Buckhaven

Buckhaven WMS S NT359980 1 385 5m

Bukhawyne 1527 Fraser, Wemyss ii no. 187 [fishers of Buckhaven (Bukhawyne), parishioners of the parish church of Wemyss (Vemis)]
Bukhavin 1531 RMS iii no. 980 [part of the lands and barony of East Wemyss(Est Wemys) given by James Hamilton and Mary Livingston, lady of East Wemyss, to James Colville of Ochiltree]
Bukhavin 1542 RMS iii no. 2731 [James V grants £4 from his lands of Bukhavin to Dunfermline Abbey in exchange for the abbey’s land in Burntisland (Brynt-Iland) for the construction of the naval dockyard]
Bukhavin 1550 Midl. Chrs. (Holy Trinity) no. 48
tertia parte terrarum de Bukhevin 1554 RMS iv no. 975 [lands of Mains of East Wemyss with a third part of the lands of Bukhevin]
Bukhevin 1554 RMS iv no. 975 note 2 [Alex. Walkar in Bukhevin]
Buckheven 1605 Retours (Fife) no. 156
Bukhevin 1616 RMS vii no. 1536
terras de Bukhevin 1616 RMS vii no. 1536 [the Den Burn (lie Denburne) separating the lands of Buckhaven and Methil. See Denbeath WMS for more details]
villam et terras de Buckheavin 1630 RMS viii no. 1641 [in the parish of Wemyss]
Bukhaven 1642 Gordon MS Fife
Buckheaven 1654 Blaeu (Pont) West Fife
Buckhaven 1654 Blaeu (Gordon) Fife
Buckhaven 1753 Roy sheet 18, 1
Buckhaven 1775 Ainslie/Fife
Buck Haven 1828 SGF
Buckhaven 1856 OS 6 inch 1st edn.

? Sc buck + Sc haven

The first element is probably related to the Sc verb buck, bukk, ‘to pour forth, gush out’ (DSL), perhaps describing the coastal waters at Buckhaven, which is situated at a point where the Fife coastline swings a little further out into the North Sea. A related element occurs also in Buckie Burn DFL q.v. The second element is certainly Sc haven ‘harbour’, and the ‘fishers of Buckhaven’ are mentioned in the earliest known record from 1527 (Fraser, Wemyss ii no. 187).

In 1778, the minister of Wemyss Parish, Rev. Dr Harry Spens, wrote of his own flock at Buckhaven, ‘... the original inhabitants of Buckhaven were from the Netherlands about the time of Philip II of Spain (died 1598). Their vessel had been stranded on the shore. They proposed to settle and remain. The family of Wemyss gave them permission. They accordingly settled at Buckhaven. By degrees they acquired our language and adopted our dress, and for these threescore years past have had the character of a sober and sensible, an industrious and honest people. The only singularity in their ancient customs that I remember to have heard of was that of a richly ornamented girdle or belt, wore by the brides of good condition and character at their marriage, and then laid aside and given in like manner to the next bride that should be deemed worthy of such an honour. The village consists at present of about 140 families, 60 of which are fishers, the rest land-labourers, weavers and other mechanics.’ (OSA 790–1).

There is no doubt that the people of Buckhaven were regarded as different in speech and manners from surrounding communities, and it is probably in this context that such stories grew up (Millar 1895 ii, 50). One Paul Buk, a Dane, is recommended by the Synod to the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy in 1652 (Stevenson 1900, 384); such local encounters might have confirmed folk in their belief that Buckhaven was foreign!

/bʌkˈhevən/, locally /bʌkˈhain/. This latter pronunciation has given rise to the name of a Buckhaven public house, the Buck and Hind.

This place-name appeared in printed volume 1