The older I get the less I like to see familiar things change. Even wee things that are not all that important annoy me including the habit of chopping and changing the names of places – shops and such like – that I have known and loved for years and which remind me of some small part of our history.
Worst of all are the pubs. Now I’m not much of a drinker or pub visitor these days but I had my moments and many of the happy ones have some connection with Falkirk’s famous taverns. Quite a few have vanished altogether like the Swan, The Red Lion, The King’s Head, the Black Bull, The Cat, The Pie Office and the Cross Keys and that’s only the High Street. But at least we can remember how they were – dark, beery and cheery – without having to watch them morph into bistros and such like. I suppose the customer of today demands a different kind of pub experience and sadly that often means ditching the dear old names that warm the heart at their very mention.
All this has been in my mind recently with the loss of the name ‘Callendar Arms’ after over a century, balanced by the restoration of the equally ancient Newmarket Bar after a punishing spell as ‘The Goose on Newmarket’!
Now I’m not criticising the decision to give new life to old institutions. The Callendar Arms is now an American style diner called ‘J D Rockets’ and it looks fantastic and is, by all accounts, a great addition to the local scene. The new name fits the new place and that is fine.
I am less enthusiastic about some of the past changes like renaming the good old Burns Bar ‘Firkins’, ditching the Blackmill Inn with its links to Carron and the iron industry and creating instead ‘The Shore’ or turning the Commercial in Manor Street into ‘The Scotia Bar’. Then there was the decision to drop the name of the Gaff Inn, probably Falkirk’s oldest pub continuously in the same place, and to replace it with ‘The Tolbooth’.
Occasionally, as in the Newmarket case, the changes are reversed but sometimes change again. It happened with the Argyll Bar which disappeared, returned, then became ‘20 Rocks’ and is now ‘No.1 Princes Street’. Down Graham’s Road the R.B. Buffet named after mine host of years ago Robert Borland turned up as ‘The Edge’ and more recently became ‘Baristas Bar’. Round the corner in Meeks Road in the early 1960s the RB opened a ‘cocktail bar’ called the 1066 (or simply ‘the ten’ to the patrons) but it has long gone. Even the Victoria in Grahamston was repackaged as ‘The Old Vic’ a few years ago but at least there was a nod in the direction of continuity. Sometimes on Sunday nights we pretended to be ‘bona fide’ travellers in the old Royal Hotel but what’s left of it became ‘Tropix’ some years ago and is now called ‘CheerZ’.
Thankfully a few tenacious hostelries remain as they have always been. The Wellington in Manor Street, the Star Inn and the Colonial Bar in Grahamston and the Woodside in High Station Road come to mind but sadly they are a diminishing band.
I suppose progress means the changes will continue in the years to come. There’s not much we can do to stop it but I will say this: if I come back from holiday and find that the Wheatsheaf is now called ‘The Bubble and Squeak’ then I’ll emigrate.