Falkirk’s BA Cowboys to get moment in BBC spotlight

BA Cowboy Ian Gardiner is to appear on BBC Scotland to discuss how he and a group of colleagues became Western movie stars in Falkirk in the 1970s. Picture: Michael Gillen
BA Cowboy Ian Gardiner is to appear on BBC Scotland to discuss how he and a group of colleagues became Western movie stars in Falkirk in the 1970s. Picture: Michael Gillen

Familiar faces from Falkirk’s past who became home-grown celebrities in the 1970s are about to have their moment in the national spotlight.

The group of workers from the town’s British Aluminium (BA) factory were well-known for creating Western films and screening their movies at a makeshift workplace cinema in aid of local charities.

The story of the BA Cowboys, as they became known, will be told in a BBC Scotland documentary this week.

Three surviving members of what was once a ten-strong band of brothers — Ian Gardiner, Denis McCourtney and Alex Penman — feature as the trio recall how their eight films came to be.

The hour-long Falkirk Cowboys documentary reveals how Robert ‘Rab’ Harvey, a movie buff who worked at BA as a fork-lift truck driver, galvanised his colleagues into acting action.

The men would set aside 15p from their weekly wage to buy cowboy and Indian gear to film scenes in the area’s parks and bars, such as The Empire and The Victoria.

On one occasion, the stars were even reported to police for wielding toy guns in Falkirk’s Callendar Park before the reality of the situation became clear!

In July this year, Ian, Denis and Alex were invited to The Hippodrome in Bo’ness for a special screening of their shoestring budget movies.

The films had titles such as Wyoming Outlaws, Badlands, Apache Ambush, Border Badmen and The Lonesome Drifter and sourcing props was a big part of the process, with family and friends all roped in to help.

Gun holsters were made from women’s handbags picked up at jumble sales, while a real horse was even hired from Callendar Park’s stables.

Ian (71) recalls being impressed when Robert showed him a reel he’d made with his brother-in-law Billy McSorley.

The Stenhousemuir man said: “Robert, who worked in the finishing department with me, was a fanatical John Wayne fan.

“He and Billy shot a two-man film, on a hand-held Super 8 camera. He let us see it and we were all hooked.”

The Falkirk Cowboys will be shown on BBC Scotland on Wednesday, December 4 (8pm).