Column: From Smithy's to Sleeves - Kirkcaldy has changed, but so have we

You don’t often chat with politicians about music, clubbing and Saturdays in Kirkcaldy.

Two Kirkcaldy stalwarts - Sleeves and Smithy's
Two Kirkcaldy stalwarts - Sleeves and Smithy's

Such matters rarely arise in the hallowed corridors of Westminster, so it was a pleasure to blether with Neale Hanvey MP for his new radio show which broadcasts on K107fm.

The more you chat about days gone by, the more you realise how much the town has changed.

The inherent danger is always to view everything through rose tinted specs, and dismiss everything now as poor or second rate.But, we change as much as the town does.

Smithy's Tavern, Kirkcaldy

I came here in the mid 1980s and enjoyed many great nights on the town, and the odd lockie-in here and there - I think 6:00am was the latest I ever rolled out of Thunder Road after a quite spectacular night celebrating Fife Flyers’ league title win, while the curtains at the Harbour Bar would often be drawn for a discreet wee extra pint or two.

The record shops I haunted have gone, and most of the familiar names have departed the High Street.

The town I moved to is very different today, but that’s okay.

I can see progress as much as I still see those horrible eyesores and gap sites. It ain’t a perfect picture, and probably never will be.

Sleeves record shop, Kirkcaldy

I love the cafe culture that has blossomed across the town centre.

Sundays afternoons which were once spent listening to some cracking live bands in Batr Itza are now enjoyed with a cuppa access the road at Roots & Seeds or the Merchants Cafe.

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As much as some folk decry it, the town centre has a heart which the retail park never will.

One is a place to meet, the other is simply functional.

Lots of memories were triggered chatting to Neale about those changes, about the places we haunted, and the rituals we had on a Saturday in Kirkcaldy.

For me, it was a working day spent in the press boxes at Stark’s Park and the ice rink, but it also meant trips to Sleeves as well the High Street stores which had decent(ish) racks of vinyl.

Even Boots sold albums back then. I knew the times were a-changing when I asked for a replacement needle and saw the look of horror spread across the face of the young sales assistant.

Nostalgia is a powerful drug, so too is a dose of reality.

If I could bring anything back from that time, it’d be Smithy’s Tavern run by the legendary Mike Gilbert - the type of bar where everybody did know your name and offered a welcome few could can match.

But, no town or city stands still.

We create our own memories of our time out and about, and then leave the dance floor to the next generation, and shift to the bar trying to make ourselves heard above the din of the DJ playing music we don’t recognise.

And that’s how it should be.

Places thrive then reach the end of their lifetime, but the memories will always burn bright.

I’m sure Neale’s show will capture many such moments - snapshots to make folk smile as they tune in.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Fife Free Press.