1979 – Fair Comment

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In Bo’ness a person who is born and bred in the town is known as a “Hamebider.” and such I have been invited to contribute to this year’s magazine, giving my views of Fairs as I have known them.

To do this one must first delve back into the past to the hazy, golden hours of childhood in the Thirties, when the approach of the great day brought that magical excitement which gave a fairy tale colour to our then rather simply lives – simple, that is, to the present generation of youngsters, accustomed as they are to the sophistication of TV and the “tranny.”

Those were the times, when among the highlights of the Fair were carts and haywaggons of the local merchants and farmers, drawn by familiar horsey friends of everyday acquaintance, but hardly recognisable in their finery of decorated harness.

This was followed by the grey years of war when the spirit of the occasion was kept very much alive by the numerous “Wee Fairs” held each summer in back greens all over the town. Schools, too, helped by faithfully rehearsing the Fair Songs at each anniversary, so that, consequently, when that hot day dawned in 1946 and Queen Sadie restarted the whole cycle, we knew what it was all about.

Around this time I became, like many of you, a kerbside supporter, thoroughly enjoying every part of the spectacle, and applauding – or criticising as the occasion demanded. This state of affairs continued for a long time and my only contribution during that period was once when I helped to build a Queen’s Arch ( Mairi Pritchard, 1959 ). This was not an experience to heighten my enthusiasm for in that year we had one of the wettest Fair E’ens in living memory. I can still feel the water entering at the nape of my neck and never stopping until finding a home in my wellingtons.

However, all this changed with startling suddenness when coming to Deanburn. I knew that something was expected of us and that the school would have to make a presentation of sorts, but how high that standard should be was only really brought home to me at the rehearsal in the Glebe Park. So, with less than 24 hours to go, frantic additions and alterations had to be made to the routine. Thankfully, the occasion passed without too much adverse comment.

Since then, in succeeding years, without respite, one has been faced with the dilemma of finding new ideas and putting them into operation. To this is added, every so often, the gigantic task of preparing a Queen and Court for public display. “Gigantic ” is not an exaggerated term, but is the only appropriate word to describe the months and months of hard work and planning by staff and parents alike, who deserve nothing but the highest praise. This all starts in the dark days of winter, continuing relentlessly until the culmination within a few short hours on the last Friday in June.

The Fair of 1974 really brought public recognition that Deanburn had come into its own with our very first Queen, Linda Dow. Perhaps it is rather sad that this also marked the last year in office of the Town Council who, for so long, had organised the event.

At moments like these it is easy to reflect that Provost Stewart, long-sighted man as he was, could never have anticipated that his Children’s Festival could have survived so long or could have gone from such strength to strength in the process. Nor could Fleming and Schofield have realised that their “Festal Day” would come to symbolise the spirit of the Fair, being sung in all corners of the world whenever Bo’nessians meet.

Certainly this year the words will have a special meaning for one person. As second in succession from Deanburn and seventy-first overall. Queen Kirsty will, with her predecessors, remember the unique occasion for the rest of her life. So, too, will many more of us, and perhaps in years to come, will be proud to recall that we are numbered among those who played some part in the formation of the history or our local Children’s Festival.

JAMES VALLANCE Headmaster of Deanburn School

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