Welcome to G-Rothes

G-Rothes was founded in 1948 – the second of Scotland’s beautiful New Towns. The original plan was for it to be a home for the thousands of mining families that the forthcoming “super” coal mine would bring. The G-Rothes Colliery was going to be the greatest coal mine in the history of the cosmos. The original plans had five thousand men hacking away at its seams and every day for one hundred years they would produce five million tonnes of coal – such statistics meant that the new town would have a glorious and illustrious future. Sadly, the statistics and plans of politicians and their civil servants mean very little when faced with the power of good ol’ mamma earth. Embattled, strong, honest old miners, the kind of men who can just clump a gnarly old boot on a rocky outcrop and instantly tell if it is good mining land knew that the pit was doomed to failure. They knew that the floods would come and they knew that those floods would be unstoppable. Sadly, when a glorious plan has been drawn up it takes more than the threat of a flood or three for the associated paperwork to be chucked into the incinerator. So in 1957 the Queen popped into town and while she was there she officially opened the G-Rothes Pit. It closed four years later – the Queen was nowhere to be seen.

The closure of the pit should’ve been the end of the new town of G-Rothes but the specially set-up Development Corporation had a big bundle of cash that they needed to dispose of in at least a semi-legitimate fashion and they also had quite few empty houses that they needed to fill. But where do you find tenants when your prime pulling device is a large underground puddle? Two of the other New Towns had been established to provide relief for Glasgow’s ever increasing population… the GDC thought about it for a few seconds and decided that this was a fantastic plan and consequently asked their Glaswegian counter-parts if they had any families that they would like to have re-housed in G-Rothes. Well, I’m sure you can guess what happened… what would you do? You have too much shit and crap but you are not permitted to throw any of it away and then somebody comes along and says they’ll take some of that shit and crap of your hands and give it nice new home. You’d do what everybody else would do: you’d say thank you very much and then you’d give them the shittiest and crappiest stuff that you had. And that’s exactly what the Weegies did. They packed up all the rent dodgers, all the thieves, all the dole bums, all the drug addicts and dealers and they sent them to G-Rothes. Even to this day you’ll encounter some wee nobhead who calls himself Glasgae Tam or Glasgae Dave and they’ll support Celtic or Rangers and subsequently hate Protestants or Catholics and they’ll try to pretend that they are some kind of hard bastard that was raised in a Gorbals tenement. The sad reality is that they closest they have been to Glasgow is when they have gone to Kirkcaldy on a shoplifting spree.

G-Rothes is a weird town that doesn’t really belong on the east coast of Scotland – ideally it is best suited for the role of the posh part of Paisley. But with that said it is the town where I grew up and as a famous actress once told me “there’s no place like home”.

Despite the closure of the pit and the arrival of Glasgow’s finest nut jobs G-Rothes did survive and within time it even started to thrive. For a few decades it became such a mecca for cutting-edge electronics that it was seriously touted as a rival for California’s Silicon Valley. I know you’re laughing now but the funniest thing is that often the most improbable tales contain the highest concentration of truth and this is one of those tales. If it wasn’t for G-Rothes the Apollo 11 space craft would never have found its was to the moon, which in a roundabout way means that G-Rothes was the first town on the moon; if it wasn’t for G-Rothes your computer would be housing a hard drive and a processor that are nowhere near as brilliant as the ones it currently boasts. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that if those innovations hadn’t been birthed in G-Rothes they probably would’ve been birthed elsewhere but that should not detract from the fact that once upon a time G-Rothes was the avant-garde of cutting edge technology. I can still remember the posters that hung in schools and doctor’s surgeries and office receptions and no doubt in many homes: it was a map of central Scotland that had G-Rothes busting from it, occupying way more space than it occupies in real life, every hi-tech firm that the town boasted was represented by a cartoon sketch of their offices or factory and across the top of the poster were the bold and proud words: Silicon Glen. It was enough to make a grown miner cry with joy.

The hi-tech industries didn’t force the scum out – there were enough paper mills and shoe shops and supermarkets to provide employment for those that wanted to work, and the dole office handed out money to those that were having a poor run of drug dealing or shop lifting. There has always been good and intelligent people living in G-Rothes but they prefer to keep themselves hidden away – they go to work and when work is finished they return to their homes in the swanky suburbs (though technically G-Rothes isn’t really big enough to have suburbs) and they leave the rest of the town to the head cases. I can’t seem to help speaking lowly of the place and its occupants but it is the place where I grew up and I honestly don’t think I would’ve had any more fun if I had grown up anywhere else – as I like to say: “It’s not the place where you live, it’s the space that you occupy that truly matters.”

Over the years the GDC were quietly revolutionary and must have been home to several hippies and forward thinking motherfuckers, after all there can’t be many quangoes that have had the crazy vision to appoint a town artist but appoint one the GDC did. Consequently, G-Rothes is home to vast array of bizarre sculptures and art statements – totem poles, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the poetry path, a roman chariot, the flock of seagulls, the giant plastic irises (that we gifted to the Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988 and but after it closed the organisers graciously gifted them back), the weird statue at the bus station and the infamous marching concrete hippos of the Riverside Park (it was quite a treat to be taken to see them when I was a little kid). I’m sure all those pieces of art (it’s probably best to take that term loosely) weren’t all created by the same person but I’m certain that if a town artist hadn’t been appointed then the majority of them would never have existed and we all need a bit of low brow art in our lives every now and again so hats off to the nutter who said “You know what this town needs? An artist!”

G-Rothes comes in for a lot of shit – I’ve certainly chucked more than my fair share it’s way – but if you take some time to get to know it and just wander aimlessly around and explore you’ll soon realise that it has hidden depth and charm. There is a hell of a lot of green space in G-Rothes and I’m not just talking about a patch a grass here and a bush or two over there, and it’s not like a lot of the Edinburgh green space that is kept locked away from the common man. We’ve three big parks that are full of rivers and tree-lined tracks and with just a little bit of leg work you’ll find yourself in the foothills of the Lomonds. On summer evenings me & close friend would often find ourselves in those foothills, bombed on psychedelics, lying supine in the fading sun, trying to count telephone wires or just listening to the cows chew the cud, and when darkness descended we’d either take a trip to Mars (a disused stone quarry) or climb Monk Everest to search for the devil’s grave in the Rookery… happy and beautiful times, which is why when my head tells me to hate the place my heart says “No! Hold on! It‘s fucking great!”

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~ by landells on January 1, 2012.

2 Responses to “Welcome to G-Rothes”

  1. Good read. Thoughtfully written. I’m glad you posted it despite it not necessarily being about beer.

    And I am a Celtic fan, but I don’t hate Protestants. They’re OK. 🙂

    • Cheers. I actually wrote this a couple of years back but when I was in the Netherlands a couple of weeks ago (a trip that I’m in the middle of writing about) my mate, who is also originally from Glenrothes, mentioned that he’d recently re-read it so I thought I’d post it here.

      I’m a Raith Rovers fan.

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