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Archiver > ANGUS > 2002-01 > 1010972636

From: Jonathan Gentry <>
Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2002 20:43:56 -0500

Hi List,

>From tomorrows (14 Jan 2002) Dundee Courier.
Forwarded with permission.


EFFORTS ARE under way to unravel a 260-year-old mystery-who was the exalted
grand vizier of Turkey who originally came from Kirkcaldy?

The Lang Toun has bred a respectable number of notables over the years-
heavyweight intellects such as economist Adam Smith or steely-eyed explorers
such as Sir Stanford Fleming, after whom chunks of Australia are named.

But a new book by historian David Fraser, Frederick The Great, King Of
Prussia, relates an intriguing anecdote concerning the Kirkcaldy vizier, a
story that apparently first appeared in print in 1850.

It seems that in 1739, following a war between the Ottoman Sultanate and
imperial Russia, representatives of the two sides met to conclude peace
negations, the Ottoman ambassador being the grand vizier.

Representing the Russians was Marischal James Keith, a Scotsman in the
of Anna, Empress of Russia, who went on to serve the Prussians.

Many Scots noblemen and soldiers were obliged to flee Scotland after
backing the wrong side during 1715 Jacobite rising but so great was their
combat pedigree they quickly found employment with the dynasties of Europe.

One such was James Keith of Invergurie Castle, Peterhead, who seems to have
been the first to meet the Fife vizier.

A 1905 version of the story is, "These two personages met and carried on
negotiations by means of interpreters.

"When all was concluded they rose to separate, but just before leaving,
the grand vizier suddenly went to Marischal Keith and, taking him cordially
by the hand, declared in the broadest Scotch (sic) dialect that it made him
’unco’ happy to meet a countryman in his exalted station.

"As might be expected, Keith stared with astonishment, and was eager for an
explanation of the mystery.

" ‘Dinna be surprised,’ the grand vizier exclaimed, ’I’m o’ the same
country wi’ yoursell, mon! I mind weel seein’ you and your brother, when
boys, passin’ by to the school at Kirkcaldy; my father, sir, was bellman o’
Kirkcaldy.’ "

The version of the story used in the latest book adds little, except to
describe the ceremonial turban and robes of the vizier and quotes him as
saying that his father, the bellman, was one James Miller.

Kirkcaldy Museum’s assistant curator Gavin Grant said he found the story

"It might well be possible to discover more about this matter, especially
as we have the name of the bellman, who was presumably a town crier.

"It appears that the first person to tell the story was Sir Andrew
Mitchell, who was a British ambassador in the 19th century."

Anne Watters, who chairs the Kirkcaldy Civic Society, was equally
intrigued and, while aware of the life of James Keith, had not heard of the
Kirkcaldy vizier before.

"I think it’s extremely interesting and again highlights the many Scots who
contributed so much to eastern Europe after the 1715 and 1745 (uprisings)."

She said little evidence of a James Miller, bellman, had been passed down
through the centuries, possibly because only the highest and greatest in
any area would be remembered after more than two centuries.

But, she added, such characters as the vizier were "part of the fabric of
Scotland" and it would be fitting if more could be discovered about the man.

She said she would be speaking to her civic society colleagues and also to
council’s archivist in next few days and will mention the matter,

James Keith is the subject of statues in Aberdeenshire and even Berlin,
but the identity of the Fifer who achieved equally auspicious status so far
from home remains unknown.

Perhaps, one day, that will change.

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