THE town and burgh-of-barony of Anstruther-Easter is of great antiquity. In the reign of Malcolm IV., Henry de Anstruther gave “tres bothas (shops) in villa mea de Anstrother” to the monks of Dryburgh. In 1583, the town was erected into a royal burgh by James VI.; but it still continues to hold feu of the family of Anstruther, the ancient proprietors. The burgh of Anstruther-Easter, with Cellardyke and Anstruther-Wester, which adjoin it on the east and west, in appearance form one long antique-looking, irregularly built town; but they are under the jurisdiction of separate magistrates, and have distinct interests and common good.
The town, with part of the surrounding district, would appear to have been the original property possessed by the ancient family of Anstruther, and from which they assumed their name. William de Candela – obviously of Norman origin – held the lands of Anstruther during the reign of David I. Sir James Anstruther, the twelfth in direct descent from William de Candela, was appointed heritable carver to James VI. in 1585; and in 1592, had the honour of knighthood conferred upon him, and was appointed one of the masters of the household to his Majesty. His son, Sir William, succeeded to his father’s offices, and was appointed one of the gentlemen of the bed-chamber. He was also in great favour with Charles I., by whom he was appointed gentleman-usher of the privy chamber. Sir Robert, the younger brother of Sir William, was a man of great talent, and was repeatedly employed in negociations of state, both by James VI. and Charles I. He was succeeded by his second son, Sir Philip, who afterwards succeeded his uncle, Sir William, in the Anstruther estates. Sir Philip, who was a zealous loyalist, and had a command in the royal army at the battle of Worcester, was heavily fined by Cromwell, and his estates sequestrated till the Restoration in 1660. He had five sons, all of whom were created either baronets or knights.
Sir William Anstruther, the eldest son, was a member of the Scots parliament when the Duke of York was high commissioner, and strongly opposed the measures of the court. He early joined the party who brought about the Revolution, and was appointed by William III. one of the senators of the college of justice, and a lord-of-justiciary. He was created a baronet in 1694, and in the same year got a charter from Queen Anne “of the baronies of Anstruther and Ardross, with many other lands, with the heritable bailiarie of the lordship and regality of Pittenweem, and the offices of searcher and giving coquets in the ports of Anstruther and Elie.” Sir John Anstruther of Anstruther, the son of Sir William, married the lady Margaret Carmichael, daughter of James, second earl of Hydnford; and on the failure in the male line of that noble house, and the title becoming extinct, their descendant, Sir John Anstruther of Anstruther, succeeded to the entailed estates of the earldom, and assumed the name of Carmichael. The present Sir Wyndham Carmichael Anstruther, Bart., succeeded his cousin, Sir Philip, in 1819; he was second son of Sir John Anstruther, Bart., of Cassis in Staffordshire, M.P., formerly chief-justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal.
The ancient burgh of Anster had long been celebrated by the well-known old Scottish song of ‘Maggy Lauder;’ but Professor Tenant has given it a classic celebrity, by his imaginative and humorous poem of ‘Anster Fair,’ which will be lasting as the language in which it is written.