Kirkcaldy’s industrial heritage:‘They Taught Us Skills For Life - We Are The Engineers!

By Paul McCabe - Fife Free Press -July2, 2015

A new book has been released which chronicles an important, but almost forgotten, part of Kirkcaldy’s industrial heritage.


Called ‘They Taught Us Skills For Life - We Are The Engineers!’ the book tells the story of the former Melville-Brodie Engineering Company in the words of the workers themselves.


It was the brainchild of the Retired Melville-Brodie Club which was formed by two former employees,

Dougie Reid and Willie Black, in 2009, and who have been working on the book ever since.


The club, which unveiled a memorial on the site of the former works on the corner of Maltings Road and Junction Road last year, contacted writer and historian Margaret Bennet [End of the Shift] to help put the project together. She found writing the book “exhilarating and exciting”.


She said: “I have an interest because my dad was an engineer, so when Dougie got in touch with me we hit it off because I was tuned in to this sort of thing having grown up with it. I think the engineers’ history has been neglected.


“The whole world knows about Kirkcaldy’s history with linoleum, but has anybody ever given credit to the guys who not only made the machinery that maintained it but actually designed it? Melville-Brodie was just amazing.


“Kirkcaldy alone could hold its own with any engineering city in the world.”


Dougie said that the book, released on Grace Note Publications with a foreword from Gordon Brown, is the second part of a trilogy of projects which began with the memorial and will end with the creation of a website which will be ready by the end of July.


“We couldn’t ever have imagined ourselves achieving it all,” he said.


“We thought the book might be around 50 pages but it’s three times longer!


“We’ll be sending out a copy to all schools across Fife too.”


Dougie said that the club was an ongoing project, adding: “Willie and I are now offering our services to any schools and colleges who would like us to come along and talk to them.


‘‘We’ve already met with the engineering students at Fife College and had a great day.


“This has all come together at the right time and I’m really pleased.”


Exhibtion and book launched by author Margaret Bennett,  John Greig, William Black, Ron Fleming, Dougie Reid and Councillor Kay Carrington.


 A Grace Notes Scotland Project

This book has grown out of an oral history project, ‘The End of the Shift’, which aims to record the working practices and conditions of skilled workers in Scotland’s past industries. Publicity about the project caught the interest of a group of retired engineers, who had all served apprenticeships with a prestigious Kirkcaldy firm, Melville-Brodie Engineering Company. Having lived through times when Scotland seemed blighted by industrial closures, the engineers could identify with ‘The End of the Shift’ as they had experienced the effect of closing down Melville-Brodie Engineering Company. The entire workforce was dispersed, and with it, the skills, expertise and wisdom of generations. Kirkcaldy also lost a company that had been the pride of Scottish engineering.

Conserving the oral history of this specialised area of industry is part of a Grace Notes Scotland project, ‘The End of the Shift’, which records the experiences of workers in past industries of Perthshire and Fife. The wider project includes mines, mills, dye-works, bleachworks, and other factories, and is jointly funded by Heritage Lottery and the Gannochy Trust. On behalf of all who have taken part, Grace Notes Scotland accords sincere thanks to our sponsors for supporting a project that not only benefits a wide number of people but will also leave a lasting legacy to Scotland.