It’s gearing up to be a big year in Bo’ness in 2019 with two very special anniversaries to commemorate.
The Friends of Kinneil are working with Historic Environment Scotland and other tourist organisations to celebrate the 250th anniversary of James Watt’s Cottage.
And 2019 will also mark the bicentenary of the inventor’s death in 1819.
Kinneil Estate is home to the cottage where Watt created his greatest invention, the separate condenser chamber for the steam engine – with a little help from Dr John Roebuck, co-founder of Carron Iron Works and founder of Bo’ness Pottery.
John, who lived in the house from 1764 to 1794, invested in Watt’s invention and invited him to build a workshop on the grounds of Kinneil Estate.
Granted a patent in January 1769, the separate condenser went on to become Watt’s most famous invention.
Now viewed as one of the most important discoveries in technological history, visitors from all over the globe descend on Bo’ness every year to see where he developed and tested it.
And antiques expert Anita Manning is among the latest visitors to learn the Watt story.
Looking for a place to film an Antiques Road Trip segment, the production team contacted Geoff Bailey, Falkirk Community Trust’s heritage engagement officer.
Initially, they were keen on filming at Callendar House but, learning a shoot had just taken place there, they decided against it.
However, Geoff had Kinneil House up his sleeve and presented the estate as an alternative.
Filming took place on July 27 with Geoff himself taking a starring role.
He said: “When they discovered the story about James Watt, they decided it would be ideal for the shoot.
“I was doing a dig in the walled garden that day anyway, looking for the remains of the earlier house.
“We actually found a ditch under the garden which cuts through the Roman road.
“Filming took place about 30 yards away from the dig and at James Watt’s Cottage.
“It was a very professional shoot with a team of four, including a drone pilot, along with antiques expert Anita Manning, who was very nice.
“You have to repeat yourself a lot as they want to film every scene from lots of different angles. They shoot you from the back, front, side and then you and the presenter together.
“It’s intense and you have to try to remember what you said each time.
“I had to explain what a separate condenser was on film several times, which was quite a challenge!
“They arrived at 10am and were gone by noon.
“The final shot is of me waving Anita off on a steam train at Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway – it tied in nicely with Watt’s engine.”
The international draw of the inventor was evident during the shoot, thanks to a couple from China.
Geoff added: “During a break in filming, the couple came up and asked if they could take a closer look at the cottage.
“They had come all the way from China to see it so we could hardly refuse!
“I think that ably shows the appeal Watt’s Cottage has across the globe.”
Ian Shearer, Friends of Kinneil chairman, is delighted that the Antiques Road Trip programme will be screened in 2019 – as it will tie in with the celebrations.
He said: “Screening the show next year will be ideal timing, given the cottage’s 250th anniversary and the bicentenary of Watt’s death.
“Events to commemorate Watt will be staged across Scotland next year.
“So Antiques Road Trip highlighting the cottage at Kinneil as the site of Watt’s most famous invention will be a great platform for us.
“The additional publicity that will bring will be fantastic for the estate.”
The Friends are in the early planning stages with HES but it is likely several events will be held at Kinneil.
The SRPS team at Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway were also delighted to take part.
Amanda Kilburn, business development director, said: “It’s great exposure for the railway, with Geoff waving Anita off at Kinneil Halt. We can’t wait to see it next year.
“Anita was really lovely to all of our visitors; she spoke to everyone and was happy to have selfies taken.
“It’s nice that attractions in the town worked together on the show, which can only be good for Bo’ness.”
The Antiques Road Trip programme featuring Bo’ness, as well as the Helix in Falkirk, will be screened in the new year but the date has yet to be confirmed.
Greatest treasures on screen
The last six months have seen an upsurge in filming at some of the Falkirk Council area’s greatest treasures, with four crews filming on location here.
Geoff Bailey, who will appear in three of the shows, is delighted at the exposure they will bring.
He said: “This year was our busiest by far for filming – it certainly doesn’t happen every year – but it’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase all the area has to offer.”
As the keeper of the archives at Callendar House, Geoff is often the first point of contact for production companies. Having been in post since 1984, he’s also an expert on our heritage so is often called on to appear in front of the cameras.
Another film crew’s efforts are being aired this month, albeit you will have to catch it online.
Imperium Europaeum features photographer Alfred Seiland, an Austrian who has been chasing traces of the Roman Empire in the 21st century for 10 years. He filmed at Rough Castle and Watling Lodge.
Geoff said: “The show sees the photographer taking a picture of a monument. I had to explain what he was looking at.”
The segment is featured in the Hadrian’s Wall episode of Imperium Europaeum, which has already aired in France and Germany.
However, it can also be viewed on the website www.arte.tv/en/ for the next three weeks.
The last two film crews – from Britain’s Historic Towns and Britain at Low Tide – focused on Higgins Neuk, the site of James IV’s dockyard, in Kincardine.
However, one of Geoff’s most memorable starring roles was screened at the Hippodrome.
He recalled: “We made a DVD of the making of the replica of the Bridgeness Tablet and I was invited to the Hippodrome to view it.
“I had to endure seeing myself on this huge screen for three minutes.
“My mum loved it and my family call me a film star but it’s odd seeing yourself on screen!”