Kinneil inspiration sparks Scots time-travelling short story

A dazzling new short story, inspired by Kinneil’s thousands of years of outstanding heritage, has been commended in the annual ‘Sangschaw’ competition of the Scots Language Society and published in this summer’s edition of their leading Scots language journal, ‘Lallans‘.

The story, ‘The Curse o the Sparkies‘, is by Tony Beekman, who is a Community Learning and Development Worker in Bo’ness for Falkirk Council, and with his kind permission we now also publish his new story in full below.

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Author Tony Beekman proudly celebrating, on receiving his copy of ‘Lallans’

Tony is a regular writer in Scots and since 2011 he has had 15 stories published across four outlets. “Of my 15 stories, this is the one I had most fun preparing for”, he explained. “Kinneil Estate was crying out to be the scene of a science fiction story crossing different time zones. It was irresistible to a dabbler in story writing – it would be an ideal location for a Doctor Who episode!”

His time-travelling tale ranges across 2,000 years of history at Kinneil, from a Roman legionary guarding the fortlet on the Antonine Wall (now part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site); to James Watt experimenting with his revolutionary steam engine in the 1760s in his workshop next to Kinneil House; to miners and the Kinneil Band rallying outside Kinneil Pit in late Victorian times; to the modern period and a community worker named Jacqueline visiting Kinneil Museum and reflecting on all the centuries past.

Originally from Airdrie where he still lives, Tony Beekman attended secondary school at a junior seminary in Coatbridge, then studied sociology and philosophy at the then Paisley College (now the University of the West of Scotland), where he gained a BA in Social Science. He then completed a PhD at the University of Glasgow with a thesis on Human Freedom in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre.

Tony initially worked in welfare benefits advice in Coatbridge and then in Shettleston, Glasgow, whilst also ‘moonlighting’ as a Workers’ Educational Association tutor. He then returned to Glasgow University to study in the evening for a post-graduate Diploma in Adult and Continuing Education, before joining Falkirk Council in 2005.

Now read on, and enjoy…

The Curse o the Sparkies

by © Tony Beekman (reproduced with kind permission of the author and of the editor of ‘Lallans’ magazine – the Journal of the Scots Language Society)

Time period: 150 CE. Location: the Antonine Wa fortlet, on lan near the Kinneil Estate, noo pairt o the toun o Bo’ness.

Servius glowered ower the parapet o the watchtour, leukin for ony barbarians, his a’ready boukit feegur eiked up wi armour an a helmet. He felt the cauld o the winter’s nicht but he ignored it; ye maun project naethin but strenth whan ye’re a sodger o the Roman Empire. The barbarians warnae tae ken that he felt the cauld, nor that he wis a Thracian, a memmer o a race lang syne conquered bi the Romans, an a conscript. Servius wis nanetheless a guid catch; he wis yin o the best fechters in the empire an he wis aye the champion at exercises an contests. Ye maun project naethin but strenth whan ye’re a sodger o the Roman Empire – especially tae the empire.

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Winter on the Roman Northern Frontier at Kinneil

Servius leuked up at the sky. He didnae ken why he did that but he felt compelled. The stars seemed extra bricht an Servius cudnae tak his een aff them. At the same time, he hid a vague sense o bein watched. He drifted intae a dwam. The dwam was interrupted bi a sudden piercin heidache. Then, juist as suddenly, Servius went intae a deep trance. Servius wisnae there but his body turned this wey an that an his een surveyed aathin within reenge.

Clang! Thud! A muckle clairtie stane hid clattered aff Servius’s helmet. Bluidy barbarians! Servius got up aff the flair. Whit sorcery wis aboot?

Time period: 13.7 billion years ago. Location: the Universe.

Sumhin juist happened tae pop intae existence. Suffused within the sumhin wis a dormant mental force. The mental force awoke an exploded at ane wi the sumhin explodin. The mental force split intae a netwark o innumerable mental energy entities, the emrites, entwined wi the fundamental forces o the sumhin. As the emrites burst aboot an interacted wi ilk ither through the fundamental forces, they fashioned the sumhin intae the universe. They thocht that it wis guid an kept on an on.

Time period: 1669. Location: the old Kinneil village that yaised tae lie on lan ahint the grand Kinneil Hoose.

Catherine an Bob were haudin hauns ootside thir wee cottage, leukin at it in the muinlicht. It wisnae much but it wis hame – for noo. A horse an cart were comin the morra tae remove them an thir belongins tae the up an comin toun o Bo’ness. The Duke o Hamilton thocht it wis vulgar haein ordinar fowk livin ahint the big hoose an getting in the wey o his development plans. E’en the kirk the couple were merriet in was bein offeecially abolished an turned intae a private chapel for the Hamilton faimly.

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Kinneil Kirk – until the late 17th Century, the spiritual heart of the lost mediaeval village of Kinneil [Picture credit: © Gordon Clark]

‘Oh, Bob,’ said Catherine, ‘it’s strynge tae think we’ll see this village nae mair an that oor bairn will no be baptized in the kirk here.’

‘A ken,’ said Bob, pattin Catherine’s bump, ‘but dinnae fash yersel,’ he continued. ‘We’ll get by,’ he said, daein his best tae ignore the knot in his stomach.

Catherine leuked up at the sky. She didnae ken why she did that but she felt compelled. The stars seemed extra bricht an Catherine cudnae tak her een aff them. At the same time, she hid a vague sense o bein watched. She drifted intae a dwam. The dwam was interrupted bi a sudden piercin heidache. Then, juist as suddenly, Catherine went intae a deep trance. Catherine wisnae there but her body turned this wey an that an her een surveyed aathin within reenge.

‘Catherine, ma lass,’ cried Bob. ‘Whit’s wrang wi ye?’ he speired, as he grabbed her bi the the shouders an shook her as much as he daured.

‘A’m fine, A’m fine,’ said Catherine as she switched back on an wriggled free. ‘A dinnae ken whit cam ower me. The Deil hissel is afit the nicht. Let’s get back inside.’

Time period: 2020. Location: Kinneil Estate, Bo’ness.

Jacqueline Clerk lived life tae the max. Whan she taen an interest in somethin, she didnae dae it bi haufs. She wis a Community Warker recently posted tae Bo’ness. She hid visited various community groups an she wis struck bi hoo prood the memmers were o Bo’ness’s distinctive place in history, wi the yin location o the Kinneil Estate in parteecular haein multiple strang connections wi different time periods. Jacqueline hid plenty o wark tae dae but she cudnae resist spendin her free time researchin the history o Bo’ness an visitin the Kinneil Estate.

Jacqueline had been intrigued bi the local fowk tale an eldren lady named Catriona had telt her aboot at an efternuin club. Accordin tae legend, the nicht sky wis inhabited bi ill-deedie spirits wha cam doon tae earth fae lightnin strikes or e’en rays o muinlicht or starlicht. These spirits were cried sparkies an whan they reached Earth, they taen possession o whasomever wis still aboot at an ungodly oor. The sparkies only taen possession o ye for a few meenits but that wis eneuch time for them tae mak ye dae somethin daft or e’en unchancy. There were several variations on a story aboot illicit young lovers arrangin tae meet on the bridge ower the Gil Burn an aither the loon or the quine, an sometimes baith, bein fund in the burn the next mornin, haein met an untimely en.

Jacqueline cud find no written record o the curse o the sparkies legend so she wis visitin the Kinneil Estate for a third time tae see if she had missed oniethin. Jacqueline admired the sicht o Kinneil Hoose fae the distance. She liked hoo twa sandstane pillars, designed for noo absent gates, framed the hoose in the distance.

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“She liked hoo twa sandstane pillars, designed for noo absent gates, framed the hoose in the distance”

Jacqueline strolled up the lang path tae tak a closer leuk at the front o the hoose. She wud hae tae buik a place on yin o the tours o the inside o the biggin that were occasionally arranged. Jacqueline turned tae the left an leuked at the plaque on an estate wa. The plaque commemorated the fact that pairt o the route o anither, mair famous wa, the Antonine Wa, had passed tae the left o Kinneil Hoose.

Jacqueline went through an openin in the estate wa an walked the short distance tae see a modest wee stane cottage. This cottage had been biggit in 1768 as a warkshop for James Watt durin the time a business partner leased Kinneil Hoose fae the Hamiltons. Jacqueline thocht it wis a nice touch that a ceelinder fae an auld steam ingine o the period wis staunin ootside the cottage.

Jacqueline noo heided for the bridge ower the Gil Burn a few paces awa. The bridge wis covered in thick, gooey glabber so Jacqueline walked sidieweys alang the tap o yin o the laich dykes on each lang side o the bridge, haudin on tae the railin on tap o the dyke tae mak sure she didnae jyne the ill-fated lovers o the fowk tales at the boddom o the burn.

On crossin the bridge, Jacqueline follaed a narrow path tae a clearin. There wis yin survivin gable en o the auld Kinneil village kirk an a stane ootline o pairt o the rest o the biggin, aa that wis left o the auld place. Near the tap o the gable en, twin bell-shaped empty cavities testified tae the ruinous state o the biggin.

Jacqueline turned fae the gaze o the bell cavities an started tae retrace her steps. On exitin past the gate pillars, Jacqueline turned left an heided for the big hoose’s auld wee stable biggin that noo served as Kinneil Museum.

Location an time period: aa o space an time.

The emrites are at ane wi the electromagnetic radiation o space. The universe is thir playgrun. They zap aboot aa ower the universe an mak mair o the universe while daein it. They can be in ony place in multiple time periods at aince. The waves o the emrites leave echoes o thirsels on the planets thir activities form, contributin tae the evolution o conscious life on Earth. Human life on Earth is a primitive form o emrite life but ane trapped an limited bi biological form. The emrites are baith repulsed an fascinated bi this bounded life an they cannae resist the occasional spot o brain wave surfin, tunin in tae the brain waves o individual humans tae inhabit their minds for a spell an observe. They dinnae ettle tae interfere in human affairs, juist observe, but the process temporarily puts the humans in a trance-lik state. The best laid plans o humans an emrites gang aft agley…

Time period: 1768. Location: James Watt cottage, Kinneil Estate.

James Watt hid been warkin aa mornin an aa efternuin in his warkshop but he wisnae yet saitisfeed wi his latest adjustment tae an a’ready gey ricklie model ingine. He kent fine his twa-ceelinder contraption warked in theory; if only he cud calibrate it exack an if only he cud find a foundry tae mak the scaled-up real version o the pairts richt. E’en tho it wis stertin tae get daurk, James cudnae resist yin mair shot. Preceese timin wis necessary but he wis tholemoodie eneuch tae wait, juist as he wis thrawn eneuch tae hae anither an anither go.

The mistak he made, tho, wis tae leuk oot a windae for a saicant an catch sicht o the muin. An emrite wis richt in there…

James cam oot the trance juist in time tae see his ingine goin tapsalteerie wi ceelinders rattlin an pistons goin aa roads. James kent there wis naethin for it but tae dive oot the apen door-cheek as a ceelinder burst. He landed face doon wi his gub in the gooey glabber that slittered its wey across the Gil Burn bridge richt tae the stanes o the cottage.

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Echoes of an Industrial Revolution… “his ingine goin tapsalteerie wi ceelinders rattlin an pistons goin aa roads”: the James Watt Cottage next to Kinneil House

James got up, spirped the glabber fae his gub and dichted the clairt fae his een. He grinned; that wud be the day’s efforts feenished then, fine, but back at it early the morra. An that hid been an unco trance he hid been in. It hid felt lik somebody hid tapped intae his heid an wis yaisin it lik James yaised a tuil. James cudnae explain it. But ye never forgot these things. Ye observed an noted them an ye wud be ready tae deal wi them if ye cud the next time.

Time period: 1894. Location: Kinneil Pit, Bo’ness.

Young Andrew wis only twinty but he cud fair blast oot a tune on the trombone. He wis the youngest musician o the men an he wondered hoo lang it wud tak afore he wis nae langer automatically referred tae as Young Andrew. Andrew, lik maist o the men in the Kinneil Baun, wis a coal miner in the Kinneil Pit. They were addin a splash o colour tae the march o the miners fae Bo’ness tae Falkirk tae jyne up wi strikers fae ither pits for a rally. The trig uniforms o the musicians were also a declaration tae the mine offeecials an the polis that the strikers were civilized men wi just demands.

The miners gaithered at the pit gates an got the baun tae gang tae the front. The polis were staunin at the pit gates wi a mine offeecial in his bowler hat. The marchers gied a chant aboot the miners united ne’er bein defeated. Unfortunately, they hid a’ready been defeated a wheen o times ower the years but ye unerstuid the sentiment. Ye hid tae try, an the antrin victory wis tae be savoured. The chantin subsided so the baun sterted up a cantie tune. Mr. Bowler wis rid in the face, gesticulatin wi baith hauns, leukin at the polis an pyntin at the baun. So animated wis Mr. Bowler that he didnae notice that his hat wis noo sittin asklent on his neep.

‘This is ootrageous, absolutely ootrageous,’ yowled Mr. Bowler. ‘Efter aa we’ve done for yeez,’ he emphasised, knockin his hat aff wi his bobbin up an doon. Young Andrew waited until Mr. Bowler hid bent richt doon tae pick up his hat, wi his hin en stickin oot, tae let oot a rasp o the trombone.

‘Ootrageous, ootrageous!’ cried Mr. Bowler, fumblin tae put his hat back on an knockin it aff again. Mr. Bowler paused an leuked at the baun. He quickly bent doon again, tryin tae get back up swith but a tuba player hid been primed for action. At the richt time, he lat oot fae his muckle horn a laich, rumblin win blast.

‘Ye daurnae think yeez’ll be practisin in oor ha ivver again,’ Mr. Bowler declared.

‘Shove yer ha,’ Mr. Tuba answered back. ‘We’ll big oor ain!’

The polis sterted tae edge furrit an the atmosphere wis shairp wi tension, contrastin wi the clear licht blue mornin sky wi the muin still shinin. Young Andrew caucht sicht o the muin as he moved aff. An emrite struck. The polis edged furrit some mair, haudin thir truncheons. The marchers sterted tae gang quicker an some o them bumped intae the trombonist, knockin him ower. People warnae sure if it wis hittin his heid aff the grun that did it or if it wis gettin trampled. But Young Andrew wis deid.

Time period: 2020. Location: Kinneil Museum, Bo’ness.

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Kinneil Museum

Jacqueline marvelled aince mair at the wappin bell on display in Kinneil Museum wi its Latin inscription in dedication tae Saint Catherine. O the sparkies, hooanivver, she cudnae find a mention. Jacqueline did lairn aboot the Kinneil Baun, a famous tradeetional brass baun founded bi miners an iron workers in 1858. Jacqueline thocht it wis brilliant that the baun was still in existence tae this day an blawin thir trumpet, an aa thir ither instruments, aboot recent achievements.

Jacqueline felt sad, tho, at a passage on the wa panel aboot the baun. In 1894, the baun hid led a march o strikin miners. The panel described hoo a young trombonist wis killed in a stampede whan the polis edged furrit tae the marchers wi truncheons drawn. The trombonist somewey got knocked ower an dee’d in the stampede.

Jacqueline wisnae juist sad, she hid a nigglin queerie feelin that sumhin wisnae quite richt aboot this incident. She minded aboot the passage on the panel fae her earlier visits but the feelin still telt her that this passage shouldnae be there. Jacqueline wis lost in these thochts for a few meenits until she cam tae and walked alang tae anither exhibit. As she did, she saw oot a windae that it wis stertin tae get daurk. She cud see the muin was gearin up for the nicht.

An emrite seized its chance. But before the uswal trance taen fu effeck, Jacqueline sensed whit wis happenin tae her an focht back. Jacqueline in her mind wis noo stuck in a fremmit kin o ante-chaumer tae a’where.

‘Wha’s here wanderin thro ma mind athoot as much as a by yer lave?’ speired Jacqueline, feelin waves o connections fae innumerable sources splashin at her. Jacqueline taen a deep braith, or imagined daein it, steadied her mind and focused on the stryngest waves.

‘Okay, emrite, dinnae hide. A ken ye’re there. Come an face me.’

‘Hoo can ye dae that?’ speired the emrite, appearin in Jacqueline’s mind as a tangled ba o circles o wee spinnin lichts. ‘Lat yer mind drift as if ye were goin tae sleep an A’ll dae ma business an this will aa bi ower wi in nae time.’

‘A cannae dae that,’ said Jacqueline. ‘In here, A ken whit you ken. An afore ye dae onythin, ye’re goin tae tak me wi ye back tae 1894 an mak yersel release Young Andrew afore the marchers stampede. A ken you’re stuck here the same as me an A’m no allooin ye tae leave unless ye dae whit ye’re telt.’

‘Huh! Nonsense!’ cried the emrite. ‘Yer knawledge is leemited wi yer puny biological form. Whit ye ken is pairtly the truth but ye’re cobblin bits an pieces thegither that ye cud nivver fully unnerstaun an crudely translatin it wi a human frame o reference. Namin me an ma kind “emrites” is an example. Ye’re drawin on some auld scientific tinkerer wha studied electromagnetic radiation. Ye’re ontae somethin, tho. No bad for a puny biologic. Oh an ye taen me bi surprise but A’m biggin up ma strenth again an will suin owerpower ye.’

‘That is whaur A come in,’ said James Watt. ‘A’ve been waitin for anither episode an this time A concentrated ma mind an follaed the connections. A think ye’ll find that ye cannae escape the strenth o twa e’en puny thrawn minds. Twa chaumers, ye maun e’en say,’ he chuckled.

‘A’m no as clever as him,’ said Servius, ‘but A wis pu’d alang wi his connection. A hae the disciplined mind o a sodger an A’ll help yeez control this wee nyaff tae.’

‘Why should the men hae aa the fun?’ Catherine joked. ‘A got dragged here in the wake tae but A hae a strang mind tae thole a lot, ken? So A’m in as weel.’

‘Honestly, this is madderam,’ appealed the emrite. ‘Interference is no alloo’d, only observation.’

‘But ye’ve a’ready interfered. Andrew didnae dee originally,’ said Jacqueline.

‘Och, aye, A didnae mean that,’ said the emrite. ‘This is heichly irregular but very weel.’

The quartet o human minds rode the waves wi the emrite tae 1894. The emrite caused extra sunspots tae appear as he met himsel and persuaded himsel tae leave afore the polis edged furrit.

Jacqueline cam tae. She walked back tae the panel aboot the baun. She smiled; there wis naethin aboot a death. She hoped that Andrew went on tae a lang an happy life.

‘Jacqueline,’ said the emrite poppin back intae her mind instantly, ‘you hae a strang connection wi us noo. Whan we need ye, we’ll be back.’

© Tony Beekman, 2020

Drone photo

Kinneil Estate… 2,000 years of Scotland’s history

 

Friends to celebrate 10th annual James Watt Supper

Happy New Decade to all our supporters and best wishes for 2020!

Join the Friends of Kinneil on Friday 17th January at our now traditional community event to see in the New Year, as we celebrate our tenth annual James Watt Supper! Members should already have received their invitations before Christmas, but we welcome others interested in finding out more about the Friends – and a few places at the occasion are currently remaining.

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This event, which we always hold near to the time of James Watt’s birthday (19th January), will take place at 7 for 7.30pm on Friday 17th January 2020 at St Mary’s RC Church Hall, Linlithgow Road, Bo’ness EH51 0DP (for those not from the town, this is opposite the petrol station at the crossroads). Dress code is ‘smart casual’.

The evening includes a 3-course buffet meal followed by traditional music. On this occasion, we shall also welcome writers reading from special poems composed to commemorate the recent Watt Bicentenary, including some about Kinneil. If you would like an alcoholic drink with your meal, please bring it along. Soft drinks will be provided. We thank in advance all those who work so hard to make the evening possible.

We do hope you will be able to attend this friendly and informal celebration. The cost to members and their guests is still just £10 per head. (Cost to non-members is £15 – but why not become a member first, now just £3, then qualify for the lower ticket price).

As the supper is always popular and places are limited, please RSVP as soon as possible (also confirming the names of anyone accompanying you) via e-mail (to info@kinneil.org.uk) or telephone/text (tel: 07919-927002) to our Secretary, Catherine Johnston – to whom a cheque payable to ‘The Friends of Kinneil’, to reserve the tickets (for collection at the door), can then also be sent c/o Mrs Catherine Johnston, The Friends of Kinneil Secretary, 14 Kinglass Avenue, BO’NESS EH51 9QA. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail us or call Catherine if you have any questions about the evening.

We look back on achieving much added profile for James Watt and for Kinneil in 2019, which saw the 250th anniversary of the patent (granted on 5th January 1769) for Watt’s most famous invention, the condensing steam engine, developed in partnership with Dr John Roebuck of Kinneil (co-founder of the Carron Iron Co). It was likewise the 250th anniversary of the only surviving building in Scotland directly associated with Watt’s work, his workshop at Kinneil – the ‘James Watt Cottage’. Co-incidentally, 2019 was also the Bicentenary of Watt’s death in August 1819. There were many significant James Watt commemorative events taking place across Scotland, the UK and beyond.

Kinneil House to open during St Andrew’s free weekend

For the first time, Kinneil House near Bo’ness will this year be open for free guided tours during Historic Environment Scotland’s (HES) St Andrew’s Free Weekend – Saturday 30 November and Sunday 1 December. Some other HES properties across the region will also be opening their doors.

The Kinneil House tours will run from 10am-4pm (last admission 3pm) and must be booked in advance through www.hes.scot/events . Volunteer guides from the Friends of Kinneil will be supporting HES with the event at the historic mansion – known for its exquisite 16th-Century wall paintings as well as its unique association with the inventor James Watt, who secretly undertook development work on his steam engine at Kinneil. 2019 has marked the 250th anniversary of Watt’s patent for the engine, and also the Bicentenary of his death.

Kinneil Estate contains a rare combination of nearly 2,000 years of Scotland’s history in one site. As well as the house, you can also visit the adjacent free Kinneil Museum (open daily except Tuesdays, 12.30-4pm, or 10am-4pm on house open days), which contains displays and artefacts relating to the house, estate and wider history and heritage of the Bo’ness area. A wide range of walks in and around the estate are also available.

For any queries about the house tours please contact HES.

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Views sought on future of Kinneil walled garden

Have your say by 2nd December! Falkirk Council have issued an online consultation about the future of Kinneil’s walled garden, following their sad closure of its plant nursery earlier this year.

What do you think would be the best use of this historic space in the future? The large walled garden dates from the 16th/17th Centuries and was an integral part of the estate. In those days when Kinneil House would have been at its most magnificent, the gardens were renowned for the finest fruit & vegetables, and under the Hamilton family, they would have been (as at Hamilton Palace) a centre of some of the most refined horticultural practice and training in Scotland of that period.

The line of the Antonine Wall runs beneath the nursery site. The walls at the North-West corner of the garden may also, according to new archaeological work last year, be the remains of the Hamiltons’ former 15th-Century castle of Craiglyon – a predecessor of Kinneil House!

When the Council developed the nursery in the 20th Century, the fertile topsoil was removed and replaced by hardcore. More recently, Sustainable Thinking Scotland C.I.C. have also set up in the South-West corner of the walled garden. Reviving some of the old traditions, they have gained a reputation for valuable new community growing activities.

The consultation explores whether the nursery space should be given over to further community use/growing, and/or whether it might be a site for some sort of development integrated within the overall vision and Masterplan for Kinneil Estate as a whole, in which the estate is envisaged as a heritage park attracting visitors from further afield as well as being used and enjoyed by the local community. Development in the walled garden might somehow help to bring in more people from outside the area, and contribute to making the estate as a whole viable, and supporting local jobs and economic activity.

Options in the consultation therefore range from community growing plots and beehives, or ‘men’s sheds’, on the one hand, to a skills training venue, visitor centre and café, or even a conference centre, on the other. Which end of this spectrum do you think is the right one? Can the walled garden be considered separately from the future of the House and Museum – or should they all be looked at together and in the round? Respond to the consultation and ensure your views and ideas are heard on this issue.

John Adair map 1684 CC by 4.0 NLS Maps web site

[Map by John Adair, 1684 – Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the CC BY 4.0 licence]

Join us for social evening on 29 October

Join the Friends of Kinneil on Tuesday 29 October at 7.30pm for a free informal evening of drinks, nibbles, fun and a dash of history!

We’re having a special autumn social evening to catch up with existing Friends, to welcome new members and to invite anyone interested in finding out more about the Friends of Kinneil and our activities. The event will take place at St Mary’s RC Church Hall, Linlithgow Rd, BO’NESS EH51 0DP.

Please RSVP to info@kinneil.org.uk by 27 October to let us know if you’re coming, for catering purposes.

Non-members and those new to the area especially welcome!

Escape the autumnal feeling and come along to find out more about us and our year-round events and social activities. We’re a friendly, award-winning group with a focus on local heritage, history and the environment. We hope as many people as possible will support our work to promote Kinneil Estate and Foreshore, and to campaign to see them developed further. If you do decide to become a member, it’s now only £3 to join! More information on membership is available here.

Members are asked to bring a friend along to mix in, to join in with some Kinneil-themed fun, and to hear more about what we do.

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Will you see Kinneil’s ‘White Lady’? Free Hallowe’en tours on 26 October

The ancient Kinneil House will be open for free family guided tours with a Hallowe’en theme on Saturday 26 October. Youngsters are being encouraged to turn up in fancy dress. The best-dressed child will win a book token.

Tours run from 12 noon till 4pm, with the last admission at 3pm, and must be reserved online in advance of the tour date via www.historicenvironment.scot/events. Tour bookings are taken offline at midnight the day before the tour.

Our volunteers will add some spooky stories about the building’s past into the family-friendly tours. The House is said to be haunted by the ghost of a White Lady.

Kinneil House, built in the mid-16th Century, was once a home of the powerful Hamilton family. It features some of the finest wall paintings of that period in Scotland – and also has links to characters such Mary, Queen of Scots, and James Watt, the famous inventor.

The adjacent Kinneil Museum will also be open free throughout the afternoon. The museum features relics dating back to Roman times, as well as video displays and hands-on exhibits.

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See inside Kinneil House on 5 October

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Historic Kinneil House will be open for free guided tours (booking essential) on Saturday 5 October.

Tours run from 10am till 4pm, with the last admission at 3pm, and must be reserved online in advance of the tour date via www.historicenvironment.scot/events. Availability is limited, so book now to avoid disappointment. The Historic Environment Scotland (HES) booking page advises: “Please be aware that tour bookings are taken offline at midnight the day prior to the tour date. If the date you wish to book has no availability, please contact us and we will advise if an additional tour can be provided on that date. Please phone 0131 558 9326 or email communityevents@hes.scot”.

The tours inside the house are operated and hosted by HES, with some of our own volunteer guides from the Friends of Kinneil also in support.

Kinneil House was for centuries a magnificent mansion of one of the country’s most powerful families – the Hamiltons. It boasts some of Scotland’s finest 16th-Century wall paintings, and also a unique association with James Watt, who secretly worked here on his steam engine and whose Bicentenary is being marked this year.

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For any queries about the house tours please contact Historic Environment Scotland. For information on future open dates, please visit www.historicenvironment.scot/events or www.kinneil.org.uk.

On 5 October there will also be a display in adjacent Kinneil Museum (free admission) to seek your views about designs for some proposed new ‘Hidden Heritage’ outdoor interpretation panels to be installed in Kinneil Estate.

The story of James Watt and John Roebuck at Kinneil – talk on 26 September

Come along to a talk in Bo’ness (St Catharine’s Church Hall, Cadzow Crescent) at 7.30pm this Thursday evening, 26 September, to find out more about James Watt’s pioneering development work on the steam engine at Kinneil 250 years ago.

The patent he took out in 1769, in partnership with Dr John Roebuck of Kinneil House, is one of the most important and celebrated in the history of world technology.

2019 has also marked the Bicentenary of the death of James Watt, with events taking place all over the UK and beyond.

Ian Shearer, Chair of the Friends of Kinneil, will tell the fascinating story of Roebuck and Watt – a tale of visionary enterprise, industrial espionage, personal setbacks and failures, but also progress in developing one of the greatest Scottish inventions and in their other projects in this area of Scotland.

This is a joint event with the Bo’ness Town Trust Association to kick off their excellent series of autumn and winter lectures. If you’re at all interested in local history and heritage, and in meeting new people, talk to both organisations about membership – each priced at just £3, to be included in events and activities throughout the year!

James Watt Cottage (2)

Building limes experts visit Kinneil as new case study published

On Saturday 21 September, Kinneil House welcomed a large number of visiting delegates from the ongoing Building Limes Forum conference in Stirling, for guided tours.

With their expert knowledge, many showed great interest in the surviving evidence of the 16C/17C construction & finishing techniques applied at this very significant building, but also in the exceptional original wall paintings from those periods.

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More information about the paintings is available in what is still considered the most authoritative account of them by one of the men who saved Kinneil House from demolition in 1936 – James Richardson, HM Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland – who then went on to conserve the paintings and much of what remains of the house. His 1941 paper can be read here.

Peter Ranson, District Architect for Historic Environment Scotland (HES), also showed delegates the recently-restored orchard wall outside. To co-incide with the visit, HES has now published a new technical case study about this project.

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The Friends of Kinneil would like to pass on thanks to all for visiting and for the level of interest. Unfortunately the tours were too short to present all the many layers of history in and around the house, and to continue the lively questioning and discussion. It demonstrated what a considerable amount of research is still to be done on Kinneil’s fabric and history – it is hoped visitors may spread the word, return and lead further in-depth study!

Kinneil House open, 21 September, as Real Ale Festival raises glass to James Watt

Historic Kinneil House will be open again for free guided tours (booking essential) on Saturday 21 September, co-inciding with the 19th annual Bo’ness Real Ale Festival. This year, the festival is commemorating the Bicentenary of the death of James Watt, and his pioneering work on the steam engine at Kinneil 250 years ago with his then patron Dr John Roebuck of Kinneil House, the co-founder of the Carron Ironworks near Falkirk. Why not combine a visit to both events?

Open Day 21 Sept

Tours run from 10am till 4pm, with the last admission at 3pm, and must be reserved online in advance of the tour date via www.historicenvironment.scot/events . Availability is limited, so book now to avoid disappointment. The Historic Environment Scotland (HES) booking page advises: “Please be aware that tour bookings are taken offline at midnight the day prior to the tour date. If the date you wish to book has no availability, please contact us and we will advise if an additional tour can be provided on that date. Please phone 0131 558 9326 or email communityevents@hes.scot”.

The tours inside the house are operated and hosted by HES, with some of our own volunteer guides also in support.

For any queries about the house tours please contact Historic Environment Scotland. For information on future open dates, please visit www.historicenvironment.scot/events or www.kinneil.org .

See also ‘James Watt remembered at town’s local real ale festival’ on the James Watt Bicentenary web site, which also lists other events during this year of commemoration. James Watt’s workshop at Kinneil will feature on the special glass to be issued to those attending the festival.