The History of Dysart Harbour

Dysart was recorded as a port as early as 1450 with an export trade in salt and coal, mainly to the Low Countries. There was no harbour as such at the time, with the ships being grounded in the bay at Pan Ha' and loaded when the tide was out.

Dysart's original jetty, the "east haven of Dysart", was situated towards the east end of Pan Ha' being built on a rock reef. This fell into disrepair and was abandoned in 1615. It's foundations can still be seen during the largest spring tides.

The picture opposite is the earliest known picture of Dysart. It was taken in approximately 1860 and depicts the southern end of the Harbourmasters house, the slipway and The Shore and St Serfs in the distance.


An extensive report was completed on the harbour in 1819 by Robert Stevenson, civil engineer and grandfather of R.L. Stevenson; and after years of debate, work started on improvements in 1829. The work, which took two years to complete, included an inner harbour which, closed by dock gates, allowed ships to load coal at all stages of the tide. This was the first harbour on the east coast of Scotland to have such a facility.


A pause in coal loading operations in 1897. The iron chutes seen lying on the high berth were used to load coal from horse drawn carts. Each cart held approximately one ton and it took an average 300 tons to fill a ship. The ship lying in the middle of the picture hails from Stavanger in Norway.


The inner harbour was constructed on the site of a former quarry, and the chisel marks of the quarry workers can still be seen on the steep rock face above it. Stone from the quarry was used to build St Serf's tower by French masons who had come over in the fifteenth century to help construct Ravenscraig Castle

Through the years, storms have played a large part in damaging the fabric of the harbour and its sea walls. Particularly severe damage occurred in 1843 whan about 100 ft of the east pier washed away; and as recently as 1967 the end of the same pier was completely demolished in a strong easterly gale.


February 1905 - the steamer Topaz from Glasgow - the largest steamer ever to enter Dysart Harbour. She was capable of carrying 700 tons coal.


As the harbour was the town's main source of revenue, it had to be kept in good repair, and this meant constant expenditure. In 1924 the Earl of Rosslyn's Coal Company - the major user of the harbour - put pressure on Dysart Town Council to deepen the harbour so that it could be used by larger ships. The work cost the town 5000, a very large sum in these days. While the harbour was closed for the work, ships went to Methil and Burntisland dock where their turn around was quicker.

Deepening of the dock in 1924, and below over 80 years later, a selection of images of the 2005 equivalent!


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