The Great Lodging was originally four separate tenements and dates from the 1500s. 17th century records show ownership by eminent East Neuk families including the Borthwicks who owned a number of nearby estates.

In 1710 George Duncan, a `Baillie of Pittenweem' bought the Great Lodging for 1,150 merks, and in 1725 his widow gave the title to her son-in-law, George Dishington, wright in Kingsbarns, who is thought to have been a descendant of King Robert the Bruce.

In the 1750s, Dishington bought the other properties that make up The Great Lodging including the cottage in Crichton Street which was restored in 1969 by the East Neuk Preservation Society. The Great Lodging was known for many years as "Fernbank", until the present owners revived the old name in 1993.

Members of the Dishington family lived in the house until 1885. The last was Dishington's son-in-law, John Melville Keay (1828 - 1918), renowned captain of the China tea clipper "Ariel". There was great competition between clipper captains at this time. The first captain to reach London with the new season's tea could obtain a much higher price for his cargo than his competitors. This gave rise to the Great China Tea Races.

In 1866, during the great race from Foo-Chow to London, the Ariel, captained by John Keay, reached London within minutes of the Taeping, owned by his friend and rival, Captain Alexander Rodger of Cellardyke. Ariel and Taeping split the premium, but the simultaneous arrival of so much tea drove the market price down and the offer of a premium was thereafter dropped.

Tea Clipper Ariel

The tea clipper Ariel

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Ariel was built in 1865 by Robert Steel & Co, Greenock, Scotland. She was 60m long, weighed 850 tons and had a composite hull (iron frame with wooden planking). She was named after "an ayrie spirit" in Shakespeare's The Tempest and was reckoned to be one of the most beautiful clippers ever built.

Captain Keay wrote of Ariel:

"Ariel was a perfect beauty to every nautical man who ever saw her: in symmetrical grace and proportion of hull, spars, sails, rigging and finish, she satisfied the eye and put all in love with her without exception. The curve of stem, figurehead and entrance, the easy sheer and graceful lines of the hull seemed grown and finished as life takes shape and beauty. The proportion and stand of her masts and yards were all perfect."

Ariel was lost at sea in 1872 while en route from London to Sydney while under the command of Captain Cachevaille.

Fife was also the birthplace of George Moodie captain of the most famous tea clipper of all, Cutty Sark.

To find out more about Anstruther and its history, see our Things To Do page. You can also read about 19th century life in Anstruther in the 1861 Parochial Directory.

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