The Lower Methil Annexe of East Fife Technical College was built to teach to the young people of Methil, culture and sophistication. It was felt that the soul should be fed, as well as the stomach.
Considering that most of its graduates inevitably ended up 'doon the pit', the 'culture' tended to be based on very practical values, and the 'sophistication' came with an edge of flint.


I suppose that I must have been an innocent at one time. It's hard to tell - it was so very long ago. And now, for my sins, I am here. At the Annexe, or to give this place its full title ...
'East Fife Technical College - Lower Methil Annexe'
... though Purgatory seems more appropriate.

The Annexe was, at one time, the 'Methil Mining College', but after the Nationalisations, Regionalisations and Rationalisations of the 40s, 50s and 60s, it was deemed fitting that East Fife should have a 'proper' Technical College, and a new, shining Edifice of Education was built. In Kirkcaldy!
The Methil Mining College became merely an annexe, a small outpost where the unfortunate or undesirable could safely be enrolled, far from the eye of visiting nobility or the gaze of the political pay-masters.

The Annexe staff were all ex-tradesmen; men who had come up the hard road of industry, worked at it, and who, in the latter half of their lives, had decided to pass on their skills and experience. Not a university degree anywhere: just an apprenticeship, a trade, and a spell at Jordanhill Teacher Training College to hone up their official teaching skills. Old horses - new tricks. All the youthful 'educationalists' went to the main college. No practicality or sense, but a bucket-full of theories, and the zeal to promote them.
All the old and steady hands were sent to Methil. As were all the cogs that didn't fit the new system. Minds were for filling - having one of your own was considered to be unnecessary, or even subversive.
Russia had the Gulags; Fife Education had Methil!

The Annexe was a truly unusual building.
Built in the 1930s, under the 'Gothenburg system', where the profits from the local pubs went toward the creation of all sorts of local ventures. The Miners Welfare Institute across the road owed its existence to many a Friday-night binge, and the Innerleven Boolin Club, born of the bevvy, became a sporting home for future generations of social drinkers (and a few, unsocial drunks as well!). The pride of the drinking man, though, was the Methil Mining College. Here, the upright sons of the (often horizontal) fathers could benefit from a trade and an education. Get their coal delivered, rather than dig it up themselves.
Such a fine college had to be built by a fine architect, and Randolph "Hughie" Simpson was definitely a fine architect. The fact that all his previous commissions were cinemas mattered not a bit. The man knew style, and a little artistic extravagance was considered a bonus in a era where small towns competed in outdoing each other.
And so the Methil Mining College was built at the top of the hill, where, it would have had an unrivalled view over Lower Methil ... if only Hughie had turned the plans around on the table!
Inside was an Art Deco masterpiece. Never was plaster so wonderfully shaped. Fluted columns, scrollwork, curlicues and cherubim. Randolph "Hughie" Simpson had the lot!
Once inside the shining brass and painted wood of the entrance doors, the eye was drawn up to a plaster heaven. The work of a master plasterer. An Angel, pure and virtuous (and naked!), kneeling in humility but with wings proudly spread. Beneath her feet, in Latin, the College motto ...


Work hard was one thing ... paying too much for it was not to be encouraged! One popular translation was 'Open the box, and win a Mercedes!'.
Alas, despite my efforts, all I had was a second-hand Morris Minivan.

In the years since its proud opening, the Angel fell from grace, and the Methil Mining College became The Lower Methil Annexe of East Fife Technical College. And so it was when I arrived there as a Laboratory Technician. Trained in breeding gerbils, cleaning out test-tubes, and studying little wriggly bacteria under microscopes, I was perfectly able to fit in to a fading relic that taught welding, TV Mechanics, Welding and Motor Vehicle Mechanics, and the Theory of Coal Mining. I was young, outspoken, rebellious, and prone to questioning my superiors (particularly in the 'superior' part). I was sent to the Annexe; it was that or prison.
Difficult choice.

This is probably a good time to describe the educational system in Fife at the time. At 11 years old, you sat the 'Quallies' - The Qualification Exam, or 11 Plus as it later became. Pass and you went to High School; fail and you went to whatever Secondary school was local.
The High School was divided into two streams. The Academic for the brighter pupils - Latin, French, Mathematics and English - and the rest, who did History, German, Arithmetic and Metalwork. This was intended to produce the Elite from the Academics - Lawyers, Ministers, Architects and, of course, Teachers. The rest would become Engineers, Tradesmen, Clerks or, failing all else, Social Workers.
The required working classes would presumably, issue forth from the Secondary schools with enough education to enable them to follow the orders of the High School graduates.

For some, bizarre reason, those pupils who did not reach the desired intellectual heights were condemned to do Woodwork and Metalwork. For the budding artisans, manual tasks were allotted.
For those who seemed to lack any talent, and were almost impossible to control in any kind of herd environment, they invented 'Schools Day Release', where the impossible to manage were sent away from school for a day, to a suitable College, where they would be given a head start in the necessary skills to obtain a job, and earn money. After a year of part time schooling and part time College, some would leave school and find those elusive jobs. Those who did not were sent back to the College full-time. On a Pre-Apprentice Course. The idea being to make them more attractive to employers.
Having failed to gain any attractive qualities whatsoever, the dregs only had one place to go. The National Coal Board. As miners. And, as miners, the NCB sent them to college. To the Lower Methil Annexe of East Fife Technical College.

Some of those faces became terribly familiar over the years. Concentrated failure, following the same educational rut, year after year. Distilled from the bottom of the educational ooze. Unwantedby any school or college of Higher Learning. Not a prize-winner or a university graduate anywhere in the mix.

And me. Rebel from the Academics. Educated in Latin and Art, qualified in Social Security Form Filling and Dole Queue Waiting (11.40 every Thursday, every week) Working class and proud of it. Too smart to be conned by the system and too stupid to keep my mouth shut.

A fallen angel, fallen into bad company.

I fitted right in.

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