When Johnny Cash came ‘home’ to Fife for Christmas
American country music legend Johnny Cash was deeply proud of his family’s roots in the Kingdom of Fife.
The ‘Man in Black’, famous for hits such as ‘Walk the Line’, ‘A Boy Named Sue’, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and ‘Ring of Fire’ became a regular visitor to the area and often entertained locals at small concerts.
Such was Johnny’s fascination with the land of his forefathers he even filmed one of his Christmas Specials for American TV in Fife.
Local schoolchildren took part in the show, accompanying Johnny for Christmas carols such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ in St Monans Church (pictured below).
Johnny son’s John Carter Cooper, then aged 11, sang ‘Wee Cooper of Fife’, in another segment of the show, also filmed in Fife.
Johnny was joined for the 1981 show by another U.S. music legend, Andy Williams and the two happily posed for pictures with locals before the performance.
Johnny researched his family tree and found that family members had crossed the Atlantic in the 17th Century.
The all-American outlaw became deeply proud of his Fife connection and often visited the area, playing small concerts for local people.
It was a chance meeting on a flight which led to the country legend finding out his ancestors were from the Strathmiglo and Falkland area.
*A plaque on a park bench in Falkland acknowledging Johnny’s family connection with the Howe of Fife
The story began in the late 1970s when Johnny was flying back to the United States and found himself seated next to Major Michael Crichton-Stuart, hereditary keeper of Falkland Palace.
The pair began chatting and Johnny told him that he had heard that his family originated in Scotland.
The major said he could confirm this was the definitely the case as there were farms and streets in Fife that still carried the Cash name.
The singer later visited a genealogist and discovered that he was indeed of Scottish descent and that his clan had originated around the 12th century in the Strathmiglo area.
The connection was traced back to the 12th Century when the niece of Malcolm IV – who was named Cash or Cashel – married the Earl of Fife.
On one of his visits to Falkland, Johnny said, “I’m so proud and happy that my family background is associated with such a fine place.” He would enjoy spending time walking around the area asking local people how they were doing.
*The Christmas Special was screened to a huge audience in the USA
Following Johnny’s death in 2003 aged 71, the Cash connection with Falkland has been continued by his daughter Rosanne, an award-winning singer in her own right.
Roseanne has said, “I went back to Fife three months after my father passed away and I cannot tell you what an emotional experience it was to feel this ripple back in time and to know that these family connections last.
“It was a great comfort for me. I went through a period of great loss and mourning. Going to Fife was just a beautiful thing and helped me through a very difficult time.
“There was something about going there and feeling so connected and welcomed that satisfied my grief and soothed it,” she said.
“The knowledge that I was returning to the place where our family’s story started and going to somewhere that gave my father so much pleasure and pride.
“Going further back into our Celtic past made him realise that this was where he derived his tone of voice, the mournful quality to his music and it was that sense of place and time that was passed on to him and then on to me.”
Rosanne paid tribute to the Cash connection with Fife in a song called ‘Good Intent’, after the ship that carried the first Cash across the Atlantic in the 17th century.
Roseanne also spoke movingly about her dad’s deep pride about his Fife background in his final days. “Our family was descended from King Malcolm IV of Scotland and when my dad was very ill and in his last years of life whenever he visited hospital he did not check in as Johnny Cash – he always went under the name of Malcolm.”