In a small churchyard of the Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust and Cemetery stands a headstone devoted to an acclaimed writer. Her name was Marjorie Fleming and she died at the age of eight.
The stone figure of Fleming shows a small girl, seated, who appears to be looking up while holding a book and a feather quill. At the encouragement of her cousin, Isabella Keith, Fleming kept a diary while she stayed with Keith in Edinburgh. Aged just six to eight, she filled the pages with poetry, observations from her household, and impressively prodigious references to the Bible, Shakespeare, and Walter Scott. Fleming also documented her own disobedient behavior and lamented aspects of the informal education Keith was giving her:
“I am now going to tell you about the horible and wretched plaege that my multiplication gives me you cant conceive it—the most Devilish thing is 8 times 8 & 7 times 7 it is what nature itselfe cant endure”
Just before her ninth birthday, Fleming returned to live with her family in Fife, where there was a measles outbreak. Fleming contracted the disease and recovered, but died shortly afterwards from meningitis.
Almost half a century later, the young girl’s writings were published in a book entitled Pet Marjorie: A Story of Child Life Fifty Years Ago. Posthumously, Fleming became a Victorian celebrity. Several well-known authors of the period, such as Ann Radcliffe, Mark Twain, and possibly Sir Walter Scott, praised her writing. An endorsement from Robert Louis Stevenson appears on the dust jacket of Pet Marjorie: “Marjory Fleming was possibly—no, I take back possibly—she was one of the noblest works of God.”
Fleming’s grave marker did not appear until the 1930s. It was created by artist Pilkington Jackson, who also designed over 20 war memorials around Scotland.
Know Before You Go
Fleming's grave is on the southwestern side of the cemetery.