INSPIRATION for a Scottish festival is being drawn from an enduring love story – stretching from here to the Far East.

Kirkintilloch Canal Festival, which takes place from August 26 to September 1, is based on Rita Cowan’s fateful meeting with Japanese student Masataka Taketsuru which took place at her home in Kirkintilloch almost exactly 100 years ago.

The spirited pair fell in love in 1919, married in 1920 and then crossed the globe to forge Nikka Whisky, one of Japan’s most successful and best-known whisky companies.

Rita – a former Lenzie Academy pupil, who became known as the “mother of Japanese whisky” – remains a legend in her adopted homeland. The Strathkelvin area – which includes Kirkintilloch – is twinned with Yoichi in northern Japan, where Nikka’s first distillery was created.

Kirkintilloch Canal Festival – which is organised every year by the Council and a range of partners, will offer up a range of entertainment celebrating the centenary of their meeting, their story and Japanese culture, including: Councillor Billy Hendry said: “This year’s Canal Festival promises to be one of the best yet, with a special focus on the legendary story of Rita Cowan and Masataka Taketsuru – inspired by the centenary of their meeting.

“The Council and EDLC Trust have worked hard to arrange a variety of events.”