Romans return for festival

THEY came, they saw, they conquered. Now the Romans are back in Falkirk district.

Talks, walks, movies, quizzes and other fun events have all been lined up for this year’s Big Roman Week.

Community groups and public bodies from Bo’ness to Bonnybridge are taking part in the mini-festival, which launches this weekend. Organisers hope the variety of activities, many free of charge, will encourage more people to find out about local history.

The nine-day event has been organised to mark the birthday of Emperor Antoninus Pius, the Roman leader who built the Antonine Wall from Bo’ness right across Falkirk District to Old Kilpatrick, near Glasgow. The Wall was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

The festival starts with a fun-packed day in Bonnybridge Library on Saturday, September 11, including a walk up to Rough Castle Roman Fort – and finishes with a special film show about the famous Antonine Wall in the Barony Theatre, Bo’ness, on Sunday, September 19 (the Emperor’s Birthday).

Other highlights will include:
•Talks by archaeologists and history experts;
•Visits from a costumed interpreter and the Antonine Guard Roman
re-enactment group;
•Fun activities for children, including a bid to re-construct the
Antonine Wall in LEGO; and
•A showing of ‘Asterix in Britain’ in the historic Hippodrome Cinema
in Bo’ness.

Full details of all the events are now online at http://www.kinneil.org.uk/bigromanweek Leaflets are also available from local outlets.

The area’s tourism convener, Councillor Adrian Mahoney, has been helping to organise this year’s festival.

“The Roman Week aims to make people more aware of our fantastic ancient history with lots of fun events for all the family,” he said. “I hope this year’s programme will be a big success.”

He added: “The festival was launched last year by the charity The Friends of Kinneil. Initially it concentrated on Bo’ness, at the eastern end of the Antonine Wall. But this year, it’s spread across the district with the help of Greenhill Historical Society in Bonnybridge.

“We’re also stretching the idea of a Roman Week. Historically, the Romans had an eight-day week. This year’s Roman Week runs to nine days to fit in all the activities!”

Janice Macfarlane of the Greenhill Historical Society said: “We’re really pleased to be involved in this year’s festival. The Antonine Wall links communities right across the district and is of worldwide importance.
Hopefully people will be more aware of the Romans, and their time in this area, by attending some of the events during Roman Week.”

Over in Bo’ness, Bruce Henderson, the chairman of The Friends of Kinneil, is also preparing for the festival launch. He explained: “We thought the Big Roman Week would be a good way to celebrate our Roman origins and make people more aware of how our district became the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.”

Bo’ness Community Council is using the Week to highlight one of the treasures of the Antonine Wall – the Bridgeness Distance Slab. The relic was named by Channel 4’s Time Team as one of the best Roman discoveries in Britain.

The original tablet, found on the outskirts of Bo’ness, is now in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, but plans are afoot to make a proper copy and position it at the eastern end of the Antonine Wall, just off Harbour Road in Bo’ness.

Rob Willox from the Community Council said: “We’re doing a drop-in event during the Big Roman Week to make people more aware of our Bridgeness Slab project. We’ve identified and been allocated funding to make a proper copy of the slab and are now drawing up plans to site it at the end of the Wall.
We think the replica will be a great tourist pull into the area and encourage people to discover nearby Roman sites within the district.

“Hopefully local people will attend our event to find out more and share their views.”

The Week will end with a film show narrated by a Bonnybridge-born archaeologist, who helped discover Roman remains in Bo’ness. Jim Walker, the president of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, was brought up on Seabegs Farm. At the age of 15 he found a Roman altar which is now on display at Kinneil Museum, Bo’ness. He also went on to help discover the Roman Fortlet at Kinneil.

He’ll narrate a 1960s film showing two men walking alone the Antonine Wall.
You’ll be able to see Bo’ness, Falkirk and Bonnybridge as it looked 50 years ago.

Said Councillor Mahoney: “Thanks to the support of the Scottish Screen Archive, we’re able to show the film for free in the Barony Theatre, Bo’ness, on September 19 – the Emperor’s Birthday. We hope people from across the Council area will come along and find out more about their Roman roots. For more information on this, or any of the other activities, visit the website at http://www.kinneil.org.uk/bigromanweek.”


ALL WEEK – Display of Roman Pottery in Bo’ness Library, Scotland’s Close, Bo’ness, EH51 0AH. Plus exhibition and Roman book display in Bonnybridge Library, Bridge Street, Bonnybridge, FK4 1AD. Free. For opening times, visit http://www.falkirk.gov.uk/libraries

ALL WEEK – Shop like a Roman. Look out for special Italian/Roman offers in local shops to tie in with Big Roman Week.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11 – ROMANS IN THE GLOAMIN’. Come along to Bonnybridge Library and meet a Roman soldier! Help to build an Antonine Wall out of Lego! Walk to Rough Castle Fort with a Roman legionary and see the Unesco-listed Antonine Wall through his eyes. The fun starts early at the Library . . . (and all the events are free of charge.)

* 10 a.m. Craft session for children (all ages) – in Roman costume
* 11 a.m. Chatterbooks group (8-12 years) will be making shields and mosaics – a prize for the best dressed Roman is on offer.
* 11 a.m. A costumed interpreter from Historic Scotland will appear in a Roman soldier’s costume. He will tell you all about what he is wearing and answer all your questions. Children will also be building an Antonine Wall out of Lego, making a fort, word puzzles and colouring in.
* 12.30 p.m. Guided walk to Rough Castle Roman fort with a costumed interpreter from Historic Scotland and members of Greenhill Historical Society. Open to all ages. Find out what life was like when the Romans built the Antonine Wall and lived in Bonnybridge. Learn some fascinating facts about the Romans in Scotland. Set off from Bonnybridge Library, Bridge Street, Bonnybridge FK4 1AD or meet at the cattle grid at the western entrance to the Roughcastle fort site at 1 p.m. (If wet weather rules out the walk, join in a fun quiz with a Roman theme in Bonnybridge Library from 1 p.m. Silly questions, sensible questions, a food tasting round and prizes are promised.)

Organised by Greenhill Historical Society in conjunction with Falkirk Council and Historic Scotland. For details call the Library on 01324 503295 or Janice Macfarlane at Greenhill Historical Society on 01324 825396.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 TO SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 – Discover Roman artefacts in Kinneil Museum, Kinneil Estate, Bo’ness, EH51 0PR. During The Big Roman Week: special activities for children. Play Roman board games or design your own personalised Roman coin. Suitable for children aged 5 to 12 years. All children must be accompanied by a supervisory adult. Museum open Monday to Saturday from 12.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Please note: the Museum is closed on Sept 11/12 for the Bo’ness Hillclimb.) Admission free. Tel: 01506 778530 http://www.falkirk.gov.uk/cultural

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 – THE BRIDGENESS SLAB. Drop-in consultation event organised by Bo’ness Community Council and Falkirk Council on plans to locate a new replica of the Bridgeness Roman Slab just off Harbour Road in Bo’ness. Find out about the project, view the three different proposals and give your views. At the Bo’ness Regeneration Office, North Street, Bo’ness, EH51 0AQ. Drop in anytime from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 – LIFE ON THE FRONTIER. Geoff Bailey, keeper of archaeology and local history at Falkirk Council, gives a talk on Kinneil Roman Fortlet and Carriden Fort in Bo’ness. At Bo’ness Library, Scotland’s Close, Bo’ness EH51 0AH at 2.15 p.m. Tickets, priced £1 (including refreshments) available from the Library. Telephone: 01506 778520. Organised by Falkirk Council. http://www.falkirk.gov.uk/libraries

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 – AN AUDIENCE WITH ANTONINUS PIUS. Get up close and personal with the Emperor behind the Wall in a light-hearted comedy ‘interview’. Purely for fun. Upstairs at Bo’ness Library, Scotland’s Close, Bo’ness EH51 0AH, from 7.30 p.m. Admission free. Organised by The Friends of Kinneil.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 – FILM – ASTERIX IN BRITAIN (U). See the plucky Gaul and his chums in an animated adventure being specially shown for Roman Week. Asterix, Obelix, Getafix and co. come to the aid of ancient Britons suffering a Roman invasion. Hippodrome Cinema, Hope Street, Bo’ness, EH51 0AA, 11 a.m. All tickets £2.10. Box Office: 01324 506850. Organised by Falkirk Council. http://www.falkirk.gov.uk/hippodrome

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 – BIG ROMAN DAY IN BO’NESS. Meet the Antonine Guard re-enactment group in Bo’ness Town Centre. Fun for all the family. Plus craft market and other activities. From noon to 4 p.m. Free. Organised by Falkirk District Town Centre Management.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 – BIG ROMAN DAY IN BONNYBRIDGE. More fun at Bonnybridge Library. From 2.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. there’s a toga party for children over five years of age. A prize for the best dressed Roman is on offer. From 3.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The Big Roman Quiz (adults vs. children). Both activities free. Bonnybridge Library, Bridge Street, Bonnybridge FK4 1AD. Organised by Greenhill Historical Society in conjunction with Falkirk Council.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 – CLOSING EVENT. FILM – THE ANTONINE WALL. Jim Walker, the President of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, provides live narration for this 1960 film, showing a walk along the Antonine Wall. See Bo’ness, Bonnybridge and Falkirk as it looked 50 years ago. Jim was brought up on Seabegs Farm, Bonnybridge and at the age of 15 discovered the Roman altar which is on display at Kinneil Museum. He also helped discover the nearby fortlet at Kinneil Estate. See the film and hear Jim’s talk at the Barony Theatre, Borrowstoun Road, Bo’ness. Film starts at 7.30 p.m. Followed by light refreshments to celebrate the Emperor’s Birthday. Admission free. Organised by The Friends of Kinneil in association with the Barony Theatre with the support of the Scottish Screen Archive.