Many hands make light work of our heritage

The amazing replica of the famous Bridgeness Slab which dates to the Roman occupation and building of the Antonie Wall.
The amazing replica of the famous Bridgeness Slab which dates to the Roman occupation and building of the Antonie Wall.

One of the great pleasures of 40 years of involvement in our local history has been the success of so many groups in helping to preserve and present the story of their particular part of the Falkirk district. Since 1981 Falkirk Local History Society has been able to help many of them to uncover their past but the real credit goes to the enthusiastic individuals whose hard work has overcome formidable financial and planning hurdles to bring their projects to success.

Community councils, various Friends groups and others too numerous to mention have proposed, developed and delivered a host of heritage projects, large and small, which have added greatly to our appreciation of our history.

A good example was the work of Tom Grieve and his colleagues on Brightons Community Council back in 2005 to create a memorial in the Laurie Park to remind locals that the prosperity of their village was based on its great sandstone quarry.

From here stone that helped build the new town of Edinburgh was shipped along the canal or carted to Falkirk for many a new church and, of course, the town steeple. But there have been so many more: the new Charlotte Dundas Heritage Trail at the Kelpies, the Dunmore village information plaque, the miners’ memorials in Bo’ness and Letham, the amazing Spitfire replica in Grangemouth, the new war-related memorials especially in Bonnybridge and Camelon and the iron coos in Stenhousemuir! Add to these the Tommy Douglas bust at the Wheel, the Redding history display in Tesco, the Jacobite trail at South Bantaskine, the many initiatives by the Communities Along the Carron Association and even the mighty Kelpies themselves. I’m sure I have missed a few but that’ll do for the moment with one exception, which is a particular favourite of mine.

In Kinningars Park on Harbour Road in Bo’ness there is a magnificent replica of the Roman Bridgeness distance slab now standing near where the original was found in 1868. The new stone is an exact replica of the original which is one of the treasures in the national museum in Edinburgh.

The central panel tells us that the second legion, the Augustan, built 4652 paces of the wall for the “Emperor Antoninus Pius, father of his people”. It commemorates the first length of the Antonine Wall from Carriden to the River Avon, about four miles to the west. On either side are fantastic carved panels, the left hand one shows an unfortunate Caledonian tribesman being speared and then beheaded by a Roman cavalrymen, and on the right hand we see the emperor offering a sacrifice for the success of a great project, probably the building of the wall. The replica which was created by high technology laser scanning of the original is set in a beautiful sandstone surround and there are information boards to tell the story of the wall and the stone. It takes a lot to get me excited these days but this fantastic celebration of our heritage is a complete knockout. Once again many people and organisations played a part in this success but it would certainly not have happened without the persistence and hard work of Bo’ness Community Council.

Like the ones mentioned earlier in this article, and maybe others in the pipeline, the Bo’ness success has proved the old adage that where there’s a will, a way can be found.

The enthusiasts have given a gift from the past to the future and that is a very worthy cause indeed.

They deserve our thanks and good wishes for more of the same!