Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Pittenweem is a small village in the County of Fife on the East Coast of Scotland. The name supposedly derives from Pictish where "Pit" is "place", "ten" is "of the" and "weem" is "cave", so "The place of the cave", although it is generally agreed that no-one knows the true etymology. The cave in question may be St Filan's cave, see below, although there are many indentations along the rocky shore.
History: The village is a Royal Burgh. Founded as a fishing village it grew along the shoreline from the West where the sheltered beaches provided safe places for fishermen to draw their boats up out of the water. In due course a breakwater was built extending out from one of the rocky skerries that jut out South-West into the Firth of Forth like fingers. This provided an ability to keep boats afloat rather than being beached, which allowed for larger boats. A new breakwater further to the east has been developed over the years into a deep, safe, harbour with a covered fish market. As the herring disappeared from local waters and the fishing fleet shrank, this harbour and attendant facilities led Pittenweem to become the main harbour for the fishermen of the East Neuk of Fife.
Population: Around 1,500.
Industry: Primary industries are fishing, farming, tourism and, recently, art.
Geology / Geography: The village sits astride a raised beach, with the lower part of the village housing the harbour and the older houses, with the upper part having the main shopping area, churches, school and more recent housing.
Education: Pittenweem Primary School is a traditional village school with its own playing fields on the northern side of the older part of the village. It caters for children aged 4/5 to 11/12. Secondary education (up to ages 16, 17 or 18 depending on educational ambitions) is provided at Waid Academy in the neighbouring town of Anstruther.
Religion: Pittenweem Priory was an Augustinian Priory founded by monks from the Isle of May. St Filan was the first Augustinian to come to Pittenweem, supposedly living in a cave (St Filan's Cave, now situated in the West Wynd and open to the public) from where he converted the local populace. The cave was re-discovered around 1900 when a horse ploughing in the Priory garden fell down a hole into it. The cave has flat rocks that are presumed to be beds and a small spring of "holy water" at the rear. As befits a village steeped in the dangerous practice of fishing and the uncertain practice of farming, there are many churches in the village. Current denominations with churches include: Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian and Baptist. Other denominations have had churches or the equivalent, but these have been converted to other purposes. The "Church of Scotland" Church Hall, for example, was once the "Free Church of Scotland" (yes, there is a BIG difference) kirk.
Culture: In the late 1960s the fishermen of the area celebrated the re-opening of the re-designed harbour with a Gala Day, where the boats were dressed overall and people could have short trips on the boats. By the early 1980s, however, increasing regulation, higher fuel costs and a shrinking fleet were bringing this event to its knees. In its place sprang up an Arts Festival, which initially incorporated the Gala Day as its finale. The Arts Festival has moved on somewhat, however, becoming one of the best respected in Scotland. Many artists have rediscovered the charms and the light of the area, which was always popular with itinerant and hobby artists, and have moved to the village, creating a vibrant artistic community.
Famous Pittenweemers: John Douglas
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