Kirkcaldy school celebrates 50 years
Five decades of education, music, drama, art and sport are to be celebrated as Balwearie High School marks a special milestone this month.
Staff and pupils are toasting its 50th year with a week-long celebration of various events and activities from June 16.
An exhibition, featuring displays of photographs, information and show recordings, from across the past five decades at the school will be set up in the library/information centre and this will run from Monday, June 16 to Friday, June 20.
The information centre will be open to visitors during the school day and in the evening from 7.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m - visitors are asked to report to the school office.
On Tuesday, June 17, a special sports day is being held.
Plans are in place to include master classes given by former pupils who have reached international level in their chosen sports. They will offer insights into achieving success at national level.
The sports day, organised by the school’s sports leaders, will also include football, netball as well as traditional games like the sack and egg and spoon races.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, June 17 and Wednesday, June 18 there will be an art exhibition taking place in the assembly hall.
The art display will feature work by current and former pupils who have gone on to become artists in their own right.
And on Friday, June 20 there will be a ceilidh with music from Clamjamfry.
This has been organised by the Balwearie fundraising group for current and former pupils as well as staff. Tickets are available from the school by contacting (01592) 583402.
There are also plans for a musical event later this year to tie in with the actual anniversary of the school opening, which took place in November 1964. Any pupils who played an instrument or took part in musical shows are invited to get involved.
James More, current rector at Balwearie High, gave his personal reflection of his experiences at Balwearie High over the last two decades.
He told The Press: “I have been fortunate to spend over 20 years of my life at Balwearie as a pupil, member of staff and parent,” he said.
“This excellent school provided me with a first class education in the ‘70s, combining academic studies in science and maths with a wide range of opportunities to take part in sport and music.
“I was inspired by such great teachers as Dave Ritchie, depute head at the time, who had very high expectations, an infectious enthusiasm for science and a sense of humour which kept us all on our toes!
“The music department, under John Baillie, ran bands, orchestras and the bi-annual musical which has been a feature of Balwearie’s 50 years. Musicals brought together so many staff and made a huge contribution to the ethos of the school.
“PE staff such as Tommy Aberdein, supported by teachers like Norrie Stenton and Brian Hughes, provided an immense extra-curricular sports programme.
The camaraderie of the staff was clearly evident and contributed to a very positive atmosphere throughout the school.”
Dr More later returned to the school as depute rector. He continued: “Having left Balwearie in 1980, I had the privilege to return 18 years later to a school which had become respected as one of the best in the country under Gordon Mackenzie, Balwearie’s third rector.
“One of the school’s great strengths is its very mixed catchment area, bringing together young people from different backgrounds and helping them to work and learn together.
“I was also delighted with the prospect of my three children having the opportunity to come to Balwearie and enjoy the quality education which had given me such a good start in my career.”
He added: “As we move forward into Balwearie’s sixth decade, I am determined to make sure future generations of pupils are given the opportunities I had as a teenager. The society we live in now has changed a great deal since the ‘80s, but Balwearie’s motto “To strive, to seek” is as relevant now as in 1964 when the school was built.”
It took Gavin McConnell, architect of Balwearie High, approximately two years to complete the design process for the school.
He was a member of the architects’ department in Fife Council from 1953 until his retiral in 1984.
He was responsible for the design of a number of schools including Balwearie.
Gavin, who was a member of the official school opening committee, said: “Balwearie Secondary was completed in 1964, but was expanded 10 years later to become Balwearie High School to accommodate 1500 pupils.
“I was also responsible for this extension, which was doubling the teaching accommodation of the original building.
“The problem with designing Balwearie 2 (Balwearie High School) - from an architectural perspective - was how to design such a large extension, while retaining the style of the original building.
“The solution was found in developing Balwearie 2 in a high part of the site and joining them together with a linking bridge.”
Gavin was greatly influenced by the work of French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier and Balwearie featured his ideas, such as the raised building off the ground on a series of columns – allowing free movement around the building by staff and pupils and developing the roof space for internal and external use.
Gavin added: “I visited the school recently in connection with preparations for the 50-year celebrations and was very pleasantly surprised to see how the appearance and quality of the building, both internally and externally, has withstood the test of time.”
Lord Robbens, chairman of the National Coal Board, officially opened Balwearie Secondary on November 16, 1964.
It took two years and three months to build at a cost of half a million pounds. The original school building had accommodation for 780 pupils with 60 teaching staff. It had 14 classrooms, seven science rooms, six technical rooms, five art rooms, six domestic science rooms, two music rooms, a library, assembly hall, dining hall, gymnasium, swimming pool and offices. Dr D. M. McIntosh, director of education for Fife, described Balwearie as one of Scotland’s “educational showpieces”.
The first rector at Balwearie High was Tom Elder, whose term in office ran from 1964 until 1970.
His successor, Oliver McLaughlan, was rector for 18 years from 1970 until 1988.
Gordon McKenzie OBE was rector at Balwearie for 22 years from 1988 until 2010.
Dr James More is the current rector. He was depute headmaster from 2001 until 2010 after a spell as acting rector. Notable former pupils include actress Sharon Small, hockey player Stephen Dick, footballers Lewis Stevenson and Colin Cameron and Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance.