Group launches campaign to save Carron Ironworks-made telephone boxes

There are many sights synonymous with Falkirk district, some of which are famous the world over.

The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel are arguably the most notable in terms of international interest.

However, a perhaps lesser-known fact is the region also lays claim to being the manufacturing home of a product that became one of the most recognisable symbols of 20th century Britain.

The iconic red telephone boxes which tourists still enjoy taking photos of were originally made in Carron Ironworks, with the first 500 of the K6s, as they were known, distributed from the company to other parts of the UK in 1927.

FMF secretary Duncan Comrie and chairman Robert Bissett alongside fellow group members. Picture: Michael Gillen

Such phone boxes, of course, can still be found in the area to this day, yet rapid advances in technology have meant their use has dwindled.

But it is their link to the region’s proud engineering past that has prompted a community group into action in an attempt to “save” the boxes and spread the word on their importance and standing in history to younger generations.

Falkirk Made Friends (FMF) was set up to celebrate and promote engineering and industry in the area.

The group’s campaign coincides with a push made by its chairman Robert Bissett, who is also a councillor for Falkirk North, to have the decades-old Ladysmill Bridge in Falkirk refurbished.

Councillor Bissett said: “We are trying to save as many of these iconic phone boxes as possible across Falkirk district.

“The council has now adopted them — FMF is not yet a charity so we could not adopt them — and then we will take them over and refurbish them with the help of perhaps the college and community groups and put displays inside.

“When I was elected in May 2017, I was contacted by numerous people about the state of the Ladysmill Bridge.

“The main problem was the condition of the bridge which was built in 1935.

“When visitors leave The Kelpies and head into Falkirk, the first bridge they see when coming from the east is the Ladysmill Bridge in its current state.

“Network Rail have agreed to carry out a refurbishment this year.

“I contacted Network Rail to see if we could use the wall behind the box for information plaques or a mural on the phone boxes.”

Carron Ironworks made two other types of phone boxes which also played an instrumental role in connecting large parts of the country. The K4 and K8 products were also made there until iron casting stopped around 1983.

The phone boxes were held in such high esteem, one even landed a starring role in the 1983 film Local Hero alongside Burt Lancaster.

Duncan Comrie, FMF secretary, said: “This dramatic example of how the K6 connected an isolated village with the world reveals the liberating role the pay phone kiosk played in allowing anyone to connect with anywhere at any time.”

He added: “That Falkirk was the origin of the maker of cast iron kiosks that became national local heroes gives the area the opportunity to celebrate how its engineering skills made a revolutionary contribution to society.”