Nostalgia: Tragedy of Kirkcaldy 1957 plane crash

A pilot and the other occupant of a Meteor jet plane died when it crashed into trees in Dunnikier Park, Kirkcaldy on October 18, 1957.

By Paul McCabe
Thursday, 4th June 2020, 12:30 pm
Members of 1192 (Kirkcaldy) Squadron air cadets held a memorial service  for the two men killed in the 1957 accident last year.
Members of 1192 (Kirkcaldy) Squadron air cadets held a memorial service for the two men killed in the 1957 accident last year.

The tragic accident happened just after 3pm when Flight Lieutenant Mike Withey and Senior Aircraftman Daniel McLoughlin were flying from West Raynham, Norfolk to Turnhouse in Edinburgh.

They had been diverted to RAF Leuchars due to bad weather.

Minutes before the accident Lt. Withey had contacted Leuchars to report engine trouble.

Just before it crashed, the aircraft passed over the new Kirkcaldy High School, which was nearing completion, at a height of less than 100 feet.

Visibility was poor in the area at the time, and it was raining heavily.

The plane exploded upon impact – just fifty yards from Dunnikier House – and wreckage was strewn over a wide area.

The explosion was heard by householders over a mile away.

When the plane didn’t land as expected the police were alerted and a rescue team left Leuchars in a helicopter.

It landed on a cricket pitch to the west of Dunnikier House and an officer contacted police and fire officers before returning to the helicopter with parts of flying gear and a logbook found at the scene.

The FFP reported that seven employees of Kirkcaldy Corporation Parks Department were working in the area and “had remarkable escapes”.

60-year-old Cecil Walker of Balfour Street, said: “There was a terrific explosion like thunder and I saw a whole line of trees burst into flames.

“My first thought was that it was the Russian satellite or something like that.”

He added that a piece of wreckage fell at his feet and grazed his leg.

Fellow worker Bernard McGinn (22) of Raeburn Crescent said: “I thought the plane was going to come right through the roof of the Bothy. Pieces of it came flying through the open door.”

Three other workers were in an outhouse only 20 yards from the scene of the explosion – James Williamson (77), Oaktree Square, William Glen (34), Leslie Street and George McKechnie (70), Dunnikier Cottages.

They only managed to escape the blast because the wall of the building nearest the scene was made of concrete.

William said: “There was a terrific flash.

“I rushed out and saw the trees were on fire.

“There were bits of wreckage falling all over the place.”

The explosion broke windows in the house and outhouses and shattered a garden seat in front of the main building.

Wreckage of the aircraft was scattered over a wide area and many trees were felled.

A parachute was found on a tree at the scene.

An investigation discovered that engine trouble had been responsible for the accident.

It is thought Lt. Withey avoided an emergency landing on a playing field near the old KHS building at Templehall after seeing pupils out playing rugby.

A memorial to the two men was erected in the park in 2008.