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The Black Callant
James Rowan lived and competed in a world arena. Scaling the heights of global athletics by the age of 19, he lived a life of athletic prowess, glamour, intrigue, romance and excess.

"It's a poignant yet uplifting story, bringing together sport and culture in the dramatic setting of Newcastle and Gateshead in the 1860s."
David Faulkner
Leader of Newcastle City Council

In development (2011).

The Black Callant Synopsis
Based on the true-life story of James Rowan, a characterful, humorous and superbly egotistical showman and world-class athlete, THE BLACK CALLANT was a global Victorian hero, a duped pawn of political manipulation, and his own worst enemy.

This phenomenal character was a hugely talented and popular figure. During his heady days as a champion he could draw crowds of 25,000 and such sums as were wagered on him would, in today’s terms, represent many thousands of pounds. He became a focus of ambition, envy and greed for many of those who surrounded him.

Born in 1836, in Gateshead, on the North East’s River Tyne, his rise to glory assured the attentions of scheming bookies and unscrupulous politicians. Like many others before and since, who have emerged from an unworldly working class background to be struck by fame, he left behind friends, family and the dedicated man who coached him, and gave himself up to the highlife.

The consummate showman, he would stop halfway through a race and play to the crowd, or drink from a bottle of whisky. On one occasion he donned an overcoat to counter the flamboyance of his major rival, the runner “The Great American Deer”, who dressed for the race in full Indian headdress.

Against the background of the looming American Civil War, he achieved fame across the Atlantic, was used by wealthy manipulators, duped by politicians engaged in an undercover arms deal between Hawkes Crawshay iron foundry and the American Confederates, and was betrayed by his own arrogance.

Eventually, Rowan was abandoned in America and, pride forgotten, forced to earn his passage home to England, running against animals as a circus performer.

Through James Rowan emerges the spirit of the North, a hero athlete, embracing physical excellence, human frailty, romance and glory... the story of a young man who just loved and lived to run.

(image: The Real James Rowan AKA The Black Callant)

"The full story is a ‘must’ for lovers of sport, period drama and those who love an underdog!… Arthur McKenzie the writer has always been a man of great passion…He has produced a story that will enthral everyone who comes into contact with it… ‘The Black Callant’ will make you feel humbled by a little man who had nothing except fast legs and a big heart!"
Paul Dickenson
Former Olympic Athlete & BBC Television Sport Commentator