time in the area was smuggling of wines, spirits, candles and playing cards.

The nineteenth century and the industrial revolution changed Monifieth with the establishment of spinning works, two foundries producing machinery for export to India and other parts of the World. The industries resulted in the building of a rail link between Dundee and Arbroath, also links with the Dundee Forfar direct line.

With the need for skilled workers the population of Monifieth increased dramatically. Figures show:

in 1861 the Monifieth Village population at 558
in 1871 919
in 1881 1564
in 1891 1835
in 1901 2134

With the expansion of the jute industry and engineering works Monifieth also because of it’s reputed clean fresh air, driest climate in Scotland and wonderful scenery, became the place where the so called ‘jute barons & captains of industry, built many superb mansion houses for their main family residences.

In 1895 Monifieth was registered at Forfar Sheriff Court as a Burgh . No longer did it hold village status. With the formation of a Council and Officials, it progressed into the next century as a very desirable place to live. A tramway service was introduced in 1905, with cars journeying into Dundee City centre at regular intervals.

This service was welcomed by the many who travelled daily either from the Burgh into the City on business, or the many hundreds who commuted daily to work in the factories and foundries.

The apparent affluence of the Burgh prompted several attempts by the City Council of Dundee to annex Monifieth to within it’s city boundaries. In 1913 a petition signed by the residents was presented before Parliament in London and successfully retained Monifieth’s independence. However, government legislation in 1976 dictated that Dundee become responsible for the Burgh of Monifieth, with the abandoning of all Monifieth Municipal Services.

On 1st April 1996 due to further government intervention Monifieth residents found themselves under the jurisdiction of Angus Council.

Monifieth has had a very interesting past history and in several hundred years time what the then historians will highlight as the “best times for Monifieth” one would hope to be the start of the twenty first century.

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