Chasing The Kelpies

October 18, 2013

We recently took one of our longest serving Helix volunteers for a little site visit, and asked her if she would write up her experience for the blog. We didn't expect such a descriptive story, but have loved reading it, and are proud to share it with you:

Written by Tracey Fullerton  |  The Helix 

One pair of maquettes (wee baby Kelpies) have been nestled at lock gate 2 for years, almost part of the furniture. But I still linger a while each time I'm down by.

I couldn't just walk past them, I had to stroke their muzzle, and cup that chin in my hand. I knew my baby Kelpies would "grow up" one day, that long nose would be well out of reach.

The Kelpies Origin

I've been volunteering with The Helix for over 5 years, and I've always felt like one of the team. For 3 years, while there were little more than a few new paths in place, I preached to full buses packed with locals, waxing lyrical about this amazing space we were going to have, The Kelpies would tower high above us, you really had to use your wildest imagination, and everyone did.

As the bus travelled towards the The Kelpies Hub, my nose was pressed against the glass - 'look, look, the foundations are in!' - I'd shriek. Two massive concrete lozenges, with over 30 meters of piles beneath them. It was tantalising to get so close, but never close enough!

The Kelpies have evolved from the original mythical concept, into something far more pertinent. These powerful steel heavy horse monuments perfectly represent, and encapsulate, our areas spirit& strength. They are rooted in stone and harness our heritage.

Evocative of our industrial past and culture, folks on the Helix bus tours shared fond memories and family tales of working horses. The rag & bone man, the heavyweight powerhouses delivering beer & soft drinks in town, and shifting loads along the canal side & foundries.

My grandfather worked in the foundry, he manufactured the gates to Shire Football Park. My brother's a welder & fabricator. Whether very deep, or tenuous, many local families have a link back to the foundries. I often find myself in a Flashdance inspired daydream, donning a welding mask and creating something spectacular.

440x 293_weldingmaquette

I'm drawn, like a magnet, to the strong industrial look of the Kelpies, as well as their pure as air etherealness. I've taken a thousand photographs already, we have beautiful fluid light and a vast sky. Sometimes the steel skin gleams golden, reflecting the soft dawn and dusk, look again and its blue grey, blending into the Ochil Hills as the clouds tumble over. The Forth & Clyde canal, like a mirror, offers you 2 bonus Kelpies - polarised, if you're lucky to be there on a still day.

I'm there every day.

Watching from the viewing platform across the canal I've seen every stage of the build so far, I'm captivated.

How lucky we are to have The Kelpies on our doorstep, our new neigh-bours! (I'll get my coat...)

Breathtaking engineering, imagine how long it must have taken to work all these hundreds of steel sheets into the perfect pattern to form their crisp contours, the muscles and curves flawlessly defined, they are world class, and they are all ours!

 "..All alone, I have cried silent tears full of pride, in a world made of steel, made of stone..."

Today something amazing happened.

I caught up with the Helix team, to be handed steel-toed wellies, a hard hat and a high-vis vest. I love dressing up, and donning the kit was exciting in itself, but I knew there was a site visit involved. We were going to see The Kelpies, not from the other side of the water, through the metal fence or from the viewing platform, but up close, we're going to get inside!

Walking towards them, past the foundations for the Visitor Centre, they look exactly like the computer images, the huge jaw and head section was attached to the "head up" Kelpie a few days ago and they are, for the first time, horses.


I brought my camera, and Ben's telling me to take photos, but I just wanted to look at them, take it all in. They will look striking, fully clad in their crisp, steel skin, but my goodness, they look incredible without it. The bare structure is mind blowing, it's a work of genius.

They are massive, the scale is inconceivable until you are under them. What I wasn't prepared for was how intricate, delicate and perfect they are. Standing on the concrete, and looking up, the angles of the flexing neck and tilted head are remarkable, this isn't a simple framework, and it's not just a tower.

It's a spiders web, could be a strand of DNA, so carefully engineered, refined, organic, ethereal and jaw droppingly beautiful.

I'm feeling dizzy from all the spinning round.

Finally my camera's out. It's a bleak grey day, The Kelpies are almost white against the dark sky, from a distance they would blend with the hills, but from down here the contrast is stunning.


All around us are parts of The Kelpies waiting to be hoisted up, and bolted on, the eyes, ears, and there it is, that lovely muzzle! I give it a bit of a hug, never in a million years did I think I would get hold of it. It's the size of a compact car, and will weigh seven tonnes once it's clad in steel. Just for a second, I sit cocooned inside an ear.

This day has just further fuelled my obsession, I adore these epic equines, I'll love them forever. And although I didn't tighten a bolt, or weld a panel, (...I'm open to offers!) there's an attachment thats stronger, we're fused together. Forever.

440x 587_traceyinanear