Looking Back with Ian Scott: Carron Cupola’s treasure from a lost world

The Carron Cupola pictured in 1958The Carron Cupola pictured in 1958
The Carron Cupola pictured in 1958
The auction website ebay is a great boon to local historians and you’d be surprised at some of the gems that turn up for sale. Over the years I have bought books, pictures and other items of Falkirk ‘memorabilia’ from people all over the world which would probably have found their way into a skip in a previous generation.

Not long ago I acquired a collection of magazines called the ‘Carron Cupola’, 40 in total, from a man in London, the house journal of the company in the 1950s. For those with an interest in Falkirk’s story they provide a fascinating record of the life and times of the most important firm in the history of our community, but for those who worked there at the time they are nothing less than an illustrated walk down memory lane.

In his history of Carron Company in 2010, Brian Watters tells us that the Manager for Carron, Benjamin Payne, came up with the idea of a magazine in 1949 because he wanted to create a family atmosphere among the workforce and suggested that it should “stimulate in a pleasing and beneficial way an interest in Carron, act as a unifying influence on the Company’s employees and promote goodwill and act as an ambassador to the Company’s business friends.”

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The task of creating the Cupola fell to William Brown of the Publicity Department and he masterminded the first issue in January 1950. It ran to 24 pages and 1700 copies were sold for three old pence (3d). There were four issues each year from then on.

A 50 years' service ceremony in 1955A 50 years' service ceremony in 1955
A 50 years' service ceremony in 1955

For the next 15 years the magazine reported on all significant Carron events local, national and international including technical developments, company history, staff celebrations, sporting successes, new products and much more. Each edition included an item called ‘Our People’ with interviews with workers like John Caldwell, Foreman in the Engineering Department, who had worked at Carron since 1893 and, even more amazingly, Robert Lorn, a loam moulder in the Heavy Foundry, who had joined the Company at the age of 11 in 1885 and was still working 66 years later!

There are many photographs showing long service presentations in the Board Room with the table groaning with mantle clocks which seemed to have replaced the gold watch of earlier days. Weddings, staff parties and obituaries are all recorded in words and pictures and there were cookery and gardening columns, a crossword and much more.

The pride the Company felt in its long and illustrious history is quite clear from the regular articles about carronades, Robert Burns’ visit to the works, James Watt’s steam engine or William Symington’s experiments but there were also many general articles about different aspects of Scottish life, many contributed by members of the workforce.

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My favourite section is the Apprentice Forum with pictures of all the new ‘garvies’ as the apprentices were known. There were so many of them each quarter, sometimes as many as 30, and some looked as if they had been dragged in from the moulding shop floor without a chance to wipe the sand from their dirty faces before the camera clicked. It’s hard to think that those who survive must be in their late 70s by now.

The last edition was published in 1964. It’s a pity it didn’t continue but we should be grateful for the 15 years we have. It is treasure from a lost world.

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