Journal of A Gillespie, skipper in Elie, for the years 1662 to 1685.

Scope and Content

Manuscript sailing journal of Alexander Gillespie, skipper in Elie, Fife, recording details of his trading voyages between 1662 and 1685.

This journal records voyages undertaken by Alexander Gillespie. It contains general information about cargoes, ports and lengths of journeys; information about the weather, tides and other problems encountered (including privateers), and also memoranda including navigational instructions, particularly on how to enter certain harbours.Gillespie's main voyages involved a trip into the Baltic Sea in the early summer, followed by one or sometimes two voyages to Bordeaux in the autumn for the first vintage. Cargoes are not always named, but include exporting grain, salt and coal, and importing wine from Bordeaux, and iron and timber from the Baltic. The amount of detail on each voyage varies:-1662, 3pp; 1663, 3pp; 1664, 1p; 1665, 1p; 1666, 1p; 1667, 1p; 1668, 11pp; 1669, 6pp; 1670, 5pp; 1671, 6pp; 1673, 1p; 1674, 9pp; 1675, 11pp; 1676, 3pp, 1677, 3pp; 1678, 2pp; 1679, 3pp; 1680, 2pp; 1681, 3pp; 1682, 1p; 1683, 1p; 1685, 2pp.

There is no information about his home life between voyages. The inside of the front cover, however, contains the names and dates of birth of Alexander Gillespie's children, Margaret 1665, Christian 1667, Anna 1680, John 1675, Alexander 1678 and Janet 1682, as well as an earlier Anna who died in infancy in 1669. [According to the parish register there was also an earlier Alexander born in 1673].

Administrative / Biographical History

Alexander Gillespie was the son of Alexander Gillespie, skipper in Elie, whose testament was recorded in St Andrews Commissary Court in 1652. Information on Gillespie and his descendants can be found in Walter Wood The East Neuk of Fife, its history and antiquities, Edinburgh, 1887, and A H Millar Fife, Pictorial and Historical, Cupar-Fife, 1895.

In South Street, Elie, stands the doorpiece from Gillespie House. This bears the initials A G and C S, with the date 1682. This must be Alexander Gillespie, author of this diary, and his wife Christian Small, whom he married in Elie in January 1663. Alexander inherited the estate of Newton Rires [now called Charlton] in 1677, probably through his wife. The house he built in or before 1682 must have been one of the largest and most impressive in South Street, which was originally the main street of Elie. James, Duke of York, is said to have stayed there in 1682, and perhaps on other occasions. The house was demolished in the 1860s in order to widen the street, and only the doorway was saved and re-used. The family left Newton Rires for Kirkton [Forgan], and then Mountquhanie, in the parish of Kilmany.


Single item

Access Information

By appointment with the Keeper of Manscripts. Access to records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

Given to the collection by Sir Alexander Sharp Bethune, Bart, 21 Victoria Grove, London W8 5RW. Sir Alexander inherited it from his paternal aunt Kathrine Bethune as part of the contents of her house in St Andrews. Kathrine Bethune (1855-1928) was the widow of David Gillespie of Mountquhanie (1841-1911).

Other Finding Aids

Individual manuscripts and small collections database on Manuscripts Database.

Alternative Form Available

Transcript available with original.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Paper: 20x30.5cm approx. The following is written on the front cover: "This book was begone at sea the 10 of april anno 1662 We being come from amsterdam for the Ellie where I live in the Countie of fyfe". 'Wreattne by Alexander Gillespie with my Hand the 13 of April anno 1662 to gods Glorie and our comforte wh[ere]on the 2 of december 1662 I was contracted with cristane small. Wh[ereup]on the 30 of janiarie 1663 we was Mairied by Mr Robert Weimes he being minister of elei at that tyme being fryday of the Weeke'. 'Alexander Gillespie Wreatten with my hand at the kowes road the 11th of november anno domini 1663'.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Maia Sheridan, Archives Hub project archivist, based on text from Manuscripts Database.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Keeper of Manuscripts. Original can be copied, transcript cannot by copied but published form of transcript will be available in future.

Custodial History

The diary was the property of Alexander Gillespie, skipper in Elie, floruit 1662-1685. It appears to have remained in the family through seven generations of direct male descent to David Gillespie of Mountquhanie (1841-1911). A table of descent was provided by the donor, and can be found with the manuscript.




Transcription in process of being published.

Geographical Names