Is Methil really the worst place to visit?

Methil Docks by Tam Pelan
Methil Docks by Tam Pelan

WHEN travel writer Tim Moore made Methil the only Scottish town in his ‘even worse than you thought’ list it was bound to provoke a reaction.

Happy as ever to hear readers’ views the Mail asked for comments on what he said and whether he had a point or not?

There was a mixed response. Some unequivocal in defence of the town, who hit out at it being attacked by an ‘outsider’, but surprisingly even more thought our illustrious travel writing friend had a point and that Methil does reek more than the old power station lum ever did.

For those who haven’t read Mr Moore’s prose, part of what he said was: “Never before had the chasm between vibrant past and bleak present yawned more hugely. To one side stood the abandoned power station, its soaring concrete chimney an attempt to disperse the noxious aftermath of the slurried waste-coal burned there. To the other a sprawl of pebble-dash and rubbled nothing: a town whose own residents had proposed twinning with Kosovo, Beirut and Uranus.”

Whether fair or not, plenty voiced their opinion on the Mail’s Facebook page.

Peter McDougall said: “It’s like any area that suffers from high unemployment and a lack of investment. It’s rundown and has a drug problem to boot. Businesses need a reason to invest in areas like this and as a business owner I see no reason to at present.”

Lesley Blackwood added: “I live in Methil but if I didn’t it would be the last place on earth I’d visit, it used to be a good community to live in but sadly it has been taken over by junkies and neds. My daughter lives near one of the roughest areas in Manchester and when she comes here to visit she cannot believe how bad it’s become!”

However, as quickly as some stuck the knife in, others were willing to come to Methil’s aid.

Julie Murphy said: “I’m originally from Govan in Glasgow. Methil is a much better place to bring up my kids. Everywhere you go, there is an area that’s dubbed as the ‘rough part’. How they can say that about Methil, I’ll never know, there are much worse places to live.”

Emma Walker added: “I have lived, schooled and worked in Methil most of my 31 years and am now bringing my son up in the area. Some of us like the area and choose to live here – I quite like it.”

Jane Heggie questioned what there is in Methil to attract tourists but that didn’t wash with everyone.

Shimayne Walker said there was plenty to do: “Check out the small shops in the area, see what they’ve got to offer. Go see the heritage centre and have a look at old Methil pics etc. Go see East Fife play. There’s Byron Park indoor and outdoor. Go play snooker in Methil community centre. Take a nice walk through Memorial Park and see the new mosaic designs and flower beds.”

Gill Simpson added: “Walk down the docks to see the seals.”

With arguments to-ing and fro-ing a consensus seemed to break out that Methil may not be the best place but by no means does it deserve the tag as the worse place to visit in Scotland.

Dean Howard said: “What about any place in Edinburgh other than the centre, I work out there often i.e. Murrayburn/Hailesland and they are horrible places to be! Junkie central! No where near as bad as Methil! Room for improvement perhaps! FC get yer finger out!”

Vicki Taylor added: “Wot about certain places in Glasgow n Edinburgh not 2 mention Dundee. It is a dump but not as bad as some.”

Karla Holloway said: “I like Methil, I don’t think it’s bad to live in, but it’s not perfect like many places, some parts like the Methilhill park area has been fenced off for ages, why hasn’t it been fixed, Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes have youth centres for the teens, why doesn’t Methil!”

Whatever your view, perhaps the one good thing Mr Moore has done has got people talking about how to improve the town. On the other hand when a reviewer has to refer to a song, a Wikipedia page, a Youtube clip and a TV programme that all feature Methil it makes you wonder if he has ever visited.

Methil’s got character, community, and industry

“I’M from Methil, I’m proud of Methil and I’m proud of what is going on.”

That’s the view of Lower Methil Community Association chair, Moira Girvan, who hit out strongly at travel writer Tim Moore’s comments.

Clearly annoyed, she questioned if he knew the impact of his actions.

She said: “Does he realise the ramifications of what he has done? Kids begin to think they live in a dump and people will go for a job interview in Edinburgh and will immediately be at a disadvantage when they say where they are from. The damage is irresponsible.

“Who would put Methil in a travel book anyway? All the areas he picked out were industrial areas. They bring jobs and jobs bring prosperity. Where does he get his oil from – sucking it out the north sea with a straw?

“There is nothing for Methil to be ashamed about. When industrial communities evolve there is always a gap in the middle to decide where to go. For us it’s the Energy Park.”

Methil born and bred, Ms Girvan is heavily involved in the local community. As well as being chair of Lower Methil Community Association she previously worked at Methil Heritage Centre and is also involved at the Sailors Rest centre so was surprised not to have heard of anyone seeing or speaking to Mr Moore when he apparently visited the town.

She added: “I don’t think he has spoken to anyone.

“The heritage centre is your focal point. It’s the stories that come out of Methil that make it. It’s the character.

“I think he is demeaning the people, not just the area.

“I would like to hear him substantiate what he has said.

“There are always going to be people down on their luck. The community looks after the community. It might argue black is white with you but when the chips are down someone will be there.

“Places like Cumbernauld are sprawling and don’t have that. People here will stop you in the street and ask what’s going on. It’s better than a faceless place.”

Take the Methil tour

METHIL Heritage Centre’s Mary Reilly gave the Mail a tour of the town to prove it has a rich history with plenty for visitors to explore. Here are just some of the features she pointed out:

Methil Heritage Centre – On Methil High Street it constantly updates its archives and exhibitions, It is one of only three buildings in the world to carry the insignia of King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne after less than a year.

The Cannons Surgery – Situated on Fisher Street, named after James Fisher of Fisher’s Emporium. Was originally a house built by a doctor and is named after two cannons which made gate posts for a hall that stood near the original site.

Community Centre – Standing opposite what used to be the Imperial Picture House at the top of Fisher Street it opened as a Miner’s Institute in 1927. Taken over by Fife Council in the early 1970s it is still a popular venue to this day – being home to a nursery, a number of classes and sports such as snooker and carpet bowls.

Wellesley Road – Built between 1904-06 it was funded by Randolph Wemyss. First used as a tramway, it is named after the Laird’s second wife, Lady Eva Wellesley. Was where East Fife, the only Second Division side to ever win the Scottish Cup, played at Bayview Park up until 1998. The Bayview Bar is still opposite.

Tower Bar – Built by the Wemyss Tramway Company in 1907, the clock tower still remains although originally had a swan weathervane on top.

East Fife Indoor Bowling Club – Originally the tramway’s depot it is now home to the East Fife indoor bowling team which competes across the country.

Bawbee Bridge – First built in 1840 its name comes from the halfpenny toll to cross it. Today’s bridge was opened in 1957.

Gospel Hall – Built in 1907 it is still used for worship.

Waverley Steps – Ideal for looking out over the docks it connects Toboggan Road and Whyterose Terrace. Named because of its similarity to steps at Edinburgh’s Waverley train station.

Norton House – Situated on the High Street the building was once the German Vice Consulate and flew the Swastika flag when Hitler came to power in 1933. The flag has since been donated to the Heritage Centre.

Methil Docks – The former hub of the town was frequented by ships from around the world due to Methil’s unusally deep port. Has since been linked into the Fife Energy Park and houses the Hydrogen Office, powered by its own turbine.

Sailor’s Rest – Opened in 1904 as the ‘Seaman’s Bethel’ it is now home to a number of community groups.

New Bayview – Home to East Fife FC and replaced Bayview Park in 1998.

To arrange a tour with Methil Heritage Centre call 01334 659339.