Nicholas Cowen I (17??--1820), Overman
Berrielaw Mine, Dunfermline

Coal has been worked in the Dunfermline district of Fife for many centuries. The mines at Berrielaw [or Berrylaw], on the western outskirts of town, are certainly old: 18th century parish registers report numbers of coalminers from this placename. Early workings were shallow: much of the coal would have been hauled away in horse-drawn carts to the nearby Firth of Forth. Nowadays, the visitor will find little more than green fields, with a few stones here and there to hint at past activity.

In "The Roads of Fife", the author mentions some of the economic issues of Nicholas Cowen's time:

Toll Politics: "In 1753, the year that the first turnpike bill affecting Fife was being discussed, the Provost of Inverkeithing wrote to more than seventeen members of parliament to ensure that panwood, or coal carried to heat the salt pans, should be exempted from tolls, and that other coal would be charged according to the distance travelled."

Toll Evasion: "The county had ordered four roads to be closed. Lord Elgin's factor placed posts and bars at both ends of the road to Grange and Limekilns. A six-foot ditch was dug across the coal road to Urquhart and Berrylaw ... The waggon road from Lord Elgin's colliery at West Baldridge ran parallel to the road on the west side of Pittencrieff Park, leading to Charlestown lime works and harbour. One of the evasion routes of which Brash complained [was] the coal road to Berrylaw ..."

Source: "The Roads of Fife," Owen Silver, John Donald, 1987