Glimpse into history of Leven industry

Andrew and Michael Donaldson opening exhibition with Lesley Botten of Fife Cultural Trust.
Andrew and Michael Donaldson opening exhibition with Lesley Botten of Fife Cultural Trust.

An exhibition has been launched celebrating a historic business which has operated in Levenmouth for over 150 years.

The Methil Heritage Centre has set up an exhibition covering the more than 150 year history of James Donaldson & Sons Ltd, which arrived in the area in 1889, titled ‘Donaldson’s Sawmills – A Cut Above the Rest’.

The business has survived two world wars and numerous recessions to become one of the UK’s leading timber merchants, and one of the biggest employers in Levenmouth.

The exhibition, which features a range of items and covers the history of the company from its origins in 1860 to modern day, was opened by Michael and Andrew Donaldson, from the sixth generation of the family to be involved in the business.

All the research for the exhibition was conducted by the Friends of Methil Heritage, which spent hundreds of hours unearthing the stories behind the Levenmouth institution.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the Friends, Fife Cultural Trust and Donaldson’s, who helped the Friends with their research and have loaned many of the items on display.

The exhibition features the ups and downs of the business – from the fire in 1971 at the Leven timber yard, which led to a redevelopment of operations, to its plans for the future.

It also features a human element, with many people involved in the company’s past and present included in the exhibition.

Norman Myles, treasurer of Methil Heritage Centre, explained how important the business is to the area.

“It has been an employer in the area forever,” he said.

“Anybody alive probably knows someone who has worked at one of the mills.

“They have been there that long, and they are still there.”

Norman said the group had decided to do the exhibition as they felt it was one of the few major businesses in the area which hadn’t been covered, adding: “It definitely deserves an exhibition on it.”

Donaldson’s expanded into Leven in 1889, and in 1955 the business acquired Elm Park, and two years later it became the first Scottish timber company to buy a forklift truck from its Leven operations. In 1996 the park was subject to further investment and improvements.

The exhibition is running at the Methil Heritage Centre until April 28, 2018.

The centre is open from Tuesday to Thursday, between 11am-4.30pm, and on Saturday, between 1-4.30pm.