Kirkcaldy: The town that floored the world!

Hard at work in the heyday of lino production
Hard at work in the heyday of lino production

For I ken mysel’ by the queer-like smell, That the next stop’s Kirkcaddy!

The popular poem by Mary Campbell Smith is well-known to Langtonians.

Alistair Kerr, former factory engineer. Pics by Angela Catlin

Alistair Kerr, former factory engineer. Pics by Angela Catlin

That smell was the linseed oil, one of the key ingredients in the making of linoleum, upon which the early fortunes of the town were built.

And the history of lino and how Kirkcaldy came to have a monopoly on the making of it will be explored in a new documentary ‘The Town that Floored the World,’ to be shown on Monday night.

Directed by Glasgow-born Maurice Smith and produced by Shruti Rao, the programme explores the origins of the “magic material” from the mid 19th century, revealing how the town came to own the right to produce it in huge quantities, taking it all over the world.

Speaking to the Press this week, Maurice (57), said: “We covered the revival of the lino industry in the early 1990s when we did some filming in the factory.

“ I was always keen to revisit it at a later date.

“My father’s family was from Fife so I have those links.

“Last year we did a documentary about the thread manufacturers in Paisley which went down really well with viewers.

“It told about how the town suffered from the loss of the industry, so it was a similar story to Kirkcaldy, although there is still lino being made there, but nowhere near the scale it was during its heyday.

Gavin Grant curator at Kirkcaldy Galleries with lino samples

Gavin Grant curator at Kirkcaldy Galleries with lino samples

“Making the programme was great because we had the benefit of having people still working in the factory as well as retired workers who remembered the boom days of linoleum.

“We spoke to Val McDermid and there’s a scene of the train pulling into Kirkcaldy station from Edinburgh and she bursts into the poem ‘The Boy in the Train’ which she learned at school.

“It was great to be able to revisit the town.

“Forbo were extremely helpful when we contacted them asking for access to the factory.

Peter Stevenson, process controller at Forbo for more than 45 years

Peter Stevenson, process controller at Forbo for more than 45 years

“We also had help from David Muncey, the company historian who showed us their archives.

“The story about how Kirkcaldy became a world centre for linoleum is quite a remarkable one.

“I hope that the people of Kirkcaldy enjoy the programme and seeing themselves on film.”

>>‘The Town That Floored the World’ is on BBC2 on Monday at 9.00 pm.