“The magnificent new park was formally thrown open to the public amid much ceremonial and considerable public rejoicing”.
So said The Fife Free Press when Kirkcaldy’s Beveridge Park was officially opened to the public on Saturday, September 24, 1892.
The land, always a popular walking area for the people of Kirkcaldy, had been purchased from the Raith Estate by Provost Michael Beveridge and bequeathed to the people of the town upon his death in 1890.
Born in Kirkcaldy in July 1836, as a young man he worked with an insurance company in London but, still in his 20s he went into business in his home town with James Shepherd, a native of Elgin.
They started a new floorcloth factory, built in Factory Road, near the railway line, which was so successful that 12 years late they were able to move into linoleum production.
They formed the Kirkcaldy Linoleum Company in 1877, beginning operations at Rosslyn Works, and within a few years they expanded into another two factories.
Said to be of a shy and retiring disposition, Michael Beveridge nevertheless served on the town council, as was customary for the town’s leading businessmen, and, in 1886, he was made Provost and served for four years until his untimely death from pleurisy at the age of just 54.
He was buried in Bennochy Cemetery, where his grandiose headstone still stands.
The park built in his memory would cover 104 acres of land and was opened by his widow, Elizabeth.
She said to the crowd of 10,000 who flocked to the park for its opening: “In your name, Provost, and in the name of the Magistrates and Councillors of Kirkcaldy, I have the great pleasure in declaring the Beveridge Park to be opened.”
The park itself was very different to the one we see today.
A striking feature which was familiar to the park’s first visitors was the gatehouse. It originally incorporated a tea room, but later reverted to being solely the park-keeper’s house.
The famous lion statues were there too, although in a different place. They were a gift from John Nairn of linoleum fame, who also donated a large ornate urn which stood in the centre of the flower garden before being replaced by the fountain, presented by Mrs Beveridge, in 1931.
The bandstand – long gone – was another original feature and made a popular rendezvous point as people flocked to hear preachers and bands from all over Britain. It became derelict and was removed in 1956.
The lake has always been a centre of attraction. Formerly a bog, which had just enough water for ice skating and curling in winter, it was deepened and enlarged to provide a haven for wildlife.
The first to use it for recreation was the model yacht club, which objected bitterly when rowing boats were introduced.
In 1949 small motorboats were tried, but the idea was eventually abandoned because weed kept clogging the propellers.
Other addition over the years included a rock garden which was created in 1930, an aviary established in the early 1960s, and a pets corner was built in 1972.
Sport has always been an important feature and as far back as 1901 the park hosted Kirkcaldy Rugby Club, which for many years shared a pavilion there with Kirkcaldy Cricket Club. The tennis courts have been in the park since 1926 and the bowling green was opened in 1931.
The park remains a fine tribute to one of Kirkcaldy’s most important historical figures.