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Kemback is a village and parish in Fife, located 2½ miles east of Cupar. The parish is bounded to the north by Dairsie and Leuchars; to the east by St Andrews and St Leonards; to the south by Ceres; and to the west by Cupar. The present village was developed in the 19th century to house those working the flax mills on the nearby Ceres Burn. From 1681 the minister for the parish was Alexander Edward, until 1689 when he was deprived as a non-juror. He went on to become an architect and landscape architect, working on schemes for Brechin Castle and Hamilton Palace.


Transatlantic Radiophone Station

Kemback G.P.O. Transatlantic Radiophone Station (1927–1950s)

Most hills in the UK were surveyed by the Marconi company during the 1920s. Kemback Hill; made up of layers of sandstone, slate, and poor concentrations of lead and silver minerals, is a natural amplifier.

In 1927 the General Post Office opened a commercial radiophone service between Kemback and an AT&T site in New Jersey. All that remains (2010) is a metal gate into an open field opposite the Kemback graveyard. The field was originally full of wooden huts, and the hill, and surrounding areas in the parish, were covered in aerials. The civilian GPO services were moved when line of sight was needed for television transmissions during the 1950s.

WWII Secret

Access to most of North Fife was restricted. The Kemback Radio Station was a critical link between Britain and the United States, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. Classed ULTRA secret, the Kemback station was also needed in the event of a retreat from England, and the loss of the transatlantic cables by the British forces and an equivalent Transatlantic RadioPhone site at Rugby, England. Obviously this eventuality was never needed.

Wartime records of the Station's use for radio interception as part of the network of Y-stations for German Enigma machine transmissions are still restricted, and have not been released into the public domain. It is unclear if the records survive in the National Archives or Bletchley Park.

Several staff based in GPO Kemback were transferred to the Far East in the early days of WW2 to Singapore. Some were captured, and held as prisoners of the Japanese for the remainder of the war.

Medical conditions

The extremely marshy land immediately around the old and new Kemback churches was drained in the 17th and 18th centuries. A local condition called The Drop or The Ague is recorded in the histories of the Lairds of Kemback, and the archive of the Archbishop John Spottiswoode (1565–1639) which, although cannot be confirmed, is probably a form of malaria, similar to that seen in the Somerset levels.


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