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The Dome Park


All that I know  about the Dome Park I learned when I was a small boy from elderly people in the village. No doubt they were passing on what had been told to them when they were of a similar age. Much of the information as to Earlsferry happenings of long ago has never been written down.


The Dome Park is a circular piece of ground that's located just above the high water mark at the very west end of Earlsferry.  Nothing grows there but rough sea tolerant bent grasses but many families of bunny rabbits make the place their home.  On the south side the park is contained by the shoreline of the sea, on the east by an outcropping of rock, on the west by the Lunder Law and on the north side by a high and curving man-made stone wall. At the west end of this wall is a pair of stone pillars that, until World War II, supported a heavy wrought iron gate. On the higher level to the north of the wall is an old roadway where observers can see over the wall and into the park. This roadway goes on around and connects to the West Sea road.


The Dome Park is an enigma, a mystery. At some point in the past the park must have been created for some specific purpose.  While it's called a park it's never in my time been used like a park. Facing south it's  a sheltered pleasant sunny place. What was the purpose for the massive stone gateway pillars and the heavy wrought iron gate?


When I was a boy this is what was told to me about the Dome Park. The name is a misnomer. In bygone years the park was The Doom Park.  The park was a place of penal confinement where miscreant prisoners were brought from places further afield to be hanged.  Within the park were arm and leg stocks and several hangmen's gibbets. The park was also the burial place of those who were put to death there.  In addition to hanging there were other forms of execution, one of which was to tie a large herring on to the top of the head of the prisoner, tie a ring of corks for flotation around the person then deposit the unfortunate into the outgoing tide. Gannets did the rest.  Gannets are large heavy sea birds that have sharp and powerful beaks. On detecting a fish on the surface of the water they fold their wings and plummet in a power dive.  A woman convicted of a serious crime or the charge of witchcraft was dealt with more leniently.  The lady was seated on the rocks at low tide and a boulder was tied to her ankles. 


Gannet putting on the brakes as it prepares to dive.

Photograph courtesy of photographer David Stevenson


Could things like this have happened or were such stories told to young people to keep us in line and be law abiding? I don't know.  I'm just passing along what was a generally held belief and was told to me in all earnestness about the Dome Park.


At the nearby town of St. Andrews that borders the sea the dispatch of undesirables was done a little differently.  Within the confines of St. Andrews Castle is a dungeon in the shape of a bottle. The Bottle Dungeon is over 20 feet deep and carved out of the solid rock. Those out of favour with the establishment were lowered down to the bottom, the rope extracted and a lid put in place. Forgotten about and in the cold total darkness, with the sea incessantly pounding against the outer wall, a confined prisoner didn't last long. Out of sight and out of sound with a vengeance.

                                                                                                                                        During World War II  when the Dome Park was plowed up for what turned out to be a futile attempt to grow potatoes a man-made hand hewn rectangular stone with a dome shaped top like a  marker was unearthed.  It was removed and deposited on to the shoreline at the west end of the park. Maybe it's still laying there.


The curtain rises.  Update as of 28th March 2007


My Earlsferry friend Albert writes: Re the wall at Dome (or Doom) Park. 


The Earl of Balcarres had that wall built when he 'got his hands smacked' after his support for the 1715 rebellion. He wanted to retain a foothold in Fife whilst he was in exile so he built the wall round the piece of ground we call Dome Park. He called it "Earlsferry Abbey."  The top layer of finished stanes have been removed from the wall long ago and probably used to finish off the newer wall that borders the "big" houses. 


I will read up more about it and let you know what I find out.


Footnote. I'm not going to hold my breath on this as Albert's pal Jems just became owner and skipper of the "Rum Rig" a 24 foot Trident sailboat and Albert has become First Mate so it's my guess that more info. on the Dome Park wont be forthcoming for quite a while.


The "Rum Rig" on a broad reach.