Fife village set to build on Joe Corrie’s legacy

The community is set to come together to celebrate the life and work of Fife poet and playwright Joe Corrie. (Pic G McLuskie).
The community is set to come together to celebrate the life and work of Fife poet and playwright Joe Corrie. (Pic G McLuskie).

Once described by T.S Elliot as the “the greatest Scots poet since Burns”, the life and legacy of Cardenden miner and poet Joe Corrie is once again helping to galvanise the community where he once lived, some 50 years after his death.

At the community centre named after him, volunteers are putting the final preparations in place for a major celebration of the life of the poet and playwright as part of a much wider project aimed at bringing people together.

Joe Corrie, playwright & poet from Cardenden in Fife.

Joe Corrie, playwright & poet from Cardenden in Fife.

Including sculpture, art and music, at the project’s heart will be an exhibition based on The Sair Road, author William Hershaw’s poem sequence written in Scots based on the Stations of the Cross and set in Fife during the miners’ strikes.

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The work of artist Les McConnell will also feature as part of a major exhibition at the Corrie Centre. (Pic G McLuskie).

The work of artist Les McConnell will also feature as part of a major exhibition at the Corrie Centre. (Pic G McLuskie).

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The work, which also featured dramatic illustrations by Les McConnel, certainly impressed Margaret King from the Corrie Centre. who after seeing it on display in 2018 decided to bring it to Cardenden.

“I was blown away by the impact and gravity of the work when I witnessed it on show in Lochgelly and with it being heavily influenced by the work of Corrie, I felt the centre would be an ideal location to present it,” Margaret told the Press.

Her passion for the project is echoed by local Labour councillor Linda Erskine, who was born and raised in Cardenden.

“We want to build on Corrie’s legacy and bring his work to a wider public, the project has grown and developed into something much more than was originally intended and that’s very exciting,” said Cllr Erskine.

“Some may see Cardenden as just a wee mining village but we want to make a mark with this, and there is already a fantastic community spirit which offers huge potential.”

Famed for his radical and thought-provoking plays and poetry which exuded a gritty realism of the times, Joseph ‘Joe’ Corrie drew inspiration for his writing from his experiences as a miner and the General Strike of 1926.

Corrie was born in Slamannan, Stirlingshire, in 1894 before his family moved to the Fife mining village of Cardenden when he was still an infant. He started work in the pits in 1908.

The first performances of his plays Hogmanay and The Shillin’-a-week Man, performed by the Bowhill Players around halls and institutes helped raise money to feed striking miners and their families.

However, it was his In Time O’Strife, which retraced the appalling effects of the strike on three families, which was his breakthrough , playing to packed out music halls and theatres across Scotland.

It was later revived by the left-wing theatre company 7:84 in 1984 during the Thatcher years and the latter stages of the miners’ strike being waged across the UK. In 2013 the National Theatre Company of Scotland toured it across Britain.

Corrie died in Edinburgh in November 1968, however his inspirational work continues to influence and delight successive generations.

The community centre building in his home town of Cardenden was named in is memory in 1985.

Only last month St Andrews University launched an online resource celebrating Corries’s work.

As well as the exhibition, the Centre now has a new ‘twin thistle’ sculpture created by Leslie-based artist Rory Thomas , famed for his recent hippo creation in Glenrothes, which has had an amazing reaction from residents, said Margaret.

“A Tree of Life sculpture, the design of which will include youngsters from the local schools, has been commissioned and other street furniture including a bench is also planned.”

With funding from various outlets including Ore Valley Housing Association, the Exhibition and range of other associated events are to take place during the summer.

“He’s Cardenden’s most famous son, it’s only right we create that legacy,” Margaret explained.