Tranquility of historic woods is lost as trees felled

A large number of trees were cut down.
A large number of trees were cut down.

Walkers and nature-lovers have been shocked to find that a forest at a historic site on the outskirts of Kirkcaldy has been cut back severely.

The Forestry Commission undertook the work to thin out the trees at the popular walking spot of Dothan Woods, near Cardenden, however, some passers-by noted the wide open spaces which have been left.

The duel left only one man standing.

The duel left only one man standing.

Carol Lindsay, who is also a councillor for the neighbouring ward of Kirkcaldy North, said the wood looked like it had been decimated.

“I couldn’t believe the mess. I went up and a woman coming the other way said ‘oh my god, there’s hardly anything left’.

“It’s sad because, as a wood, it’s given a lot of pleasure and it’s a place that’s really tranquil.

“It’s used by walkers, cyclists and runners. I know the forestry commission can come in and take trees down as part of regeneration, but a few people I’ve spoken have been shocked by the number of trees taken down.”

Dothan Woods near Cardenden.

Dothan Woods near Cardenden.

A spokesperson for Forest Enterprise Scotland, said: “We’re thinning and felling as a part of normal operations, with the timber going towards forest products and woodfuel.

“The operations will open up the woodland to improve biodiversity and to encourage natural regeneration.”

The recent level of tree felling in the woods may have taken some by surprise, but few may realise the true historic importance of the area.

The quiet woods have a special place in history that many passersby would not suspect, since the forest is the site of one of most important historic events in our nation’s history - the last duel ever fought in Scotland.

The pistols used in the last duel in Scotland - on display at Kirkcaldy Museum.

The pistols used in the last duel in Scotland - on display at Kirkcaldy Museum.

In 1826 a local Kirkcaldy merchant named David Landale fought a duel with banker George Morgan.

Landale was a founder member of the Kirkcaldy Chamber of Commerce; George Morgan a former soldier.

Morgan had apparently been spreading malicious gossip about the merchant’s finances. Landale was at risk of losing his good name, and his honour. Discovering the source of the rumours, he wrote a stern letter of complaint to the bank’s headquarters.

But things came to a head when the volatile Morgan struck Landale on the head with his umbrella, on Kirkcaldy High Street.

That was the last straw.

Landale, having been assaulted in public and having had his good name besmirched, felt he was left with no other option; duel!

And so, the two men met with their seconds at the patch of land between Kirkcaldy and Cardenden, then a field, at 6am on August 2.

Morgan refused to apologise, and the distance was marked out.

On command, both men fired, and Morgan was hit and killed.

Landale, who was initially said to be reluctant to call the duel against an experienced soldier, emerged the winner, and despite the trauma of the event apparently remained composed as he left the field.

Landale was tried for murder at Perth High Court and acquitted. He continued as a respected business man in Kirkcaldy and even served as Provost. He died in 1861.

Incredibly, the rift between the families was later resolved when Morgan’s son married Landale’s daughter, starting a jute business known as Landale and Morgan.

Today, the pistols from that very confrontation can be found at Kirkcaldy Museum.