Fife Flyers at 80: An ice rink with solid foundations... and an art deco front

Original architect's drawing of Fife Ice Arena, Kirkcaldy, before its opening on October 1, 1938 (Pic: Fife Free Press)
Original architect's drawing of Fife Ice Arena, Kirkcaldy, before its opening on October 1, 1938 (Pic: Fife Free Press)

The first mention of a new ice rink in Kirkcaldy can be found in the Fife Free Press of February 5, 1938.

A public notice on the front page laid out the aims and ambitions of the founders to create a brand new facility at the top of Rosslyn Street.

Advert from Fife Free Press launching the share issue and plans to build Fife Ice Arena - advert dates from February 1938

Advert from Fife Free Press launching the share issue and plans to build Fife Ice Arena - advert dates from February 1938

Their aim was to build a rink for curling, skating and ice hockey.

Curling and skating already had huge interest among locals, who’d flock to public ponds any time they froze over, or travel outwith the area to other facilities - but ice hockey was a new sport on the cusp of a major boom.

Interest was sparked by the remarkable achievements of the Great Britain team at the 1936 Winter Olympics.

They pulled off a major upset by winning gold medals in a sport dominated by Canada. They were the first country to stop the North Americans from winning Olympic gold, and the first team ever to win Olympic, World and European titles in the same year.

Rinks across the UK were packed as pre-war audiences thrilled to this new, fast and furious sport.

The Scottish scene was also vibrant with Glasgow, Kelvingrove, Dundee, Falkirk and Perth hosting teams.

The fact that the founders of the rink were comfortable building a venue which housed 4000 spectators underlined just how vibrant the sport was, and, with curling and skating integral to the programme, it became a focal point.

Across eight decades, generations of local folk have poured through the rink’s art deco doors to skate, play and watch hockey, to curl, and to dance.

The importance of the rink as a social, as well a sporting, asset to Kirkcaldy cannot be under-estimated.

The rink cost £37,000 to build - in truth the final bill just nudged £40,000.

To put that into context, the town’s fire station on Dunnikier Road, which opened just six months earlier, was built at a cost of around £15,000.

That original public notice gave people the opportunity to buy shares as well as finding out more about the project.

There was a 30,000 share issue at £1 each, with 25,000 shares offered for subscription.

Anyone could apply, but, interestingly, under “profession or occupation” the application form stated that “a lady should state whether she is a spinster, married woman or widow” – a request very much of its time.

Formal application was made to the Edinburgh and Dundee Stock Exchanges for permission to deal in shares with a deadline of February 12.

The directors included Sir Robert Cook, JP, linen manufacturer, and past president of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club; George Adamson, motor haulage contractor, Leven; John Anderson, paper manufacturer, Leslie; Archibald Dryburgh, farmer, Methilhill Farm, Leven; Alexander Forrester, Omnibus proprietor, Lochgelly; Alexander Fraser, building contractor, Kirkcaldy; James Glen, merchant, Burntisland; William Porter, flax spinner, Leslie; James Ramsay, chairman of Leslie Gas Company; John Rolland, painter & decorator, Kdy; Capt David Ruscak, director of Wm Ruscak, St Andrews; and Edward Williamson, merchant, Kirkcaldy

An option was taken on three acres of land owned by James Davidson, Branxton, Dysart, at a rate of £25 per acre.

The document noted: “The situation is very convenient as it adjoins Rosslyn St, the main road through Kirkcaldy and has also access from Pottery Street and is well served by the omnibuses, and by buses running to and from adjoining county district.”

Plans for the rink were prepared by Messrs Wm Williamson & Hubbard, chartered architects, in Kirkcaldy.

They came up with an ice pad measuring 195 feet by 97 feet, sufficient for six curling rinks, all the associated dressing-rooms, plus a dining and tea room, refreshment buffet, lounge, and milk bar.

There was also a bandstand plus a confectioners and tobacconist confectioners and tobacconist - and it had style. The art deco frontage remains to this day, but it is just a hint of the post-war elegance which could be found throughout the building.

Messrs Spears fitted out the furnishings in the rink. There was a tomato coloured carpet in the clubroom with Parker Knoll chairs in white birch with dark green moquette. Linen curtains were based on a design by Dame Laura Knight. The colour scheme was reversed for the bar.

Much of the work was carried out by local tradesmen, and the rink was hailed as “a veritable skater’s paradise.”

It was built in around six months, and it remains one of the town’s most recognisable landmarks.