Bo’ness Real Ale Festival will pay tribute to great pioneers

James Watt and the Steam Engine: the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century, painted by James Eckford Lauder  in 1885 ' courtesy of NGS
James Watt and the Steam Engine: the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century, painted by James Eckford Lauder in 1885 ' courtesy of NGS

This year’s Bo’ness Real Ale Festival is taking pioneering scientist James Watt as it theme, particularly for the ground-breaking research he carried out at Kinneil.

Next month’s hugely popular two-day event at Bo’ness Town Hall will acknowledge the bicentenary of Watt’s death, while paying tribute to his invention of a revolutionary improved steam engine.

It was secretly tested in a cottage in the grounds of Kinneil House in 1769/70 before finally being patented.

The festival will also implicitly acknowledge the special help Watt received from John Roebuck, founder of Falkirk’s Carron Iron Works, who lived at Kinneil House while the project was in development.

Adrian Mahoney, a trustee of The Friends of Kinneil, noted: “Watt and Roebuck decided that Kinneil – away from prying eyes in Bo’ness – was a good place to test out prototypes. The nearby Gil Burn provided a plentiful supply of water. And so the partnership was formed.”

However Roebuck ultimately went bankrupt, and a new partnership with Matthew Boulton led to global take-up of an internationally successful invention often said to have powered the industrial revolution.

The Bo’ness historian TJ Salmon wrote: “Although Roebuck had to give in, there is no doubt that Watt was so much indebted to him at the beginning that, without his aid and encouragement, he would never have gone on.”

Meanwhile, the ale festival on September 20 and 21 will have a separate tribute to Gaius Goodwin, a co-founder of the event, whose image will appear on the festival’s commemorative glass.

A Bo’ness Real Appreciation Society spokesperson said: “The festival this year is tinged with both anticipation and sadness. We lost Gaius Goodwin, who died earlier this year in April.

“He was a good friend, a well-kent face in the town and will be remembered by many chatting and serving behind the bar at the festival.

“He will be missed, and we hope everyone visiting this year will lift a glass and toast his contribution to the festival.

“Without his untiring commitment over the last 19 years the festival would not have been the success it continues to be.”

Bo’ness Real Ale Festival opens at 5pm on September 20 and noon on September 21.