West Fife Communities Introduction
It would be nice if this web site could dedicate individual articles concerning the many coal mine related hamlets and villages of this area but their current circumstances and historical past are so closely intertwined and identical in many respects. As such, articles dedicated to Blairhall, Saline, Comrie and Valleyfield would involve a lot of repetition and where each community shares similar history and appearance. Collectively, they are more alike than different with an origin often linked to coal extraction. While all of them share a quiet, serene and community spirit, the majority of residents are typically commuters in modern times since there are no firmly established or local industries in these former coal mining communities. This page describes some notable exceptions.
Kincardine On Forth
More locally known simply as Kincardine, the small town is located at the northern edge of the Kincardine Bridge and which spans a narrower partof the Forth Estuary. The bridge, constructed between 1932 and 1936, was originally designed as a seven span bridge with the central sections able to swing ninety degrees to permit passage of larger ships into the narrower parts of the Forth Estuary. This was operated from a control room at it's mid-point and located high above the roadway.
The swing-bridge function was discontinued in 1988.
Kincardine lies approximately mid way between the towns of Stirling, capital city of central region, and the town of Dunfermline in Fife and where the bridge provides good road communications with Falkirk, Cumbernauld and Glasgow. The northern overland route from Kincardine and Kinross in Perthshire provides a good short cut towards Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. The bridge has thus served as an important communication link for many years but has suffered from congestive motoring difficulties in recent times. For this reason, the local roads have been improved in order to reduce congestion within the small community. To reduce this traffic congestion further, a new Clackmannanshire Bridge has been opened to the west of Kincardine. Kincardine is home to the Scottish Police College at nearby Tulliallan Castle.
Longannet Power Station
Longannet Power Station is located a few miles eastward of Kincardine and is the largest electrical power generation plant in Scotland. It began generating electricity in 1970 and was regarded as the largest facility of it's type in Europe when fully commissioned in 1973. Even now, it ranks as number three behind similar power stations in Belchatow in Poland and Drax in England.
As designed, the huge chimney stack is one hundred and eighty three metres high and making it highly visible from a distance yet lacks the traditional cooling towers found elsewhere in the nation and nowhere else in Scotland. Water drawn from the Forth Estuary performs this purpose. It was built on land reclaimed from the Forth Estuary by ash generated by the former demolished Kincardine Power Station. The station was opened in 1973 and operated by the South of Scotland Electricity Board until 1991 and when its operation was handed over to Scottish Power following privatisation.
Scottish Power, the current operator of the power station, is now a subsidiary part of Iberdrola S.A, a Spanish company with a good track record concerning renewable energy generation.
Longannet was originally envisaged to operate in conjunction with the Longannet deep mine colliery and where coal was directly fed to the power station via a long conveyor belt at a rate of up to 3,500 tons per hour! Longannet was the last deep mine to close in 2002 but supplies are now maintained by imported coal offloaded in Western Scotland and transported to the station by rail. Additional supplies are provided from open cast pits near Thornton south og Glenrothes and Westfield just west of the Fife boundary line.
Perhaps the most astounding feature of this electrical power station is its capacity to generate 2,400 Megawatts and which roughly translates to nearly twice that of a second generation Advanced Gas-Cooled (AGR) nuclear power station! The nuclear power station at Torness, for example, has a maxumum output of 1364 Megawatts by comparison! Unlike the time when I spent a few days at a hotel in Leeds, and where my car was liberally sprayed with ash during the night from the nearby power station, this writer is unaware of similar being the case in this local vicinity. Nevertheless, in 2003, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) reported that Longannet Power Station produced up to 4,350 tonnes of ash per day and could be regarded as the worst polluting facility in Scotland. Since then, many new revolutionary and technological features have been progressively introduced to reduce smoke and where the largest waste component of ash is pumped into former salt pans to establish artificial reclaimed land from the Forth Estuary. Locally, it's known as Preston Island! Given this sizeable and forward-looking investment, it is envisaged that Longannet Power Station shall remain in service until 2020 and beyond.
According to popular legend, Princess Theneu (or Enoch) and daughter of the King of Lothian, fell pregnant before marriage. In outrage, her family threw her from a cliff into the sea and where she encountered an unmanned boat. Without a home to go to, she sailed the craft across the Forth and landed at Culross (pronounced Koo-Ross in local parlance) and where she was cared for by Saint Kertigen and foster-father of her son. Kertigen or Mungo who died circa 612CE is said to have been a founder of Culross.(pronounced as 'Koo-Ross' in local parlance).
Like many other communities in the area, coal mining was a major part of the economy until recent times but Culross remains apart since it was here that the first coal mine to extend beneath the sea was established in 1575. Indeed, the use of ingenious devices to control the leakage from above made it one of the most marvelled enterprises of Britain in the seventeenth century. Sadly, it was ultimately destroyed by a storm in 1625. Coal exported from the area during this time to the Low Countries of Europe helps to explain the red roof tiles of buildings in Culross and where they were presumably carried back to Scotland as ballast or even as cargo.
For a brief time, the town had a monopoly on the manufacture of iron girdles often used in ovens to bake bread and cakes. During the eighteenth century, Culross ceased to be a port of importance and went into decline. The new rail network largely bypassed this part of Fife and Culross wasn't even part of the main road network and so it remains today and which has probably worked in its favour in modern times. During the twentieth century, Culross retains many unique historical buildings and the National Trust for Scotland took great interest in preserving major aspects of the village since the 1930s. Perhaps the centre-point of the village is the palace which was constructed between 1597 and 1611 by Sir George Bruce; a highly successful merchant of the period, and reflected by the use of many foreign materials in its construction. The interior also reflects both national and international art and wares of period while the neighbouring garden has been carefully restored to show the kind of plant life and vegetation that might have been present during the seventeenth century.
Other buildings in the village include Culross Town House, and which was formerly the local courthouse and prison, and while parts of an earlier Cistercian Abbey, founded circa 1217, remain in use as a Parish Church.
Photographs by Ian Mitcell, Colin Smth, Lyall Duffus and Alandon.
Text by Alandon