Fife Flyers at 80: New rink was a ‘paradise on ice’

Advert in the Fife Free Press promoting the ice hockey game between Fife Flyers and Falkirk Lions in 1938
Advert in the Fife Free Press promoting the ice hockey game between Fife Flyers and Falkirk Lions in 1938

The opening of Kirkcaldy Ice Rink on October 1, 1938, was a landmark day.

The building was hailed “a veritable skater’s paradise.”

Len McCartney, one of the players in the very first team which iced in 1938.

Len McCartney, one of the players in the very first team which iced in 1938.

The afternoon’s opening ceremony attracted a crowd of 4625, causing a two-mile tailback of traffic in the Gallatown.

Guests included shareholders, local dignitaries and members of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

Lord Elgin performed the honours by throwing the first curling stone.

He also praised the rink’s pioneers, stating: “I am proud that Fife is taking a leading part again and I hope many trophies will be fought for, and won, in the spirit of friendship and comradeship, keen rivalry and competition.”

Advert from Fife Free Press promoting Fife Flyers ice hockey match

Advert from Fife Free Press promoting Fife Flyers ice hockey match

The rink’s opening meant an end to the days waiting for ponds to freeze over to skate or play Bonspiels.

Wrote the Fife Free Press: “No longer will skaters have to wait wearily for a suitable period of frost or leave in terror at a premature thaw.”

The theme was touched upon in his remarks by Lord Elgin who remarked: “ Only a few years ago if we so wanted to indulge in curling or skating we had had to wait on the elements. Now, thanks to Lord Dudley Gordon, the elements may go to blazes. You can come here and enjoy your curling, skating or ice hockey at any time.”

Lord Elgin, a keen curler, was presented with his own stone and the key to locker number one for him to store his equipment.

The opening ceremony was designed to showcase every aspect of the winter sports the rink would host.

Fife Flyers took on Dundee Rockets, and were led out by mascot ‘Wee Smith’ who went on to become GB internationalist and a club stalwart, Bert Smith.

The first ever goal scored on the new ice pad went to Norman McQuade who took a pass from Durling and found the net with a shot from out wide.

He was also the first to skate on the surface … and the first to be injured!

At the end of the first period, ice skater Megan Taylor gave her first demonstration after which Lady Lockhart presented her with a set of golf clubs. Sadly no explanation was given for the unusual choice of gift!

She returned to the ice during the second period break, while there were also speed skating races featuring members of Glasgow Speed Skating Club, including a one-mile race, plus an exhibition of popular dances, led by Mr Leonard Stewart, floor manager, and his partner.

Flyers lost the game 4-1 as Dundee’s experience and quality shone through, but the Press noted the performances of several players - Tommy Durling and McQuade were “outstanding” and player coach, Les Lovell was “strong and resourceful, and originated most of their attacks.”

Match day tickets cost from 1/ while season tickets were around 10/, and you got to skate for free after the game – a tradition that continued up until the last decade.