Brand New Series - Throwback Thursdays – “The Story of the Fenwick Weavers Co-operative”

Welcome to the fifth and final instalment of our new film article series, Throwback Thursdays!


This is a weekly article presented over the month of February, where film-maker Paul Darroch re-visits a selection of short films held within Oak Tree Productions’ vaults from times past.


Shortly after co-producing the sci-fi thriller “Second Moon on the Right”, one of the main actors from the film, Robert McElwee, informed me that a colleague of his was interested in producing a 1700s period drama set in the village of Fenwick in East Ayrshire.


Before long I had a meeting with local businessman, John McFadzean, who explained that he and fellow amateur historian, John Smith, had recently discovered a deed proving that a group of weavers from Fenwick had set up the world’s first worker’s co-operative on 14th March 1761 (known as the Fenwick Weavers’ Society).


Now that the documents were officially recognised by the National Library of Scotland, John therefore wished to commission a short period film to be screened as part of a special celebratory evening in March 2008.


Being interested in Scottish history since an early age, I naturally jumped at the chance to be involved in such an historically interesting project.


John came up with the premise of a chance conversation occurring in a busy tavern between one of the original Fenwick Weavers (Thomas Barr) and leading Scottish industrialist, merchant and philanthropist David Dale.


We both agreed to co-write and co-produce the film, with John focusing on historical accuracy and funding, and myself more so on the dramatical and practical side of things. Due to my filmmaking experience, John also suggested that I direct and edit the film, which I was more than happy to agree to.


In terms of casting, being both impressed with Robert McElwee’s previous performance in “Second Moon on the Right” and his enthusiasm for the new project, Robert was therefore cast as local Fenwick weaver, Thomas Barr.


Having recently seen actor Eric Robertson in a play at the sadly now defunct Ramshorn Theatre, I offered him the part of David Dale, which he graciously accepted (somewhat eerily perhaps, a few months later I discovered that the resting place of the real David Dale is located in the crypt directly below the very same stage where I saw Eric perform!)


Finally, local actress Vivien Taylor was cast in the part of the tavern’s vivacious Barmaid, due to her impressive versatility and natural screen presence.


With respect to the crew, having previously helped out on some technical duties for the feature film, “Next Time Ned”, I was delighted to invite on board Sean Walker as Director of Photography, David McKeitch as Sound Recordist, Rachael Ivancic as Props/Costume/Set Designer and Rachel Napier as Make Up & Hair Artist. Fellow film-maker, Ken Rice, also joined the team as Assistant Director and Documentary Cameraman.


Location wise, the film was shot entirely in the Kings Arms Hotel in Fenwick, which would actually have been frequented by the original 16 weavers way back in the 1700s.


As John and myself were keen for every aspect of the film to be as period accurate as possible, we were kindly granted permission by musician Pete Clark to incorporate his wonderful pre-recorded Scottish fiddle music from the works of 18th Century composer Robert McIntosh.


Post-production was quite tight on the film in order for it to be ready in time for the upcoming Fenwick Weavers Celebratory Evening. It was a pretty large scale event, where amongst other dignitaries, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Des Browne, was in attendance.


After the success of the evening, the film went on to win Best Film at the Glasgow Media Access Centre’s, Café Flicker, in April 2008. It then went on to be nominated for Best Film at The Big Flick Awards later that year. It also received several more successful screenings, including The Dick Institute Film Festival in Kilmarnock, The Fair Trade Experience and CIVICUS Exhibition in Glasgow, and The Scottish CO-OP’s AGM in Perth.


Participating on “The Story of the Fenwick Weavers Co-operative” was one of the most rewarding creative experiences of my life. I will always look back on it with a great deal of fondness and pride.


We hope you enjoyed reading the final instalment of our Throwback Thursdays series.


Indeed, thank you for reading all of our retrospective film articles over the last five weeks (it’s been a blast!)




Title: The Story of the Fenwick Weavers Co-operative (2008)

Plot line: A local weaver meets a mysterious stranger in a Scottish tavern one cold winter's night in 1763, before proceeding to explain how the world's first worker’s co-operative began in the village of Fenwick two years earlier.

Running Time: 10 mins


Robert McElwee as Thomas Barr

Eric Robertson as David Dale

Vivien Taylor as The Barmaid


Assistant Director...Ken Rice

Director of Photography...Sean Walker

Sound Recordist...David McKeitch

Make Up & Hair Artist...Rachel Napier

Props, Costume & Set Designer...Rachael Ivancic

Camera Assistant...Conor McElwee

Caterer...Susan McFadzean

Historical Researchers...John Smith & John McFadzean


Music Performed & Recorded by Pete Clark (From the music of Robert McIntosh)

Written by John McFadzean & Paul Darroch

Produced by John McFadzean & Paul Darroch

Directed & Edited by Paul Darroch


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