Raising a glass to 40 years of town twinning

KIRKCALDY'S Town Square is to be transformed into a huge beer garden at the end of the month as Langtonians celebrate a 40-year link with their German counterparts in Ingolstadt.

Locals will be able to enjoy Bavarian festival beer as well as salted bread, which is traditionally served up to the German drinkers.

Run in conjunction with the Town House Jubilee celebrations, the festival will provide seating for 500 people and will include a delegation from Ingolstadt - council officials and musicians, who will be entertaining from Wednesday June 25 through to the Saturday.

It's over 40 years since the first citizens of Kirkcaldy, Provost James Gourlay, and Ingolstadt Oberburgermeister Dr Jozef Listl, met in the Town House to sign a "declaration of friendship".

In the 40 years since, many friendships have developed between citizens of the two towns, both as individuals and as members of various organisations.

Links between schools were particularly strong, with Kirkcaldy High School making their first trip to Bavaria in April 1963.

Pupils from St Andrews High School followed in July of the same year and Balwearie High School scholars made the trip some time later.

During this time return visits were made by pupils of schools in Ingolstadt.

In 1968 a link was forged between Fife College (then Kirkcaldy Technical College) and its Ingolstadt counterparts.

When local government reorganisation took place in Scotland in 1975, Kirkcaldy Town Council was replaced by Kirkcaldy District Council and the first civic reception the new authority gave was for a youth group (ESV) from Ingolstadt.

And when Kirkcaldy received a Royal visit in 1976, the then Oberburgermeister, Peter Schnell, was invited and introduced to Prince Philip.

Two years later he led a West German delegation to Britain to study golf course construction and management and Kirkcaldy was one of their bases. It was not unexpected when a course was constructed in Ingolstadt, six holes initially, and representatives of Kirkcaldy and Dunnikier Park golf clubs took part in the opening ceremony.

And so it has continued over the years with sea cadets, swimmers, golfers, athletes and churches maintaining the connection, and one of the most active links recently has been between Rotarians.

In 1998 the Kirkcaldy Ingolstadt Association was founded under the chairmanship of Roy McNab and, working in partnership with Fife Council, it seeks to promote the link between the two places.

The Association, now chaired by Robert Main, continues to support the many groups and individuals looking to partner with Ingolstadt, working together with its sister organisation FISKY (Friendship Kirkcaldy-Ingolstadt).

Mr Main, who took up an annual three-month work placement in Ingolstadt as a result of the link-up, explained how important the twinning was.

He said: "I think it has been exceptionally important. The link between the two towns has provided a lot of people with incredible opportunities.

"I ended up having a summer job there in a tree nursery and garden centre from 1973 to 1975.

"And I think the work we are involved in, in conjunction with Fife Council, will go some way to reinvigorating the links between the two towns."

A major event in Ingolstadt is the biennial Middle Bavarian Exhibition (MIBA), which Kirkcaldy attended for the first time in 1979.

It attracts around 100,000 visitors every two years and Kirkcaldy has been represented ever since, the latest participation taking place in April this year as part of the anniversary celebrations .

In total 30 delegates from Ingolstadt are set to travel to the Lang Toun at the end of the month.

A full programme of events has been organised including a trip to Edinburgh and a reception ceilidh in the Lang Toun.