The opening of the West End Bowling Club in 1894 coincided with a new edition of the Ordnance Survey map of Kirkcaldy. In it the green is shown surrounded by virgin feus with sparse dots of houses in streets ripe for property development. Helen ( Lady Helen Street) was not yet a Lady although the large property which adjoins the green on the High Street end of Milton Road was in existence.
In an earlier map of Kirkcaldy Burgh the area is not shown for it was, in fact, part of the Linktown of Abbotshall. A few years older and Kirkcaldy West End might have been Linktown East End. That would have been the only time in the Club's history that it changed direction, however, for progress within the Club has, from that memorable Wednesday evening of June 27, 1894, been steadily forward.
Generations of officials and members have devoted loving care and put endless effort into their tasks so that each succeeding generation has reaped a harvest of enterprise which leaves the club, in farming as well as spiritual parlance, in "good heart". West End have not neglected the quality of their playing surface and visitors and opponents have constantly praised the Club for the consistency of the green and the beauty of the surroundings.
The green, which had been established by Sang & Sons, seedmerchants, was opened by Provost Stocks. Amongst the distinguished gathering were representatives from Kirkcaldy, St. Clair, Victoria and Gallatown Bowling Clubs. Mr A. Strachan, first president of the Club, presented Provost Stocks with a pair of silver mounted bowls following which an abbreviated game of pairs
took place when Provost Stocks and Bailie Tait opposed Rev. Begg, Abbotshall Church and Rev. Glasgow, Invertiel Church.
The day finished with the Vice-Presidents team of ex-Councillor Stark defeating the President's side by 52 shots to 41. Players were T. Rough, J. Robertson, J. Shaw and J. Duncan for the Vice President and A. Strachan, J. D. Gerrard, W. Kirk and A. Couper for the President.
Provost Stocks thanked Mr Munro Ferguson of Raith for granting the use of the ground on a 19 year lease. Joiner for the Clubhouse was J. Rough and external railings were provided by James Neilson
Immediately prior to the opening of West End Bowling Club there had been much activity by sporting clubs in the area. Raith Rovers were already in existence. Senior to them were Kirkcaldy Rugby Club and Kirkcaldy Cricket Club who shared facilities as
early as 1873; but they had to vacate Newton Park at the top of Nicol Street when the ground was sold for housing. In April, 1890 these two Clubs moved to a site in Robbies Park which in July of the same year was acquired by the Town Council and incorporated into the new Park which was landscaped and opened on September 24, 1892. A bequest of £50,000 from the estate of linen manufacturer, Provost Michael Beveridge, provided the Park and a library for the people of Kirkcaldy
On the commercial front, James Burt, 201 High Street, - Kirkcaldy's first travel agent - was advertising fares from Kirkcaldy to America for just £3 and Henry Masterton, builder, had four apartment cottages for sale in Dunnikier Road for £275. A "great public nuisance" was being caused by the playing of pitch and toss at the Pannie Den and a letter to the Press was hoping that "rioting would not be fomented by the Magistrates bringing troops to protect vagabonds taking the place of resident miners who may be on strike".
Documenting a history in statistical terms is akin to putting on a play without an audience - a solitary task. But it is things that have survived that serve as emissaries from the past. They can be more eloquent than documents, public or private. Which is perhaps just as well, for documentation was not a strong point in the early days of the West End. Early records were lost at least 50 years ago and progress through some of the minutes leads to many red herrings of which Agatha Christie would be proud but which Poirot himself would have been unable to solve.
What has survived is a green fit for a king in surroundings fit for a queen: a haven of peace and tranquility in which to embalm young and old from an overtly materialistic world. What also has survived, almost by chance it would seem, are little quips in the
minutes which reveal life and attitudes to life as it was in a not so distant working class society
Undoubtedly the feminists of today would label the early bowlers as “male chauvinists" a description more than endorsed when extension plans in 1925 were approved only when that section which incoporated a female toilet was deleted from the project. Was the purchase of bushes for the green surrounds a sop to save feminine blushes in the call of nature or to salve an uneasy conscience-.
The pattern of local life is quickly established in the number of tournaments that were held throughout the year. Separate skips were appointed for Wednesdays so that shopkeepers, they of then notoriously long hours, should not be denied serious bowling on their one and only half day of the week. Sunday bowls was, of course, out of the question. Indeed a report of a member of committee taking bar stock on the Sabbath met with a rebuff from the Chair.
Few had money for holidaying away from home so on the one week of respite from daily toil - usually unpaid - the holiday
tournament fulfilled an important social function. Play would start in the early morning and proceed throughout the day. Thus it was
that the Club was about people, their work, their social responsibilities, their leisure and if there were storms in a teacup they were but safety valves to a hard unyielding life, a life without the cradle to the grave society of today.
Many members were, of course, better off financially than others but it was a democratic club and in fairness all shared
responsibility in the playing and running of it. The West End had many shopkeepers as was Jimmy Trotter, who, at the 50th anniversary, told how he had moved to Kirkcaldy a few months after the green had first opened. He had been told that he must join the Milton Road
Club as it was a "spirited green". He had asked what that meant and was told that most members were either publicans or licensed
grocers, and that the green had been opened by two ministers. In season 1946-47 a testimonial was accorded to Mr Trotter on the
occasion of his 50 years of membership. He died in 1948 as an Honorary President
At the 50th Anniversary celebrations in 1944 three were present who had been at the opening of the green. They were J. W. and
John Duncan and Robert Ingles, who had been the first secretary.
In the early years membership was between 100 and 110. Shares had been taken out by 27 members to fund the club on a repayable basis. Subscription was 10 Shillings rent of the green £5 3s. 2d., greenkeeper's wages £1 per week. In addition to water and police rates of £1 18s., the club had to pay 9s 1d. poor rates. It was necessary to fund such services in those days.
The standard of bowling in 1899 must have been far ahead of that of today for the Club required one gross of chalk at a cost of 8p. Chalkers galore! Spittoons were another expendable item and in 1901 cost the club 3 shillings
The first world war reduced membership to 66 but by 1920 the Club were forward enough looking to raise loans of £350 to cover the building cost of an extension. Prominent in the list of subscribers were A. Bryce, who loaned £350 and John Pillans who gave £50. Among tradesmen who carried out the work were: G. Muir, joiner; J. Lawson, slater; Haxton, glazier; T. Menzies, builder; Gourlay, painter; A. Michie, plumber; M. Spears, upholsterers. Mr W. Dow was the architect. An earlier extension in 1908 cost just £60.
The West End History