Bringing a club’s history into focus for its 60th anniversary

Which One? by Nancy MacArthur
Which One? by Nancy MacArthur

A picture can be worth a thousand words but when amateur photographers got together to recreate a significant moment in their history, words failed them.

Preparations are underway to celebrate the 60th anniversary under the moniker of Falkirk Camera Club with two new exhibitions.

Falkirk Camera Club members celebrate 60 years

Falkirk Camera Club members celebrate 60 years

But the earliest days of the group can be traced back more than 128 years, when Falkirk Amateur Photographic Association members assembled for their first official photograph on the steps of Callendar House.

Now, members have been delving into the club’s history and have been photographed on the same spot to celebrate its past and perhaps be a part of history themselves.

Club member Allistair Kean said: “Standing in the exact spot those early members did around 1890 was quite a unique feeling.

“The hair on the back of the neck really did stand up.

“We asked members in the photograph to write a few words about themselves too.

“Perhaps in 200 years time, members of the future will be looking through the Callendar House archives and there we will be.”

As part of the club’s research, members have discovered some of the group’s earliest activities.

They called upon the Callendar House archives and back copies of the Falkirk Herald to track down historical information.

The newspaper published a report of the club’s opening meeting on April 6, 1889. Presiding was William Graham, an iron founder from Stenhousemuir.

Research has also led to more information about the various names the club has had over the years.

After the First World War, it was Falkirk and District Photographic Society and, in 1926, the president was Thomas Blackadder, father of well-known local artist Elizabeth.

In the early 1930s, the club was called Falkirk School of Art Group and Photographic Circle but it resumed after World War Two as Falkirk Art and Photographic Club.

Then in early 1958, the club joined forces with East Stirlingshire to become Falkirk Camera Club.

Allistair added: “The earliest club was Edinburgh Calotype Club which was set up in the 1840s. But in Scotland there is not a lot of evidence of other groups during the 1850s and 60s.

“Considering this, Falkirk people got together early on.”

Geof Longstaff, Falkirk Camera Club historian, has spent two years compiling the club’s history and has submitted DVDs to Callendar House archives.

He said: “The Falkirk Herald was the main source of information and I spent hours going through microfiche and negatives.

“Nothing was reported about the club between about 1911 and 1914. We assume it was still going but there was nothing in the Falkirk Herald where there had previously been loads.”

Since becoming Falkirk Camera Club in 1958, there have been many highlights including members exhibiting outside Scotland and long-standing “battles” with neighbouring clubs.

A competition that started in 1959 – the Williamson – still runs today and sees Falkirk, Stirling and Kirkintilloch compete annually for colour and black and white print trophies.

Similarly, the Stirling Battle – between Stirling and Falkirk – began in 1965 with a trophy donated by Stanley Bloch, a Falkirk photographer and dealer.

Falkirk also competes for the Scottish Photographic Federation (SPF) Central North Area trophy each year, alongside Stirling, Kirkintilloch, Airdrie and Coatbridge and Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.

Falkirk has won six times.

And in 1983 to 84, the club was awarded a top local honour after a hat-trick of competition wins.

Geof added: “The club has been awarded Scroll (now known as Falkirk Civic) awards a further five times with individual members acquiring another 50 awards between them.”

To celebrate the anniversary, an exhibition is being held in Falkirk Town Hall until December 22.

Entitled 60 and Counting, it contains 30 photographs which reflect work members are producing today.

Another exhibition in Callendar House is also planned for April when the earliest photographs from the club will be on display.

Stephen Sommerville, club president, said: “This has probably been the busiest year the club has had.

“The town hall exhibition is a fantastic collection. It’s a great example of the quality that can be achieved when you get out there and take a photograph.”

For more details on the club, visit the website www.falkirkcameraclub.co.uk.