I’ve been researching my Leslie family roots a bit, and discovered that my great grandfather David Leslie, worked as a kilnsman in one of Kirkcaldy’s potteries.
It seems that most of my ancestors were working class – with many being involved in the flax and jute weaving industries, or working in Fife’s coal mines.
I knew vaguely that Kirkcaldy had potteries – my Cruden great grandparents lived in Pottery Street when I was a child (although at the time, I associated the name with pottering around – the way old people do) – but I didn’t realise until yesterday that Kirkcaldy was quite an important centre in the Scottish ceramics industry.
According to an extract from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical* (which has been scanned and is available online), in the 1880s, the potteries employed around 500 workers. This is a relatively small number, compared to the weaving, coal and iron industries, but the town still sustained four separate potteries.
It’s likely that my great grandfather would have started work in the 1880s, probably when he turned 14. All subsequent records for him (marriage, census, death certificate) give his occupation as Kilnsman.
I don’t know which of the potteries he worked in, although I do know that the family lived around Links Street, at the southern end of town. The largest pottery was David Methven and Sons (Kirkcaldy Pottery) in Links Street, while the other three potteries were located around Dysart and Sinclairtown. It would make sense that he lived close to work (they rented their home so there were fewer barriers to moving), so I’m guessing he probably worked for Methven & Sons..
The Kirkcaldy Museum has exhibits relating to the potteries including photographs, so this is definitely somewhere to visit while I’m in the UK!
* Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.