Calatria: A Falkirk Local History Society journal that's a gift for the future

This week sees the much delayed publication of Falkirk Local History Society’s Journal, the 36th edition since number one hit the streets exactly 30 years ago.

By Ian Scott
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 12:30 pm

With this month also marking the 40th anniversary of the society itself all us local history enthusiasts think it a real milestone in the rise of interest in the fantastic story of our community over the centuries.

The plan back in 1991 was that each issue would have around seven new articles and we hoped that we might keep going for four or five years!

We decided to call the Journal Calatria, an early name for the huge area between the Carron and Avon which today contains a large part of our district.

The Carron Iron Works 'triangle' with its bell on top.

We were fortunate that two of our members Geoff Bailey, who first had the idea of the Journal, and John Reid, who suggested the name, had accumulated a backlog of unpublished articles on a wide variety of subjects.

Other researchers came up with their own topics and before long we were being offered contributions from distinguished scholars with an interest in our area.

John Reid sadly died in September last year and it is fitting that the first article in this latest issue is his last contribution, an original and intriguing explanation for the survey route of the Antonine Wall.

Called the Antonine Corridor it is a typical piece of lateral thinking by a man who could see patterns in lines on maps which pass lesser mortals by!

Geoff Bailey with the Town Mission bell.

Over the years John and Geoff provided a steady stream of articles which are still studied and quoted by people from far and near: take for example, Geoff’s detailed description of many local graveyards and John’s examination of the Feudal Parishes of the district.

To the new edition Geoff contributes an article about the local bells that have called people to churches, schools, foundries and factories over the centuries and Alan Meek explores the early development of Falkirk Town Centre as pieces of land were feued to men of property and influence from the 16th century on.

John Walker, also a very early contributor to the Journal, recalls the Battle for Rouex in April 1917 where his grandfather was wounded but lived to tell the tale.

To mark the 200th anniversary of another battle, the skirmish at Bonnymuir during the Radical Insurrection, the Journal includes a reprint of a remarkable letter written from a prison cell in Stirling Castle by Andrew Hardie, one of the two leaders of the radicals who were hanged and beheaded in September 1820 in Stirling.

Over the years the Society has published over 250 articles by nearly 70 different contributors adding up to well over 4000 pages.

The Journal is now regularly used by historians at home and abroad, and writers from America, Australia and even Italy with Falkirk connections have had their work published for the first time.

Of course these articles are not the rather light-hearted rambles through local history that make up this column each week but serious research producing new insights into what may have happened from the distant past to the modern era.

Over the years it is been hard work but very worthwhile.

When we are all long gone Calatria will provide our descendants with a solid historical foundation which will help them understand where they came from.

It is our gift to the future.

*Calatria 36 is available from Waterstones or from members of the society

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