WW1 roll of honour inspires ex-KHS pupil to put pen to paper

John Beck's book contains details of all 108 names featured on the Kirkcaldy High School memorial. Pic: FPA
John Beck's book contains details of all 108 names featured on the Kirkcaldy High School memorial. Pic: FPA

A former Kirkcaldy High School pupil has written a book on the ex-pupils and teachers who died in World War One inspired by the school’s memorial.

John Beck, who left the school in 1964 and is vice-chair of the Friends of Kirkcaldy High School, said he had walked past the memorial many times over the years until one day he stopped to look at it and felt compelled to put pen to paper and write his book, ‘The Memorial In The School’

He said: “It was about three years ago and I started reading the names. There’s 108 names on the memorial and I just thought to myself, these are real people, who are they? So I started to do a bit of digging.”

John, who was a police officer in his adopted city of London for over 30 years, said that writing the book was difficult at times.

“Sometimes there wasn’t a great deal to go on,” he said. “Especially if there was a pupil who left at 18 and was killed by the age of 19, also some records had been destroyed.

“But there’s a biography of some description of all of the names on the memorial and I’ve also managed to identify all their last resting places.

“It also gives a little microcosm of what life was like in Kirkcaldy in 1913-14 and there’s a history of the High School itself, so there’s enough for everybody in it.

“It’s a vignette of Kirkcaldy during the war and my aim was to put some flesh on the bones of the deceased.”

Writing on such a serious subject was “horrendous” at times but John said he was determined to finish and was grateful for the help he received.

“I would start with a name and I had the regiments which was lucky. I contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Scotland’s People and of course the Fife Free Press! In that regard the ladies at Sinclairtown Library were helpful beyond belief.

“Considering the subject matter I don’t think I could use the word enjoyable when describing writing it, I think satisfying is a better word, but I’m very pleased with the result.

“There will be descendents in the town who may learn about their relatives.”

‘The Memorial In The School’ is out now and is available at Kirkcaldy Galleries’ bookshop, or via www.reveillepress.com.