If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know that I’m very proud of the fact that I was born in Falkirk which means I can call myself a ‘bairn’. The term ‘bairns’ is used for the town’s football team supporters and folk who come from Falkirk. Bairn is also the Scottish term for young children, though no-one can prove conclusively why Falkirk’s citizens are called ‘bairns’.
Like so many historical conundrums there’s no conclusive answer. On the basis of scraps of evidence, it seems that the term was commonplace throughout the 19th century and there was said then to be an ‘old’ saying – ‘You’re like the bairns o’ Fa’kirk, you’ll end ere you mend’ so it probably takes the term back to the 18th century at least. The term ‘bairns’ also features on the Coat of Arms of the Burgh of Falkirk with the motto, “Better Meddle wi’ the De’il than the Bairns o’ Fa’kirk” and the motto, “Touch ane, touch a’.”
But does describing yourself as a Falkirk ‘bairn’ give you a sense of identity? This was one of the questions posed at a writing workshop led by writer Alan Bissett, originally from Hallglen in Falkirk. The workshop was organised to stimulate ideas for a book celebrating the work of local professional and amateur writers from the Falkirk area. It is being produced by Falkirk Community Trust (FCT) as one of their projects following Falkirk being named as a Creative Place Award Winner for 2014.
When the workshop group discussed how they would describe Falkirk to a foreigner, a common theme that cropped up was the industrial heritage of the town. Although the Kelpies have given Falkirk an instant arts boost, the town is not renowned as being a hub of creativity, despite the fact that famous artists such as Elizabeth Blackadder are ‘bairns’. Although, the situation is improving with events such as Untitled’s monthly spoken word gatherings offering writers a much-needed outlet for their work.
As they say, things can only get better and FCT plan to use the award to work with a number of partners to support a cultural project called ‘Acts of Discovery’, aimed at offering audiences a fresh look at the area and its cultural offering.
Part of the project will be a book edited by Alan with the aim of providing a snapshot of Falkirk with stories and poems that are either based in or inspired by the area.
To fire up our thoughts of Falkirk, Alan asked us to think of a place unique to Falkirk. We then had to think of 2 things, 1 smell and 1 sound related to that place. After that we had to choose 2 characters and write a scene involving some sort of conflict. There are many places unique to Falkirk such as Callendar House and park, the Steeple, Brockville stadium etc. but the one that sprang to my mind was the York café in the High Street.
I scribbled down a scenario inspired by childhood visits to the York café (most of my happy memories involve food!) and we then shared our efforts. It was really interesting to hear the diverse range of settings and the workshop certainly made us all reflect on a sense of belonging.
An added bonus for me was bumping into a long-lost friend, Marianne Dryburgh, who in the 12 years or so since our paths have crossed has also completed an MLitt in Creative Writing so we had lots to talk about and catch up on (over lunch in the café of course).
Does your hometown influence your writing?