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WATCH: Shooting, archery and knife-throwing at Scotland’s only wild west town

Gayle turns cowgirl and heads to the Wild West town of Tranquility – deep in the heart of Aberdeenshire.

A scowling, mean-looking bunch of cowboys – and a marshal – stand, guns poised, in front of the saloon.

They’re an impressive and rather intimidating posse.

However, as I skulk towards them like a scared puppy, their grimaces turn to smiles.

“Welcome to the town of Tranquility!” beams Ally Baranowski, aka the sheriff. “Get your cowboy gear on and we’ll get started!”

Ally is the founder of this fantastic Wild West town, deep in the heart of Aberdeenshire – about 10 miles from Huntly.

His impressive reconstruction is the only one of its kind in Scotland.

It’s a place where enthusiasts and re-enactors hang out together, indulging in their passion for the romance of the West – gunslinging, fighting, knife and axe throwing, playing cards, cooking, drinking and chewing the fat.

Gayle hangs out with Tranquility members. Picture: Chris Sumner.

As well as a saloon, there’s a jail, marshal’s office, carpenter’s, general store, corral, undertaker, bank, telegraph office, barber shop, bathhouse and a town hall that doubles as a courthouse, plus a well and a cemetery.

Most of the gear is made by members, donated or bought second-hand, but some authentic items are shipped from the States.

Going west

Former geography teacher and subpostmaster Ally set up Tranquility in 2005 when he retired.

As he hands me a huge sheepskin jacket, cowboy hat, heeled boots and bandana to change into, he takes up the story.

“As far back as I can remember, since childhood, I loved watching Westerns on TV,” he says.

“When I got older, I travelled to the US and visited a lot of the famous Old West places, like Dodge City in Kansas and Tombstone in Arizona. I also joined re-enactment groups in this country.

“I came across a Wild West town in England and thought, if they can do it there, we can do something here.”

Ally and Steve Ramsay help Gayle with archery.

And so Ally moved from Aberdeen 40 miles west to a two-acre plot which he transformed into his own cowboy town.

With help from his brother and friends, he started work on the first building, the saloon, in 2005. A decade on, the construction of the ninth building – the mayor’s office – marked the completion of the town.

There are around 30 regular “residents” who travel here from across Aberdeenshire, Moray and beyond. They include a retired policeman, personal trainer, offshore worker, sales rep, retired RAF officer and a supermarket manager.

Giving it a go

Having watched the guys in action, Ally invites me to have a bash at firing a pistol.

It’s harder than it looks! The first battle, for me at least, is the “quick-draw” of the revolver from its holster.

Because I’m swaddled in a jacket that’s about 10 sizes too big, I make a right old meal of things. Put it this way, I wouldn’t win any fights because my “draw” is slower than slow.

Ally gives Gayle some tips on shooting.

I also have a go at archery, although Ally calls it a “buffalo hunt” – using a bow and arrow to hit a picture of a buffalo on the backside. I miss every time by a long shot but it’s fun trying.

Next up is knife throwing, which I find rather daunting. I surprise myself by doing a pretty good job; my knife hits the target and stays put!

The highlight of my day is when we all fire our guns repeatedly as we charge down a field towards an imagined enemy. What a racket!

Ally throws a knife.

Western films

As Ally gives me tour of the town, he tells me about the many Western films made by Tranquility members, which can be viewed on the dedicated YouTube channel, The Tranquility Town. He and other members write most of the scripts themselves.

Would I fancy being an extra in an upcoming film, he asks? Of course! But that’s for another day.

Some members are in the re-enactment group Northern Rough Riders, performing vignettes of the Old West at various events across Scotland.

As far back as I can remember, since childhood, I loved watching Westerns on TV.”

Ally Baranowski

It’s a wonderful world of escapism, and if members aren’t making films or practicing their fast-draw, they split into teams and do what Ally describes as a “kind of paintballing” – but without the paint.

“It’s a sort of hide and seek,” he explains.

“The good guys hunt down the bad guys in the woods with blank-firing guns. If you get within 10 feet of your target they’re ‘shot’ although sometimes wee arguments break out. There’s a lot of noise!”

Get involved

Tranquility runs three open days a year where members of the public are invited along to see what goes on.

“We put on Wild West sketches, some based on true events in history, others make-believe or a bit of comedy,” says Ally.

“It’s a great way to socialise and meet like-minded people.”

Bang bang!

Tranquility is always looking for more members and at £30 a year – or £50 per couple – it’s cheap at the price.

So if you have a passion for the Wild West or an unfulfilled ambition to be a cowboy, cowgirl, lawman, outlaw, Indian, pioneer or soldier – or to feature in a Western movie – it’s worth signing up.

Tranquility is a haven for wild west fans.
  • Tranquility’s next open day is April 24 at 1.30pm. It’s free entry with refreshments provided but donations are welcome. For more details and to become a member, check out the Facebook page or see tranquilitytown.yolasite.com

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