1980: The year Kirkcaldy Espalanade flooded with spring storms

Massive waves crash over the seawall and onto the Esplanade at Kirkcaldy in March 1980.
Massive waves crash over the seawall and onto the Esplanade at Kirkcaldy in March 1980.

The end of March 1980 was in sight, Raith Rovers had a good week with a win over Berwick and a draw with First Division champions-elect Hearts and spring officially gave way to British Summer Time.

So in typical Scottish tradition it was welcomed with gale force winds, floods and even snow.

Flooding on Kirkcaldy Esplanade in March 1980, with the YMCA building visible on the right

Flooding on Kirkcaldy Esplanade in March 1980, with the YMCA building visible on the right

The mad March weather reached its peak on Tuesday, March 18, when mountainous seas, whipped up by easterly winds, crashed over the sea wall at Kirkcaldy, flooding the entire length of the Esplanade to depth of several feet in places at high tide.

Massive 20-foot high waves swept across the car parks and roadway, forcing motorists to abandon their cars and householders and business people to barricade their properties with storm boards and sandbags.

But the high point of the drama came at the YMCA building – now undergoing a major refurbishment as the Kings Theatre.

A group of children – some of them only four years old – found themselves stranded in the building as it became encircled by the sea water.

Police officers were quickly on the scene and carried the youngsters, members of Shiela Zieleniec’s Dancing School, to safety.

Four adults who were also in the building waited until the tide abated at around 6.45pm, before they were able to safely leave.

The flood, which reached its height at 5.10pm, resulted in the closure of the Esplanade to traffic for some five hours from 4 to almost 9pm.

The bus station was hit with services being transferred for the duration of the worst flooding to Charlotte Street at its junction with Thistle Street, though a spokesman for the bus operators, W. Alexander & Sons (Fife) Ltd., said that, in spite of the flooding, bus services were not disrupted.

By Wednesday, the situation had returned to normal with surprisingly little damage in evidence.

Thanks to early police warnings, most people on the waterfront had time to build their defences with sandbags and stormboards to avoid the kind of flood damage that had devastated the area in the past.

With the worst of the flooding over the FFP donned its wellies and bravely set out to answer the question that was on the lips of every Lang Touner – was Jackie ‘O’ OK?

Mercifully, the recently-opened nightclub and its mirrored corridor had emerged unscathed and would be opening its doors on Friday night as usual.

“It will be opening as normal – dry, said manager James Ballingall, “We have had no water in at all as we had the storm boards up in plenty of time.”

The story was much the same next door at the Hotel Ambassadeur, where manager Senga Guion, also reported that flooding had caused no damage.

“We are prepared for flooding now,” she said, “and as soon as we get a flood warning we put up storm boards.”

But things could have been a lot worse according to Roy McNab at Funkie’s DIY shop at Port Brae, who said the water was mere inches from causing damage to his store.

So as the flooding gave way, Kirkcaldy breathed a sigh of relief ... only to then be hit with an overnight snow storm.

All roads across the Kingdom were covered in snow leading to some minor incidents and strong wind led to a 40mph restriction on the Forth Road Bridge.

The Kirkcaldy road leading to the bridge via Bernard’s Smithy was closed after a lorry jack-knifed and at the south end of the Esplanade was closed.

Welcome to the summer!