Kirkcaldy in 50 objects: the story behind Beveridge Park
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This month’s object in Kirkcaldy Civic Society’s project, ‘Kirkcaldy’s Heritage in 50 Objects’, examines what prompted Michael Beveridge to leave money for a park. Read mor at www.kirkcaldyin50objects.com
Why is it in that particular spot? Whose ground was it originally and was it bought or gifted? The answers to these questions have been lost in the mists of time and the intention of this object is two-fold – to answer these points and also provide a potted history of the park’s growth from virgin land to the iconic spot it became.
The one certainty is that, being Kirkcaldy, it was no simple transaction, rather it ruffled feathers and caused bitterness, especially in the Pathhead/Sinclairtown area.
The idea of parks came about as a result of the industrial revolution with the desire to provide open air recreation for the masses toiling in the factories and mills. Kirkcaldy’s principal newspapers, through articles and letters, supported the campaign for a park but it all came to nothing.
In 1886 Michael Beveridge was elected as Provost and his first agenda was threefold – provide a public park, extend the harbour and improve the Sands Road. The 1887 celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee offered an opportunity for a park. All over the country, councils were promoting memorials/monuments to mark the occasion. Kirkcaldy considered three possibilities – a park, a hospital, or an institute.
Almost unbelievably, all were discarded and Michael Beveridge must have felt uncomfortable, especially when neighbouring Dysart produced new public buildings and nearby Kinghorn a golf course.
Did this failure to secure one of his main projects, together with Kirkcaldy’s muted celebrations, play on his mind – did that influence his Will? His death in 1890 provided Kirkcaldy with his rich legacy but not before much infighting and ill feeling both in the Council and the public in general. The choice of site was the issue – it was not central and those in Pathhead northwards felt they were being excluded.
The length of the town and the lack of public transport was a stumbling block for many, creating a move to champion a more central site at Hayfield. Astonishing scenes included Councillors voting by secret ballot plus Indignation Meetings being held in Pathhead. Eventually the present site won the day but not before Mr Oswald of Dunnikier and Provost Black had an unseemly spat via the Letters Pages of the Press. The geography of the town would be far different today if an alternative site had been chosen.
The park was opened on the September 24, 1892 with a full ceremony and a procession. For the first time Kirkcaldy had a large recreational area to call its own, albeit after much ill feeling and recrimination – but time heals!