Week of celebrating traditional skills culminates in Inverkeithing stone carving competition

Eight competitors ready to start carving outside Inverkeithing High School

A stone carving competition, held at Inverkeithing High School, marked the end of a week celebrating traditional skills as part of the Inverkeithing Heritage Restoration project.

Pupils from the school got to try their hand at masonry throughout the week and then observed eight apprentices or recently qualified stone masons took part in the exciting finale event to showcase their creative talents and technical skills.

Rebecca Horn, Developing the Young Workforce teacher at Inverkeithing High School said: “Seeing the competition take place in real-time, in their school, was very inspiring for the pupils. The participants were literally showcasing a rewarding, traditional skills career, right in front of them. They worked outdoors so it was all highly visible from corridors, close to the lunch hall, and on routes to and from classrooms across the school campus. It gave hundreds of pupils the opportunity to see the stone masons in action.”

The competition was judged by experienced stone masons David Lindsay, Adam Innes and Scott McGibbon. They have decades of stone carving, tutoring apprentices and heritage masonry experience between them.

Emma Griffiths, Training and Development Officer for Inverkeithing Heritage Regeneration added: “There is currently great demand for stone masons to carry out much-needed maintenance and repairs, as well as fulfil new commissions, and opportunities to undertake training become ever scarcer. The competition was a great opportunity to simply focus on craft skill and the individual stone masons’ approach to a design commission.

“There was a really good response to the competition, in terms of gender, geographic location and career stage diversity. We had masons from two private sector masonry contractors, Ashwood Scotland Ltd and Laing Traditional Masonry, take part.  Three of the competition entrants had just started their apprenticeships in August, two with Historic Environment Scotland and one with Fife Council.

“One competitor travelled from near Milton Keynes, and another from Arbroath. It was also great to see two women taking part in the competition. Without exception, the participants were talented, enthusiastic and charming. As the competition organiser, it was absolutely fascinating to observe throughout the day, as inert slabs of limestone began to be transformed.

The inspiration for the carvings was a simple graphic representation of the ship which appears on Inverkeithing’s town crest, and in the Inverkeithing Heritage Regeneration project logo.

The overall winner was freelancer Douglas Stevens.  His interpretation set the ship in a circle, and created depth in the sails and masts, adding a sense of motion to his carving. His design adaptations also meant that the stylised waves lapped the hull, rather than float above it, increasing the sense of motion.

The winner's carving, in action

The two runners-up were the two women candidates, impressively, as both are at early stages in their apprenticeships.

Fife Historic Buildings Trust work in partnership with Fife Council, delivering on the wider 5-year Inverkeithing Heritage Regeneration project. Fife Council’s project is generously co-funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic Environment Scotland.

For more information about the restoration project visit www.fifehistoricbuildings.org.uk/inverkeithing or email inverkeithing@fifehistoricbuildings.org.uk.