charities, heritage, leisure, tourism

Town set to celebrate Roman roots

A HISTORIC town is getting set to celebrate its rich, Roman roots.

Talks, movies, an Italian market – and much more – have all been lined up in Bo’ness as part of The Big Roman Week.

Next week’s mini festival has been organised to mark the birthday of Emperor Antoninus Pius, the Roman leader who built the Antonine Wall from Bo’ness to Old Kilpatrick. The Wall was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site last year. Bo’ness boasts the remains of its own Roman fortlet within Kinneil Estate and has artefacts on display in the neighbouring Kinneil Museum.

The celebratory Week will kick off on Monday, September 14 – with special activities in the Museum, including Roman coin-making for younger visitors. Bo’ness shops are also supporting the event, highlighting Italian and Roman themed products.

On Wednesday, September 16, the historic Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness will showcase a 1960 film about the Antonine Wall – with a real-life introduction from Falkirk Council’s archaeologist Geoff Bailey. There will also be a screening of the swords and sandals epic, Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas, on September 19.

Bo’ness Community Council is playing its part, staging a talk on plans to create a new copy of the Bridgeness Roman Distance Slab. The tablet is thought to be one of the best Roman relics in Britain and was found in the Bridgeness area of Bo’ness in the 19th century. (The original is now on show at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.) The community council is hosting a free evening talk in Bo’ness Library on September 17 to outline its proposals to install a proper replica in the town.

The highlight of the Week will be an Italian Market in Bo’ness town centre on Saturday, September 19 (the Emperor’s birthday). Some Roman visitors also plan to make an appearance. The Italian Market will also be at Kinneil Heritage Day on Sunday, September 20 (along with a host of other attractions).

Leaflets promoting the Week are available from Bo’ness Library and online at

The festival is idea of the heritage group, The Friends of Kinneil, which runs free open days at historic Kinneil House – itself built on the line of the Antonine Wall.

Chairman Bruce Henderson said: “The Emperor Antoninus Pius was born on September 19, in AD 86, more than 1900 years ago. He extended the Roman Empire into Scotland and was, of course, responsible for ordering the construction of the Antonine Wall, which runs from Bo’ness to Old Kilpatrick. Parts of the Wall can still be seen at Kinneil Estate, and in other parts of the Falkirk area.

“We thought the Big Roman Week would be a good way to celebrate our Roman origins and make people more aware of how our town became the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.”

Bo’ness Councillor Adrian Mahoney, Falkirk Council’s convener of leisure, tourism and community, said: “Through activities in Kinneil Museum and the Hippodrome, the Council is supporting the Big Roman Week. Something like this helps to promote the fantastic heritage we have in this area and works to attract visitors to the town. Let’s hope this festival is a success and becomes an annual event.”

Councillor Mahoney said he hoped other communities along the line of the Antonine Wall could be involved in future events.

Mary-Jane Armstrong from Town Centre Management added: “This is the first time we’ve brought an Italian Market to Bo’ness. It will be a key part of the Big Roman Week – and we hope it will be popular with local people.”



BIG ROMAN WEEK – BO’NESS – SEPT 14 – 20, 2009

ALL WEEK – Discover Roman artefacts in Kinneil Museum, Kinneil Estate, Bo’ness. During The Big Roman Week: special activities for children.
Play Roman board games or design your own personalised Roman coin.
Suitable for children aged 5 to 12 years. All children must be accompanied by a supervisory adult. Museum open Monday to Saturday from 12.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (and on Sunday, September 20, for Kinneil Heritage Day). Free.

ALL WEEK – SHOP LIKE ROMANS: Discover Italian and Roman themed products across shops in historic Bo’ness Town Centre.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 – FILM: The Antonine Wall (silent), introduced by archaeologist Geoff Bailey. Hippodrome Cinema, Hope Street, Bo’ness. Film starts at 11 a.m. Cafe opens at 10.30 a.m.
Tickets £4.75 (inc. refreshments). Box Office 01324 506850.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 – TALK: The Bridgeness Slab. Find out about Bo’ness Community Council’s plans to bring a full-size replica of the Bridgeness Slab – one of the best Roman relics in Britain – to the town. Bo’ness Library (upstairs), Scotland’s Close, Bo’ness. Starts at 7.30 p.m. Free. In association with the National Museums of Scotland and The Friends of Kinneil.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 – ITALIAN MARKET: Sample the fare of modern-day Romans on Emperor Antoninus Pius’s birthday. Bo’ness Town Centre, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In association with Bo’ness Town Centre Management.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 – FILM: Spartacus (PG). Stanley Kubrick’s epic
(3 hrs) Roman movie. Starring Kirk Douglas. Hippodrome Cinema, Hope Street, Bo’ness. Film starts 2.30 p.m. Ticket price £5 (conc. £3.75).
Box Office 01324 506850.

Visit Kinneil Museum to find out about the Romans and see the Italian Market in the Estate. Historic Kinneil House (on the line of the Roman Antonine Wall) will also be open until 4 p.m. Plus lots of other family fun. Event runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. See a full timetable here.

The Big Roman Week has been organised by The Friends of Kinneil in conjunction with Falkirk Council, Town Centre Management and Bo’ness Community Council.