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David Hay Fleming lived from 9 May 1849 to 1931. A native of St Andrews, he is best remembered as a scholar and historian whose many books included guides to the town and to the East Neuk of Fife. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
David Hay Fleming was born in St Andrews into a family who ran a china and stoneware business. Fleming was educated at Madras College in St Andrews before going into the family business. He clearly did well, because in 1883 at the age of 34 he had the means to retire from business in order to devote himself full time to his main passion in life, the study of Scottish history.
Fleming went on to become a prolific author. His approach to Scottish history was from a strongly Presbyterian background, and this had an influence on his choice of subject. Among his better known historical works was The Martyrs and Confessors of St. Andrews (1887), Scotland after the Union of the Crowns (1890) Mary Queen of Scots from her Birth to her Flight into England (1897) The Scottish Reformation (1903) Scottish History and Life (3 volumes, 1902), and The Story of the Scottish Covenants in Outline (1904).
Fleming also turned his hand to local history and guides, and as a result produced some of his most enduringly interesting works early in his career as an author: Guidebook to St Andrews (1881) Charters of St Andrews (1883), and the Guide to the East Neuk of Fife (1886, 2 volumes). His guides to St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife are his best known works. You can read the full text of his Guide to the East Neuk of Fife on Undiscovered Scotland.
In the early 1900s Fleming lectured on Church History at the University of Edinburgh, and he also played significant roles in the Scottish History Society and St Andrews Cathedral Museum. On his death, the 13,000 books he collected were left to St Andrews University.