Burntisland exhibition features on area's history of Building for the World
Over the years, the coastal communities played an important role in the shipping industry which in turn offered employment to local people and those from further afield.
And it’s the history of these local shipyards which is the focus of this year’s summer exhibition by Burntisland Heritage Trust.
The exhibition, entitled Building for the World: 100 years of ship building, opened to visitors last month and it’s the second year in a row that there’s been a maritime theme. This time looking back on the history of Burntisland Shipping Co. Ltd. and the Abden yard in Kinghorn.
George McLauchlan, a trustee of the Burntisland Heritage Trust has been leading this year’s project and alongside putting together the wealth of information and photographs contained on the panels in the Heritage Centre he has also written a book on the history of the local yards.
George said: “It was reading about John Key, who had an engine works in Kirkcaldy that got me interested. He used to supply engines for ships which were initially fitted elsewhere before he began fitting them in Kirkcaldy. He decided to go into ship building and fitting his engines into his own ships and set up a shipyard in Kinghorn. It opened in 1864. The engines he built, and later the ships built in Kinghorn, went all across the world.
"I decided to combine the two yards so rather than just being 25 or 30 panels in the display it’s doubled in size and it’s now one of the biggest exhibitions we have done."
After going through several owners after John Key’s death, the shipyard in Kinghorn closed shortly after a yard opened along the coast in Burntisland.
The Burntisland yard was opened by brothers Wilfrid and Amos Ayre to help meet the demand for shipping during the first World War.
Construction started on the Burntisland yard in 1918 and the first ship was launched less than a year later as they were building the ships while they were building the yard.
The exhibition tells the stories of the yards and how those running them were forced to adapt their work to suit what was needed by the shipping industry. Employing thousands of people over the years, the shipyard was a huge employer for Burntisland and offered a great social life for employees as well as being their workplace. There were numerous social clubs set up, with Burntisland Shipyard football team still running to this day.
The yard remained operational until 1969 when the final ship to be built in Burntisland – The Helen Miller – was launched. During its 50 year history, more than 400 ships had been built on the site.
George added: “There’s not a lot of physical evidence left of the shipyards in Kinghorn or Burntisland. I started the research last year and have only recently just finished the book. It’s been very interesting putting it all together. It’s a big part of the area’s history which we don’t want to lose.”
A free summer exhibition has been an annual event in Burntisland since 1994 at the Heritage Centre in Kirkgate.
The exhibition is open Thursday to Saturday each week in July and August, from 11am to 4pm in the Heritage Centre, Kirkgate. George’s book is available to buy from the Heritage Centre.