Denbeath Miners Welfare: Memories from before the fire

The Denbeath Miners Welfare club - picture from Methil Heritage Centre - taken in the 1930s
The Denbeath Miners Welfare club - picture from Methil Heritage Centre - taken in the 1930s

As the community comes to terms with the Denbeath Miners Welfare Club fire, former patrons have shared their fond memories of the building.

The alarm was raised on Wednesday, August 16, as the fire took hold in the empty building.

The club has been at the centre of the community for decades, having only shut down in 2012.

Though the site had already been earmarked for redevelopment, many are sad to see the building’s dramatic demise.

Ian Nisbet has fond memories of the club and its links with the mining community, of which his dad was a member. Ian says he had always lived in the area.

“It’s where the family used to go in the late 70s, early 80s,” he said. “Everybody worked in the mine then. The club used to be a busy place. Obviously bowling was the priority, but there were functions, weddings, and it was all families that were involved.

“It’s quite sad, when it shut down, because we still went up until it closed.

“I’ve lived here all my days. It was the rows, upstairs-downstairs flats.

“Everybody worked at Seafield, or the Wellsley pit before that shut as well. It was sad to see the fire. I know it’s up for redevelopment, but it’s still sad to see it go.”

Margaret Alexander not only worked behind the bar at the Welfare Club, but she was married there 61 years ago.

A picture from Methil Heritage Centre - taken late 1960s or early 1970s.

A picture from Methil Heritage Centre - taken late 1960s or early 1970s.

“I was sorry to see it go like that,” she said.

“I was married there in 1956.

“Whenever there were dances there or any functions, I used to look and say ‘that’s still the same wallpaper from our wedding’ about 15 years later.

“When I worked there, a lot of good crowds went, a lot of old members. It was a busy club. I’ve seen them be up there early at 6pm to try and grab a seat.

“We played bowls and everything there. We have a lot of good memories. They’ll have to get that knocked down, because if kids go in there, one of the fireman said it could come down on top of them.”

Ken Caldwell, chairman of Levenmouth Area Committee, said: “It’s a real shame to see such an iconic building go up in flames.

“As a former fire officer, I have witnessed this scenario all too often around Fife.

“It could have been a very serious situation for the local residents, especially with the nearby Denbeath Primary School.

“I attended a fire at the adjacent Denbeath Boxing Club building a few years ago and this involved asbestos.

“The Club has played such a pivotal role in the local community for many years before its sad demise.”

The fire gutted the building.

The fire gutted the building.

When the club closed it brought to an end decades of community history.

The listed Institute was opened in 1925.

Because of under use, the ground where the putting greens were was given to the Education Authority for Denbeath School football ground.

The site used to have two hard tennis courts and three grass – some of the best courts in the Levenmouth area. Lack of use and the problems of maintenance led to them being abandoned.

Two boys, aged 15 and 13, have since been charged over the fire.