Bound by 70 year link – Burntisland’s twinning with Flekkefjord

Burntisland Civic Week parade 1996 celebrates 50 years of town twinning with Flekkefjord
Burntisland Civic Week parade 1996 celebrates 50 years of town twinning with Flekkefjord

Bonds forged between Burntisland and the Norwegian town of Flekkefjord developed into a twinning association after WW2.

And next week the 70 year long-running relationship will be marked with a week of celebrations which will include the Burntisland Highland Games and an anniversary ceilidh.

The town of Flekkefjord in Norway

The town of Flekkefjord in Norway

The twinning link between Burntisland and Flekkefjord was formalised at a public meeting in Burntisland Parish Church Hall on February 24 1946, and is one of the longest existing town twinnings in the world.

It sprang from connections developed through soldiers from Norway who were based in Fife during the war, with the arrangement suggested afterwards.

The children of Burntisland made the ultimate decision, voting for a link with Flekkefjord in preference of towns from other European countries. And it started a strong bond which has endured for seven decades, including many youth exchanges and visits for people of all ages and walks of life.

For the past 16 years Burntisland councillor George Kay has been heavily involved in the association, serving as chairman on several occasions and for the past six years. He said: “Town twinning has always been a strong interest of mine since I first got involved in a link between St Joseph’s Church and one in Gdansk. It showed me just how beneficial twinning arrangements can be for towns and for individuals, and I joined the Burntisland-Flekkefjord committee.”

Five sailors from Burntisland who sailed to Flekkefjord to deliver a special invitation to people to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations of town twinning

Five sailors from Burntisland who sailed to Flekkefjord to deliver a special invitation to people to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations of town twinning

He has visited Flekkefjord three times and made many friends both in Norway and in Burntisland through the process.

“The main benefit of town twinning is for people from both countries to actually have the chance to see first hand the culture of the other’s country and to take part in it,” he said.

“I took a youth group across to Flekkefjord around 12 years ago and it was great to see youngsters who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to visit, enjoying themselves and experiencing a different culture to their own.

“One of the visits I was on was an international twinning event, with representatives from Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Minnesota in the USA, as well as ourselves, which was really interesting.

Burntisland Civic Week Parade 1996 celebrated 50 years of twinning

Burntisland Civic Week Parade 1996 celebrated 50 years of twinning

“Lots of friendships have been made and often people visit Scotland in between twinning trips and arrange to meet up with one another.

“There are lots of similarities between the two towns, but also many differences, so it is worthwhile for people to become involved in town twinning, and we are always looking for more people to take part.”

The Town Twinning Committee currently has seven members who are all very dedicated and do a lot of work to ensure the visits run smoothly.

All the trips have to be self financed so regular fundraising events are done to help subsidise costs, while local companies including Briggs, Scott Timber, Forth Ports help out, as do Starley Hall and Fife Council with grants.

The harbour at Flekkefjord in Norway after five sailors from Burntisland arrived to deliver an invitation to the 70th anniversary of the town twinning

The harbour at Flekkefjord in Norway after five sailors from Burntisland arrived to deliver an invitation to the 70th anniversary of the town twinning

On June 4 a group of four sailors from Burntisland Sailing Club set off to deliver a special invitation to the people of Flekkefjord, asking them to take part in the 70th anniversary town twinning events in Burntisland.

It took them three days to reach the town and they spent several days there before returning on June 15.

The special anniversary events will start on Tuesday, when a group of five young people and one leader arrive in the town where they will spend a week with host families and take part in a programme of trips and activities.

Trips are planned around Fife, Edinburgh and Stirling.

The following day a group of four dignitaries from Flekkefjord will arrive, headed by the Mayor, Jan Sigbjornsen. They will stay at the Sands Hotel in the town for the duration of their visit, which will include dinners, tours, a ceilidh, a band competition, barbecue and a formal reception as part of Burntisland Games Day.

The group will leave to travel home on Tuesday, July 19.

A male voice choir from Flekkefjord will also perform a concert in Burntisland on September 9 when it is across for a series of performances in and around Edinburgh.

Flekkefjord is a picturesque small town of around 6000 inhabitants in the south west of Norway.

Dating back to the 1500s the area had a strong timber trade with Holland and it retains a lot of Dutch influence in its architecture, similar to Burntisland Parish Church.

Part of the town is still known as Holland Town as its streets are lined with small wooden houses, all white with lacquered tiles.

Many of its buildings are octagonal shaped, including one of its prominent churches.

Sailing and the sea features strongly in the town’s social as well as industrial life and it has three shipyards building fishing, scientific and leisure craft.

Other industries include specialist engineering firms, while older indutries include tanning and food manufacturing.

It operates a kommune system, with the local kommune carrying out much of the role of Fife Council, including kindergarten, municipal planning, sport and culture and transportation.

Flekkefjord was granted its town charter in 1842, about the same time as Burntisland was building its Burgh Chambers, and the 19th century was a time of strong economic growth for both.

While Burntisland flourished through its harbour and railway links, Flekkefjord’s herring catches reached record levels, and it has a strong salmon farming industry. Both rely heavily on tourism for income.