DYSART, a royal and police burgh and seaport of Fifeshire, Scotland, on the shore of the Firth of Forth, 2 m.
There is a steady export of coal, and the harbour is provided with a wet dock and patent slip. In smuggling days the "Canty carles" of Dysart were professed "free traders."
In the 15th and 16th centuries the town was a leading seat of the salt industry ("salt to Dysart" was the equivalent of "coals to Newcastle"), but the salt-pans have been abandoned for a considerable period.
During the time of the alliance between Scotland and Holland, which was closer in Fifeshire than in other counties, Dysart became known as Little Holland.
To the west of the town is Dysart House, the residence of the earl of Rosslyn.
With Burntisland and Kinghorn Dysart forms one of the Kirkcaldy district group of parliamentary burghs.
William Murray, a native of the place, was made earl of Dysart in 1643, and his eldest child and heir, a daughter, Elizabeth, obtained in 1670 a regrant of the title, which passed to the descendants of her first marriage with Sir Lionel Tollemache, Bart., of Helmingham; she married secondly the 1st duke of Lauderdale, but had no children by him, and died in 1698.
This countess of Dysart (afterwards duchess of Lauderdale) was a famous beauty of the period, and notorious both for her amours and for her political influence.
The earldom of Dysart must not be confounded with that of Desart (Irish), created (barony 1733) in 1793, and held in the Cuffe family, who were originally of Creech St Michael, Somerset, the Irish branch dating from Queen Elizabeth's time.
ANDREW MELVILLE (1545-1622), Scottish scholar, theologian and religious reformer, was the youngest son of Richard Melville (brother to Melville of Dysart), proprietor of Baldovy near Montrose, at which place Andrew was born on the 1st of August 1545.
Kirkcaldy combines with Dysart, Kinghorn and Burntisland to return one member to parliament.
Lauderdale having married the rapacious countess of Dysart, corruption was rife; his brother, Haltoun, was an example of reckless greed; opposition arose to a scheme of union, presently dropped, and by 1673 the duke of Hamilton and Sir George Mackenzie led an organized political opposition.
With Dysart, Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy, it unites in returning one member to parliament.