40 years of great service ... now a new era beckons

Fife Institute Swimming Gala - circa 1970s
Fife Institute Swimming Gala - circa 1970s

IT was opened by a Princess and you could say that it has served the people of the Glenrothes area royally for five decades, reports MIKE Delaney.

But the pool covers will finally be drawn over what was once regarded as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Kingdom’s sporting facilities for the last time.

Fife Institute closes its doors on Sunday and the 41 year-old building will demolished soon afterwards, the site to be occupied by the outdoor sporting facilities for the new sports and leisure centre which is gradually taking shape ‘next door.’

The bricks and mortar may be going, but the Institute’s place in the story of the town will live on.

The Institute - Fife Institute of Physical and Recreational education to give it its proper name, the ‘Insty’ its colloquial one - was opened by Princess Anne on July 1, 1971, although its then state-of-the-art pool had already been in use for almost 12 months previously.

Glenrothes historian, Keith Ferguson, said that the opening of the building was a key part in the development of Glenrothes.

“From the earliest years, one of the problems facing clubs and organisations was the scarcity of suitable buildings to house their activities.

“The creation of the Institute brought an explosion of recreational activity.”

Since then, the Institute has been used by dozens of clubs, ranging from volleyball to floorball, from football to basketball and all points in between.

But perhaps the sport the Institute has become most closely associated with is swimming, as home to Glenrothes Amateur Swimming Club and FINS.

The Institute has also been the base for Disability Sports Fife - particularly strong on swimming, although also taking in many other sports.

But perhaps its most notable role is that it is where thousands of people have learned to swim.

The Institute has also been the long-term base for the Glenrothes Road Running Festival, and its predecessor the Glenrothes Half-Marathon which began in the 1980s.

And its main sports hall has also hosted the declaration of results of a non-sporting kind, as the scene for election counts down the years.

It was on that floor that historic events have taken place - where Labour’s Lindsay Roy won a famous by-election victory in 2008 and where, last year, the seat was declared which gave the Scottish National Party an unprecedented overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

The cheers that greeted those triumps and the many sporting ones which were achieved over the years will no doubt be recalled by many in the town as the old building crumbles to dust.

Hundreds of people are expected to attend a party marking the closure at the Institute on Saturday, from 8pm-12 midnight.

From next April, Glenrothes will have a new sports and leisure centre - named after Michael Woods, the councillor who is credited with leading a campaign to prevent the claimed closure of the Institute in the 2000s.

It will be left for those who use that facility to create a history to match that of its predecessor.