Whale of a time exploring Kirkcaldy’s historic industry

Kirkcaldy Whale, 1904.
Kirkcaldy Whale, 1904.

Kirkcaldy’s long history and relationship with whales is to be explored at a conference next month.

For a period of around 50 years in the 19th century, Kirkcaldy was a whaling port, while there are pictures of amazed crowds turning out to see beached whales in the early 20th century.

‘Kirkcaldy and the Whale’, a conference run by Kirkcaldy Civic Society, will take place on November 25, featuring a number of speakers, including Dr Rob David, who will speak about the Abram, a Kirkcaldy whaling ship, and Sonja Heinrich, who will be speaking about how whales are currently studied.

Kirkcaldy has a long history with whales.

In 1813 the first Kirkcaldy whaling ship, the Earl Percy, sailed north to the Davis Strait, between mid western Greenland and Nunavut, Canada’s Baffin Island.

But just over 50 years later, The Brilliant, the town’s last whaling ship, was sold to Peterhead in 1866, bringing an end to the industry.

Rosemary Potter, secretary of the society, said: “It’s about the history of whaling in Kirkcaldy – and how attitudes changed, from seeing whales as a big fish to be caught to an intelligent mammal.

“We had looked at whaling as one of the industries of Kirkcaldy, which has always been a trading town.

“And no one seemed to know much about whaling, while there was also this picture of the beached whale.”

As well as looking at the whaling industry, a presentation will be delivered looking at Kirkcaldy’s beached whales.

Rosemary explained how important whaling was to Kirkcaldy during the brief time the industry was active in the town.

“Whaling was quite big at the time,” she said.

“The oil was needed for the industrial revolution and lighting.

“But then other sources of energy developed and whale oil was not needed so much.”

“Even though it only lasted about 50 years. It is an important part of Kirkcaldy’s history.

Other topics which will be spoken about during the conference include Sir Ernest Shackleton and Scotland’s involvement in whale hunting in the Antarctic in the 20th century.

Tickets to the conference, which is taking place at the Old Kirk, can be purchased by visiting www.eventbrite.co.uk at searching for ‘Kirkcaldy and the Whale’.