Papers of Watson family of Pittenweem

Scope and Content

The papers include correspondence and accounts, bills of lading and personal material. Particularly notable are a group of letters relating to an extended voyage from Kirkcaldy to Rotterdam with coal, then to Norway for timber which was carried to London, then on to Bordeaux for wine and back to Kirkcaldy, between April and October 1668. Thereafter the Watsons seem to have used various skippers in whose ships they owned shares to export coal, feathers, herring, linene and linen yarn, peas, stockings, tallow and timber to London, bringing back mainly tobacco, but also barrel hoops, hats, pewterware, sugar, tin ingots and manufactured goods.

The papers also shed light on the distribution of the goods brought in by ship, such as tobacco to merchants in Elie, Falkland and Perth, wines and brandy to lawyers in Cupar, timber sold across estates in North Fife. There is correspondence (1684-9) relating to the trade between Andrew Watson and Robert Kellie of Dunbar which involved the filling of Dunbar-made barrels with salt at Kirkcaldy, then returning them to be packed with salt herring. There is material on the purchase of Glentarkie and the building of a new house there.

Administrative / Biographical History

The papers relate to the personal and business activities of brothers Andrew Watson, merchant and bailie and dean of guild of Kirkcaldy (fl. 1660-1700) and Alexander Watson of Glentarkie, Strathmiglo (d. 1703) in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

Found in the former town council offices in Pittenweem, transferred via Fife Council Museums Service to the University Library in 1996.


Additional listing was done by Paula Martin under a grant from the University of St Andrews Appeal Fund, 2001-2002. The papers relating to the business activities of the Watsons during the second half of the seventeenth century have been transcribed and photographed. Some material, for example, that relating to Andrew Watson as bailie of Kirkcaldy, has not been transcribed.

Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist by box, also transcriptions of 300 documents and database of contents of 40 folders of flattened documents within 3 of the 6 boxes (399 documents).

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

Was formerly held as GB 227 msdep 89, but was accessioned as ms38527 in 2002.


None expected.

Additional Information

This material is original.