Falkirk Made Friends: Mural on former foundry tells story of Falkirk's iron industry links

The site of a former foundry has been given a makeover to highlight Falkirk historic links to the iron industry.

The eye-catching mural in the town’s Gowan Avenue had input from pupils at St Mungo’s High who came up with some of the design.

At 49ft by 6ft, the mural covers the length of the former Malcolm Cockburn’s Gowanbank Foundry office block off Grahams Road.

Named Ironheart 2022, it was created by Falkirk Made Friends (FMF), the group set up three years ago to safeguard the town’s working K6 phone boxes cast by the Carron Company.

Rowena Comrie and Duncan Comrie with the 'Ironheart 2022' mural. Falkirk Made Friends coined the name Ironheart as a way of uniting the iron achievements of the many iron townships of the Falkirk area.

The mural depicts world-famous products made by the district’s foundries, including baths, cooking ranges and utensils. It aims to give passers-by a better understanding of how these innovations helped improve public health and spark young people’s interest in science, engineering and product design.

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Dr Duncan Comrie, FMF secretary, said: "The pandemic has raised the profile of public health and provided a new context to consider how products designed and cast locally helped raise people’s standard of living. The mural features products that changed how people heated their homes and cooked as well as those that improved cleanliness and sanitation."

The mural was made possible after FMF secured £5000 through Community Choices, a funding initiative run by Falkirk Council and Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership to provide people with a way to apply for public funding to improve their local area.

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council, said: “By securing funding through Community Choices, the group has been able to create a mural that highlights the many energy-efficient products produced locally that helped improve everyday life worldwide. It is a truly eye-catching piece of art that will be enjoyed by everyone who passes by.”

Duncan added: “We’d always wanted to create a mural but needed to find a suitable building and funding. After finding an old bathtub made by Cockburn’s, I met with the owner of FBS Plumbing, who own the Gowan Avenue building.

"Because her business is a bathroom distributor and her family used to own Falkirk Brass Foundry, she bought the bathtub and allowed us to use the building to bring to life a part of our local history in a fun and attractive way. Without her support we wouldn’t have had a canvas to create the mural.

“Funding from Community Choices then gave us the fuel to tap into the creative furnace of Ironheart achievements, allowing us to design the mural and buy materials to make it happen.”

FMF now aims to turn an old iron telephone box door into an information board, using the panels to provide information about each element of the mural alongside QR codes to find out more.

An iron bathtub will also be displayed beside the mural and mini-iron bathtubs have been cast to mark the mural’s completion.

Duncan said: “Because Cockburn’s used to make bathtubs, it only feels fitting to install one – upside down! – by the mural while using the telephone door ties neatly with our original project.”