A new look for an old landmark ...

Kirkcaldy prom in the late 1920s
Kirkcaldy prom in the late 1920s

Kirkcaldy prepares to give a warm welcome back to its historic Promenade after £9m facelift

Kirkcaldy is preparing to welcome back its beloved promenade after an 18-month and £9 million facelift with a colourful event on Sunday.

A ‘Promenade the Promenade’ event, inviting members of the public to walk the seafront, has been organised by local women Christine May and Ann Wood, and will follow on from the official opening by Fife Council.

The Army Reserves will set the unofficial part the afternoon off with the firing of one of its big guns out over the water at 2.00 p.m. and Kirkcaldy and District Pipe Band and the New Generation Twirlers will lead the assembled walkers from the Basin car park at the west end of the Prom along to the east end at the harbour – a distance of
1.8 kilometres.

The Wild Sea Swimmers group will swim the length of the Prom, and members of the Kinghorn Coastal Rowing Group will join rowers from North and South Queensferry, while Glenrothes Triathlon Club members will run along the beach.

More marshals are still required to help direct walkers on the day and anyone who has a few hours to spare between 1.00 and 3.30 p.m. should contact Christine on 07748 884797.

Christine told the Press: “I can’t quite believe how this has grown from the original idea that it would be nice to do something to welcome the Prom back to such a major event.

“I want to thank everyone who has given their time and energy to hopefully help make it a great success – Ann and I are really looking forward to it actually happening on Sunday.”

Prom upgrade

The work, which began in May 2013, included repairing the wall at the Basin, at the south end of the Esplanade, and installing a rock armour revetment – huge lines of boulders – which will break up large waves before they reach the wall. Around 80,000 tonnes of rock armour were used.

The wall was then refurbished and heightened to help protect the promenade, and new shelters, seating and lighting were installed to make it a more attractive place for locals and visitors to enjoy.

The Prom was resurfaced and raised to maintain sea views, and improved beach access ramps and steps, including two new ramps suitable for disabled access, were built.

All the work was carried out by contractors VolkerStevin.

The old plaque marking the building of the original Prom was refurbished and will be unveiled by Fife Council at 1.30 p.m. on Sunday.

From the 1922 archives ...

Sunday’s opening will be in stark contrast to the original opening of the Prom in 1923, when the post-war deprivations being deeply felt by the townsfolk led the Town Council to decide not to hold anything official, as it would be seen as “too ostentatious” for the times.

Work began building the seawall and Esplanade in the first half of 1922.

Reports in the Fife Free Press of the time showed there seemed to be some doubt about the number of unemployed people who worked on the project. The contractors wanted to use skilled construction workers, rather than unskilled unemployed people, and there is reference in Hansard in 1922 to this by means of a parliamentary question.

It became clear from the start that the two contractors – McAlpine for the Sea Wall and Blyth and Blyth for the new road and other surfaces – did not particularly want to employ local unemployed, including those who had served in the First World War, because, they claimed the work required, particularly for the significant preparation excavation work, was extremely arduous and dangerous.

It was being carried out entirely under the spring tide water mark, and there were fears expressed that local labour was not up to the job!

The contractors reported that many of those who were sent along from the local labour exchange did not last for very long – sometimes only hours! The contractors therefore tended to employ their own regulars, many of them Irish, who knew the nature of the work and were able to, body and soul, withstand the rigours and the dangers.

The upshot was that the Unemployment Grants Committee - a Government committee at the time - was refusing to make payment of nearly £40,000 to the Council, as it was not convinced the regulations had been abided by.

By the end of 1923 it looked like there was going to be a considerable shortfall in funding for the initial £120,000 total project, which had risen to £128,000.

The Council was having to borrow most of the money for the project at a four peer cent interest rate. The project should have been complete by the end of August 1923, but was only nearing completion by late November.

The financial rows between the two contractors and the Council rumbled on into 1924.

In autumn 1923 the Council decided to call the new development the Promenade for the walking bit and the Esplanade for the road bit, replacing the original name of Sands Road. With thanks to George Proudfoot of Kirkcaldy Civic Society.