This is probably a rather emotive subject to write about in the Fair programme.
But let me say, right now, that I am not trying to play down the importance of the Fair in any way. It is the most spectacular event of its type that has ever been held and not just in Bo’ness.
The fact that it has taken place for the number of years it has and continues to get bigger and better is a tribute to the organisers and the people of Bo’ness. It focuses the hearts and minds of the community for weeks – no months – before, and ends in a crescendo that is truly THE BEST DAY OF THE YEAR.
As a family we have only lived in Bo’ness for about 24 years but my father originally came from Grangepans. I have fond memories of coming down to Bo’ness from Falkirk on Fair day to visit George Grant and his family, a friend of my fathers from his youth.
I myself was a member of the Entertainments Committee for several years being persuaded by the late Malcolm McFarlane to join and help run the fund raising events that we were already attending and enjoying. I still help out stewarding on Fair Day and assisting at other Entertainment Committee events.
There is also Fair Royalty in our family! Colin, our youngest son, is married to Lynette ( nee Murray), who was Fair Queen in 1985. I do not think I would have much of a life if I did not wholly support the institution that is The Bo’ness Children’s Fair.
What I am trying to say, however, is that there is more to Bo’ness than just the Fair. There are other community and social groups, places of entertainment and interest in the town that also need all our support throughout the year.
Bo’ness has a population of between 14-15 thousand yet it has a lot more going for it than towns 3-4 times its size. I am not talking only about commercial/business ventures; I know life is not easy for some of the shops and let’s look at some of the other attributes of Bo’ness.
The recent re-opening of the Hippodrome as a cinema, its original purpose, is a building that is unique to Scotland, not only the local area. Its a tremendous boost to the town and provides an opportunity to raise the profile of Bo’ness and the town centre.
It is the culmination of the major refurbishment work undertaken by Historic Scotland, Scottish Historic Buildings Trust and Falkirk Council to restore part of the architectural and historical heritage that is the town centre of Bo’ness.
For this building to succeed and flourish it requires people to use its facilities. Judging by the ambitious programme of films proposed I would like to think that the people of Bo’ness and the surrounding area would be delighted to support it and make it the success it desrves to be.
There may not be holes in the armrest to put your buckets of popcorn or juice but the building has been sympathetically restored to retain original features in a building required for modern day use.
Barony Film Society
Bo’ness has another fuctioning cinema, not the Star. There is a cinema screen in the Barony Theatre that is used by the Barony Film Society. For a small annual joining fee you can see, once a month, a different type of film.
The society does not generally show blockbuster movies but concentrates on specialist low-budget, unique and interesting films – some real little gems. Films that do not generally have big name stars in them but can be just as, if not more, interesting and entertaining.
The same building is also used by a group of amateur thespians. The Barony Players regularly put on plays which are always well attended and supported. A great amount of effort and hard work goes into each production, the stage setting, design and manufacture of the scenery for their shows.
Bonnie Bo’ness/Bo’ness Enterprise
These two groups have over the years taken on various projects. A Bo’ness Calendar has for the last 6 years been produced and sold by these groups. A photographic competition runs annually to obtain the pictures for the calendar and this year Bonnie Bo’ness is resurrecting the towns Garden Competition.
The floral hanging baskets that adorn the town centre during the summer are paid for by the individual shops but the maintenance and watering is undertaken and paid for by these two groups, not the Council, as many believe. It is the revenue from the sale of calendars that helps cover the not insubstantial costs.
The idea of a Mining Memorial was long-held Community Council Project which was resurrected by Bonnie Bo’ness and Bo’ness Enterprise. The committee that eventually saw it through to completion consisted of 2 Community Council members, a landscape architect and local art advisor, Yvonne McBlain, who worked with local children on the design of the plaques to be seen around the base of the memorial.
Ballantine Engineering refurbished the old mining wheel, fabricated the supporting frame for the wheel, and helped position the completed structure. As you can see a lot of local effort and thought went into this memorial tribute to mining and the miners of Bo’ness.
Bonnie Bo’ness can also take credit for the roundabout at the bottom of the Wynd and the refurbishment of the lamp posts at the entrance to the SRPS at Dock place. Two of these lamp posts were originally manufactured in the Dock foundry, where TESCO now stands.
The bulbs that in Spring grace and brighten the roadside at the entrance to the town were also the work of Bonnie Bo’ness.
Friends of Kinneil Estate
As the name implies Friends of Kinneil Estate, a group formed just over a year ago, was set up to help promote and develop Kinneil Estate in Bo’ness. With the Antonine Wall, which runs through the estate, receiving World Heritage Status this could well strengthen their case.
There is also the remains of a Roman Fortlet in the centre of the estate and with appropriate development could, hopefully, form the start of another tourist attraction in the area.
It may even lead to the sympathetic restoration and development of Kinneil House and Palace. If we could even see the area developed as a country park that would be a start.
Bo’ness Real Ale Appreciation Society
The group was form in 2001 to run a Real Ale Festival in support of the 400th anniversary of the port of Bo’ness. The organisers enjoyed the experience so much they decided to run the festival annually in October – I know I was one of them.
The festival is sponsored by local businesses and individuals which covers a considerable amount of the costs. The revenue from the festival is donated to local groups, generally groups who are working with children and young people.
As an example of the donations in the past few years, £800 was given each to the local Scouts and Guides. £200 to each of the 7 parent and toddler groups, £300 to the Vine Trust, £700 to Falkirk Council’s youth department, to help with a project they were undertaking, £100 to CHAS, the children’s hospice association, and £200 twice to the woman’s refuge in the town.
And from last year’s festival, £250 to support and continue the Santa’s Grotto in the town and £250 to a project raising money for MacMillan Cancer Support, has already been donated. The balance of funds will be allocated before our next festival which is on 2nd and 3rd October this year, in the Town Hall – had to get a plug in.
Bo’ness has a long tradition of music and bands. The Unison Kinneil Band and Bo’ness and Carriden Band both celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2008. And, of course, not forgetting Bo’ness Pipe Band.
On the more modern, and popular music front, there is a small rehearsal and recording studio in the Recreation Centre, run by Craig Hannah with the support of Falkirk Council. I believe there are approximately 5-7 young rock bands being nurtured along by Craig at present.
If you take the Bo’ness Children’s Fair, the community and social groups I have mentioned, add to this list the Children’s Theatre, The Bo’ness Operatic Society, The Bo’ness Hill Climb, The Bo’ness Trust, The Scottish Railway Preservation Society and several others I have either missed or do not even know about, and then include recreational areas like Kinneil Woods, The Shore and Crookies, you surely have a town that a friend, Rob Willox, coined “The Jewel in The Crown of the Forth.”
If you have reached this point I can only say thank you for reading my summary of Bo’ness and I will leave you with the following thought. They may say, “Your Future is in Falkirk” but remember “Your Heart is in Bo’ness.”
A very Happy Fair Day to you all.