A Brief History of the Club; Motorcycles became the most numerous mode of internal combustion-engined transport during the early years of the twentieth century, and with the machines came the sport, and with the sport came the clubs. Around 1919 some of Fife’s pioneering motorists hit on the idea that these new fangled machines might eventually catch on, and that it might be fun to get together and test both their skills and their machines, and thus was formed the early roots of what was to become – with a few hiccups along the way – Kirkcaldy & District Motor Club.
The eastern side of Fife had an abundance of motor clubs; the ‘ABC’ was formed of Auchterderran, Ballingry and Cardenden car and motorcycle owners, Burntisland, Dunfermline and Inverkeithing had brief forays into the car and motorcycle club scene before the Kaiser War. Leven had one of the more successful attempts with what was eventually to become the East Fife Motor Club which still runs today, but after the realisation that too many clubs watered down the pool of car and bike owners an amalgam of many of the earlier club members eventually settled, in 1922, as the Kirkcaldy and District Motor Club, and we’re still running today with the same goal in mind; “to encourage good fellowship, social intercourse, proficiency and road courtesy among all interested in motoring, by organizing competitions, trials, social events, etc".
Once established, the KDMC regularly staged social runs, often on Wednesdays as this was the trades half day and most of the more ‘well heeled’ members were business men, lawyers, architects and doctors. The brothers Millar, JB and W, had a motor garage in St. Clair Street, "E. Descamps & Co. Ltd." had their motor and coach builders premises in the Station Hotel Garage, John D Swanston was an Architect in the town, and all were fellow KDMC founder members. Of course an element of competitive driving and riding crept in, especially among the younger members, and it became a matter of concern for those more accustomed to horse power, as opposed to ‘horsepower’. The solution was to set up a few ‘Reliability Trials’, or hill climbs on Dunearn Hill on what could only be loosely termed a ‘road’ at the time, or cross country ‘Colonial Trials’ ranging over Fife’s cart tracks and ‘two ply’ roads ending up with a race on some suitably flat grass field. Riders took to competing at village Fetes and staged ‘Gymkhanas’ which included riding along narrow planks, having sack races with runners and riders doing relays and of course, a grass track race or two. Soon the need was for more speed, and the wide open spaces of Kirkcaldy Sands and Pettycur Bay beckoned.
Sand Racing was the ‘Speed Event’ of the time – no road racing circuits had yet appeared in Scotland – and was attracting some of the top competitors of the day from all over the country to St. Andrews on the east coast and Ayr on the west and by the mid ‘twenties ‘KDMC entries included the Swanston brothers and Jack Blyth from Kirkcaldy, Tommy McEwan from Kinglassie, Alf Peatman senior from Thornton, the Birrell’s from Markinch and the Pattison brothers from Inverkeithing, and of course the Kirkcaldy Club had a perfectly adequate stretch of sand on their doorstep and began staging regular events. Spectators flocked to watch the ‘Kirkcaldy Sand Races’ and up to 20,000 were said to have lined the Promenade walls for one 1930’s Championship event. Many of the riders went on to compete with success on the Isle of Man at pre war Manx Grand Prix races with the Kirkcaldy Club collecting the Team prize in Junior and Senior races, and JK Swanston crowning his racing career with a Senior win in 1935.
After the war the sand events were replaced by the ‘Kirkcaldy Grand Prix’, Scotland’s first road race event, inaugurated by the KDMC and held in 1948, followed by the annual ‘Scottish Road Races’ held in the town’s Beveridge Park until 1988. ‘The Park’ was probably the best remembered motorcycle racing event of the Scottish calendar and one which put Kirkcaldy firmly on the map. Some famous riders braved ‘The Park’s sinuous 1.375 mile circuit; Bob McIntyre brought the ‘works’ Honda 350cc ‘four’ in 1962, and World Champion sidecar racer Jock Taylor was a regular at the event in the 1970’s. But ‘The Park’ was not the KDMC’s only venue; from the mid ‘70’s the Club also successfully ran Scottish & European Championship events at the Knockhill Racing Circuit. The four wheeled side of the KDMC had diminished by the 1960’s with the advent of tighter regulations on public road events, though many of the club members had scored notable successes in Road Rallies, Hill Climbs and Auto tests, and indeed car racing had been held at the Beveridge Park in the mid fifties, with the then ‘Top Gear’ magazine giving praise by the bucketful to those who made the decisions to allow the event to go ahead, “Obviously Kirkcaldy civic heads are not averse, and we consider rightly so, to an occasional intrusion of this nature into their Park’s normal calm and theirs is an attitude which other larger and, we might suggest, less ‘enlightened’ burghs - and Cities - in Scotland could with advantage to the many - if with the discomfiture to the few- ‘Please Copy’!” “Most of the ingredients essential to success were assured. That is, apart mainly from the Road Circuit itself, the obvious narrowness of which posed a question of suitability which could only be answered by actual test under car racing conditions. Even so, no chances were taken, the Heats of the Car races being officially restricted to five competitors, with the best two in each Heat contesting the Finals” Again the crowds turned out in their droves; 20,000 being quoted by the scribe, but regulations being as they are the track width, as highlighted, was inadequate and racing at ‘The Park’ was left to two and three wheeled machines. Karts made an appearance, but lack of suspension and the fragility of their machines soon ended the kart racing on the bumpy twists and turns of one of Scotland’s best known circuits.
Motorcycle Scrambles of the ‘fifties at Silver Barton and then Kilrie (with both the BBC and ITV Grandstand Trophy races being run by the Club) gave way in the early ‘seventies to Motocross at Glassliehead near Burntisland but it became easier, and warmer, to watch the events on the ‘box and spectator numbers dropped making it unviable to run the races. Kirkcaldy’s road racing at ‘The Park’ gave way altogether in 1988 with a move to Knockhill, with some ‘excursions’ to Crail for the some 1990’s racing, but issues over the hire of the airfield circuit put paid to that (as it had in the early 1950’s), and would do so again two decades later. Now the KDMC have moved back to their roots, and if the Club are blessed with the weather such as it was at the 2012 Sand race demonstration event, and the various owners clubs, riders, trade stands - and most importantly the public - show their support, then ‘The Kirkcaldy Sands Races’ can once again put the town on the map and bring a much needed boost to the economy and prestige of the ‘Lang Toun.’
Kirkcaldy & District Motor Club