Piano man Calum provides soundtrack for life of Falkirk legend Carnera

Long before the massive metal Kelpies ruled the roost Falkirk had a mighty flesh and blood wonder horse called Carnera and now a local pianist has composed a musical tribute to the 1930s legend.

By James Trimble
Friday, 31st July 2020, 11:32 am

Calum Marshall, who has been involved in the music business for years, said: “I’m a Falkirk Bairn born and bred and I always knew the tales of Carnera. I was out on my bike looking around at the Kelpies and at Falkirk Stadium, thinking we really don’t celebrate what these horses like Carnera did for us back then.

“Falkirk certainly had something to shout about at that time.”

So using his musical talent and compositional skills, Calum set about creating The Carnera Suite, a collection of six pieces of music – A Beautiful Giant, The Freedom of a Foal, The Harness, The Daily Struggle, The Fall and the Gathering and Death of Carnera – which detail the famous working horse’s life and his sad death.

The mighty Clydesdale horse Carnera hard at work in Falkirk town centre back in the day

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    “I set about making six different expressions following Carnera’s life to his death,” said Calum. “It’s definitely a sad story but I wanted to do my bit to make sure it is never forgotten.”

    Carnera was quite simply the biggest – and most famous – animal to have ever pounded the cobbled streets of Falkirk and the surrounding area.

    The huge Clydesdale who pulled Barr’s delivery carts in the 1930s was nearly 20 hands high – that’s six-and-a-half feet from hoof to shoulder.

    It was his great size that earned him his name – at the same time as he was purchased by the Barr family, the six foot seven inch Italian boxer Primo Carnera, known as the Ambling Alp, was on his way to winning the world title in 1933.

    Pianist and composer Calum Marshall has released a musical tribute to Falkirk's mighty Clydesdale horse Carnera

    It is said when Robert Barr and his father spotted the huge horse standing in a field near Perth, the name seemed obvious.

    The family was quick to realise the marketing potential of Carnera and within weeks he was thundering around the area with a sign above his neck harness stating: “Carnera – Reputed to be the Biggest Working Horse in the World”.

    It was said it took 24 inches of iron bar to make one of his shoes, seven inches more that the average for a Clydesdale.

    The man charged with doing the job, blacksmith Thomas Kidd, had to work outside his smiddy because the horse was too tall to get through the door.

    They say they bigger they are the harder they fall and Carnera’s sheer bulk and size may have help bring about his sad death in January 1937.

    On a frosty day he slipped on the cobbles in the Cow Wynd and all efforts to lift him to his feet failed. It was his second fall of the day and this time his last.

    Crowds of well wishers gathered bringing buns to feed the stricken beast and even a mattress to make him more comfortable. So many people came that the police were called to control the crowds.

    With darkness falling it was decided to put him down to prevent further pain and distress.

    Many people feel this is a major motion picture waiting to be made.

    If Greyfriar’s Bobby had is day in the Hollywood spotlight then Carnera – especially with famous horses like Black Beauty and War Horse enjoying big screen success – should have his story told on the big screen.

    They would not have to worry about the soundtrack, because it already exists in The Carnera Suite.

    Calum, who has been playing the piano since he was 11, has built up a lot of contacts in the music business over the years and uses some of his musical colleagues as a sounding board when he writes new material.

    “I’ve been doing this for a long time so I wouldn’t want to put something out unless it’decent. Usually the people I ask will tell me if it isn’t and in the case of Carnera they said it was ‘top drawer’.

    “I really just wanted to add to the Carnera story – I like history, I read a lot of it and sometimes a story needs to be added to.”

    The Carnera Suite is available to download on all major streaming sites, including Apple and Spotify.