The factory workers turned 'Falkirk Cowboys' who made Western Films in their spare time

BA Cowboy Denis McCourtney outside British Aluminium factory on horse in 1970s. PIC: BBC Scotland.
BA Cowboy Denis McCourtney outside British Aluminium factory on horse in 1970s. PIC: BBC Scotland.
Share this article
0
Have your say

By day, they worked in an aluminium factory in Falkirk but in their spare time, they chipped in any spare cash they had and made Western movies in and around the town.

The Cowboys, around 20 in total, all worked at now-defunct British Aluminium (BA) factory and made eight films during the 1970s.

The Cowboys met and worked at British Aluminium in Falkirk and spent their spare time and money making Western films in and around the town. PIC: Contributed.

The Cowboys met and worked at British Aluminium in Falkirk and spent their spare time and money making Western films in and around the town. PIC: Contributed.

READ MORE: Scotland's very own Wild West town - in deepest Aberdeenshire
All were filmed on a Super 8 Camera by the late Robert “Rab” Harvey, a movie buff who worked at BA as a fork-lift truck driver. Such was Rab’s enthusiasm that he galvanised his colleagues into acting action in parks and bars around the town.

On one occasion, they were even reported to the police for wielding toy guns in Falkirk’s Callendar Park. The police investigated but stood down when they realised it was “only the BA Cowboys” making one of their films.

Now, their story will be told in a new documentary screened by BBC Scotland with three of the BA Cowboys - Denis McCourtney, Ian Gardiner and Alex Penman - telling the story of the workers and their wild, wild hobby.

The films had titles such as Wyoming Outlaws, Badlands, Apache Ambush, Border Badmen and The Lonesome Drifter and sourcing props was a big part of the process, with family and friends all roped in to help.

Former cowboy Iain Gardiner appears in a new BBC Scotland documentary about the workers and their film making exploits. PIC: Michael Gillen.

Former cowboy Iain Gardiner appears in a new BBC Scotland documentary about the workers and their film making exploits. PIC: Michael Gillen.

READ MORE: When the Hillman Imp was proudly made in Scotland
Gun holsters were made from women’s handbags picked up at jumble sales, while a real horse was even hired from the local park’s stables.

The films were shown in a makeshift cinema in the Falkirk BA factory and were intended to raise money to buy wheelchairs for local children.

Their fame grew locally and they big crowds all eager to see the latest BA Cowboy picture in community halls and old folks homes around the town.

The Cowboys’ heyday coincided with a time of economic growth for Falkirk. But as industry in Falkirk declined, so did the fortunes of the BA Cowboys.

Their swansong was a horror film called The Mummy’s Hand. Viewed as their most adventurous work, it evoked the deserts of Egypt in an old quarry and the sand bunker at the local golf course.

The documentary, called Falkirk Cowboys, sees the surviving films shown in a real cinema for the first time with the Cowboys walking up the red carpet at the Bo'Ness Cinema for a very special screening.

- Falkirk Cowboys will broadcast tonight , Wednesday, 4 December, at 8pm on BBC One Scotland and on iPlayer thereafter.