Hippodrome to screen films created for the People’s Story Project

Private viewing...in Falkirk Town Hall in June was attended by some 60 participants. (Pic: Whyler Photos of Stirling)
Private viewing...in Falkirk Town Hall in June was attended by some 60 participants. (Pic: Whyler Photos of Stirling)

From fairytales at bedtime to spinning a yarn in the pub, Scots have always been renowned for storytelling.

And a unique project, funded by the Scottish Government, led by the Scottish Book Trust and supported by Falkirk Community Trust’s library services, tapped into that.

Oldest living fair queen...May Garrow will be attending the screening with her great-niece Jackie Gilmour. It was a story Maria Ford felt compelled to share.

Oldest living fair queen...May Garrow will be attending the screening with her great-niece Jackie Gilmour. It was a story Maria Ford felt compelled to share.

For the last nine months, Sabine Hellmann from the Book Trust has been working with individuals and groups in Bo’ness and Falkirk to digitise their stories.

Everything from holidays to liver transplants, sporting achievements to local history has been documented.

And on Tuesday, August 27, some of the many videos shot for the People’s Story Project will enjoy a public screening at Bo’ness Hippodrome.

While the participants attended a private viewing at Falkirk Town Hall in June, it will be the first public viewing.

Personal tribute...from author and historian William F. Hendrie to Scotland's oldest teacher, Guthrie Pollock. The pair were friends for more than 60 years.

Personal tribute...from author and historian William F. Hendrie to Scotland's oldest teacher, Guthrie Pollock. The pair were friends for more than 60 years.

And for Sabine, the most difficult thing has been choosing which of the 56 videos to include.

She said: “People in the community have very interesting stories to tell but never get the chance to.

“We gave them the opportunity to tell their own stories – whatever they wanted to share – be that a very personal story, a special memory or the industrial or social history in their area.

“They are all available to view on our Vimeo site so people can enjoy them.

Healthy attitude...Adrian Mahoney tackled high blood pressure by taking up walking and lost two stone into the bargain!

Healthy attitude...Adrian Mahoney tackled high blood pressure by taking up walking and lost two stone into the bargain!

“But the Hippodrome screening will signal the end of the project and celebrate all the local storytellers.

“I’d love to be able to show them all but that won’t be possible in 90 minutes.

“Around 20 or 30 of the stories will be featured.”

While the project is now nearing completion, library staff and many of those who took part have been trained how to use the iPad video equipment which will be left in Falkirk Library for future projects.

Sabine added: “It was important to share the skills so that the project will have a lasting legacy here.

“Many of the people who took part had never used editing equipment before but they were eager to learn and have shared some really fascinating stories.”

Among the storytellers are FDAMH creative women’s group, Forth Valley Recovery Community, Forth Valley Sensory Centre, Avonbridge Community Café, the Care Words project and the Kinneil Colliery Band.

Some very personal stories have also been documented by some well-kent Bo’ness folk.

And chief among their number is Maria Ford’s celebration of the town’s oldest living Fair Queen, May Smith (95), who was crowned in 1936.

However, May was actually crowned as Mary, as Maria explained: “They didn’t want to say May Queen at the end of the Proclamation so May was listed as Mary Smith in that year’s programme.”

Maria is probably best known to readers for her work with Friends of Kinneil.

However, she decided to tell Mrs May Garrow’s story after meeting her last summer, following her own crowning moment.

Maria said: “I was asked in January 2018 to crown last year’s Queen, Zoe Carlin.

“I immediately felt a connection to Zoe.

“Then last summer I met May and realised that, when she was crowned queen at the age of 11, she had the same connection with her crowning lady, Mrs Mathers, who was the wife of the local MP, George.

“Mrs Mathers visited May at home and gave her a gold watch, as well as taking her down to the Houses of Parliament for the day.

“May’s story was a lovely one; her mum had the chance to be queen but her parents couldn’t afford it so she was never crowned.

“But May’s mum was determined she was going to be queen.

“And the community rallied round to help, with May’s mum’s sisters helping to pay for her dress and her labourer dad’s friends pitching in to build the arch.

“She also borrowed the 1930 Fair Queen, Kathleen Jamieson’s dress, which she wore for the fair programme.

“It was a story that really needed to be told, as it showed just how much community spirit there was in the town.”

Maria will not be able to attend the Hippodrome screening – it is her 65th birthday that day and she has other plans.

However, she is delighted May will be going with her great-niece Jackie Gilmour.

She added: “It’s not about me, it’s about May.

“It was a privilege to tell her story and I’m glad she’ll be there to see it.”

Maria is helping with the 2020 Fair programme and will be meeting May again soon to write an article on our oldest living Fair Queen.

Another personal tribute, William F Hendrie’s video details his friendship with Scotland’s oldest teacher, artist Guthrie Pollock.

The pair met at a West Lothian summer camp in 1959, which they continued to support until 1995.

William wrote several books about Bo’ness, which Guthrie provided many drawings for.

Sadly, Guthrie (92) died on April 4 this year.

William said: “My friendship with Guthrie lasted right through until April when he was the oldest working teacher in Scotland.

“Sadly, he fell ill in March and passed away in April, thus ending a friendship which went back 60 years.”

Local businessman Adrian Mahoney has also created a video, Walking Back to Happiness, which details how he tackled high blood pressure ... by walking.

All of the stories are available to watch at digital-stories.scot, as well as on the project channel at vimeo.com/channels/peoplesstoryproject.

The public screening will be held on Tuesday, August 27, from 6pm at Bo’ness Hippodrome.

To reserve a free ticket, call 01324 504693 or visit bit.ly/2K45eIa.