Buckhaven and Kirkland memorial: The great and the good discuss their treasured memories...

Henry McLeish at the Buckhaven prizegiving
Henry McLeish at the Buckhaven prizegiving
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We spoke to some of Kirkland and Buckhaven’s most well-known and successful alumni about their time at school.

Henry McLeish (Buckhaven High):

Former First Minister and leader of Fife Council

“I had what you would call a reluctant involvement at school because of my keen interest in football. Between the ages of two and 18, I didn’t really do much else other than football so school often seemed like an inconvenience.

“On the other hand, Buckhaven gave me the chance to play in the school team and be involved with the Fife teams and in other sports. When I left school at 15 to play for Leeds United, the rector at the time wrote in my report card, ‘I’m glad the boy can play football because he can’t do anything else’.

“The teachers I have fond memories of are Mr Pearson, who taught PE, Miss Williamson who taught Maths, Mr Todd who taught French, and Miss ‘Fuz’ ‘‘I’m not sure why we called her that - she gave me six of the belt for larking about.

“When I became an MP for Central Fife, it was a great day when I was asked to come back to Buckhaven to present the prizes. There were a few tears as I joined in singing the school song.”

John Wallace (Buckhaven High):

World acclaimed virtuoso trumpet player and former principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

“I remember my school days at Buckhaven from 1961-1967 with nothing but gratitude for the education I received from an inspired group of teachers.

“My mum went to the old Buckhaven High and when I came to the shiny new school, replete with wonderful playing fields, next to the Wemyss private railway, one of her maths teachers, Mrs Williamson was still there from the old days.

“The teachers were an awesome bunch, and many played a musical instrument. Mr Page, History, played accordion, Mr Brown, Art, and Mr Ritchie (technical subjects) played violin. And they all, like Mr McGillivray head of commercial studies, took part in the opera performances that Albert Cochrane, the Principal Music Teacher, with the force of his personal magnetism, had started. Many of us who went on to musical careers owe our start to Albert Cochrane. He was a force of nature.”

William Curley (Kirkland High):

Acclaimed chef

“I don’t think I left Kirkland the greatest student or with the best grades, unlike my sister who was a star student and is now a doctor!

“I really enjoyed English the most. Mr White was my teacher, he didn’t suffer fools gladly but was always very supportive of me. Despite not sitting my final English exam, later in life I went on to write three cookbooks. One of which won ‘Cookery Book of the Year’ - clearly my lessons did more for me than I realized at the time.

“My childhood growing up in Methil is a time I often look back at and have a touch of nostalgia for. It was the beginning of my journey and will always be a part of who I am.”

Ruth Davidson (Buckhaven High):

Leader of Scottish Conservative Party

“One of the things I enjoyed most about my time at Buckhaven was how much was going on outside of the classroom.

“If you were interested in sport, or music or drama or art, you could always find a teacher who would go the extra mile to help with a club or training. I got involved with the debating society that was run by Mrs Reid in the English department. There was always a bit of pride about going up against some of the ‘posh’ schools from Edinburgh or further afield and being able to come away with a win.

“Debating took me all over the world – first to Florida when I was at school as a tournament prize – and then places like Greece and the Philippines when I competed at university. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be doing the job I do now, if it wasn’t for Mrs Reid’s debating club .’’