The Fife roots of Johnny Cash, the Man in Black

HIS music is most commonly associated with the southern states and his distinctive bass-baritone voice told of the struggles of everyday Americans.

Johnny Cash and Andy Williams in Fife for a concert at Falkland Palace in October 1981. Picture: Stan Warburton
Johnny Cash and Andy Williams in Fife for a concert at Falkland Palace in October 1981. Picture: Stan Warburton

Johnny Cash was born in Arkansas and died in Tennessee but held a deep affection for a small village 4000 miles across the Atlantic in Fife.

The singer-songwriter behind such hits as I Walk the Line was a regular visitor to Falkland following a chance discovery that his family name was indelibly linked to the rural community and the neighbouring settlement of Strathmiglo.

Dubbed the Man in Black for his regular stage attire, Cash was travelling on a transatlantic flight in the 1970s when he struck up a conversation with fellow passenger Major Michael Crichton-Stuart, whose family seat was the historic Falkland Palace.

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    American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash died in 2003 aged 71. Picture: PA

    The major informed him how prevalent the Cash name was in Fife and that it could be traced back to the time of Malcolm IV, King of Scots in the mid-12th century.

    Palace records show that a William Cash sailed from Scotland to Salem, Massachusetts, with a boatload of pilgrims in 1612.

    The family’s importance is still evident in and around Falkland with the place names Easter Cash, Cash Feus, Wester Cash and Cash Mills farm.

    Such was Johnny’s fascination with the land of his forefathers he even arranged to play a special televised concert at Falkland Palace in 1981. He was joined for the show by another American musical legend, Andy Williams, and the two happily posed for pictures and chatted with locals before the performance.

    Johnny Cash at the gates of Falkland Palace in 1981. Picture: Stan Warburton

    Local news reporter Bob Beveridge recalled asking Cash what he thought of the palace, and the singer replied: “I’m so proud and happy that my family background is associated with such a fine place.”

    Following his 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.

    “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,” she told The Scotsman in 2006.

    “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.”