IN April 1938 my family came to Grangepans from Dalkeith as my late father Jimmy Forrest had arranged to take over the Stag Inn from his uncle, also James Forrest.
The family were immediately made to feel welcome by our neighbours and customers and soon we were all part of this very proud and hard working community.
During my early years, Grangepans was really a self-sufficient small town in its own right. We had our own branches of the Co-op. or the Store, as we knew it, with grocers, butchers, bakers and drapers lining the Main Street behind these lay the bakehouse and stables.
Starting from the Links and heading towards Cowdenhill there were sweetie shops, a black smiths, a Post Office, three privately owned grocers, newsagents, a chemist, two fish and chip shops, a cobblers, two butcher shops, a draper and a cinema – all of which gained business from this thriving little area.
The most magical place of all was Carlaws in Hamilton Street where the mixture of smells from candles and paraffin to creosote and carbolic, kept us enthralled at her door.
The reason why these shops all survived was, of course, because we also had industry on the doorstep. The Dock Pit, Thomson and Balfour, Ballantine’s Foundry, Hill’s, Boyd’s and Kennedy’s woodyards, two shipbreakers and McNay’s Pottery, all gave employment and income to keep Grangepans buzzing.
Carriden Church was the parish church and in the middle of the area was the Mission Hall, the scene of many a social event. Many of the boys and girls of Grangepans went up to St. Andrew’s Church where there were strong B.B., Brownie and Guide units. Lots of us attended the Bethany Hall Sunday School and many happy memories exist of these times.
Of course, I cannot go ant further without a mention of the Granger’s other great love – Carriden Band. We would sit under the windows at the old pottery where they practised or marched up and down in time to the music.
So this was the community in which I landed as a three year old in April 1938, I have no memories of the 1938 Fair but by the time 1939 came around I had become more aware. Sadly, however, this memory is one mainly of rain, horses and carts and my two brothers, Jim and David, whose shirts were stained blue where the dye had run from their Grange School ties.
By now, the first rumblings of World War Two were already sounding and this was to be the last Fair until 1946. Despite this we kept thoughts of the Fair alive by having ” Wee Fairs,” with lots of fun as we played all the parts we wanted, Queen of the Fairies, or the Flower Girls or the Chief Lady – all we needed was a borrowed dress or an old lace curtain and imagination did the rest.
My schooling had, of course, begun in 1940 and I recall a wonderful seven years at Grange School where we also talked about the Fair and looked forward to its return which we somehow never doubted, despite Hitler and his gang and in 1942 there came the arrival of the only true Granger in the family – my brother Willie. And, sure enough, come 1946, all the prayers were answered and the full glory of a Bo’ness Fair was revealed to us and all the better because it was a Granger’s Fair!
Sadie Potter was our chosen Queen, Doris Shanks the Chief lady, while my friend Helen Kidd was Queen of the Fairies and Elma Brooks, Queen of the Flower Girls, Douglas McBlain was the Champion.
Despite the immediate post war austerity our parents pulled out all the stops and new clothes, dresses, shoes, etc, appeared to make this Festal Day truly memorable. My outstanding memory of the day was of the Grange School Ladies in Waiting with their white organdie hats and blue satin ribbons – Hollywood had come to Bo’ness!
This Fair was also special from another point of view. This was the time when fathers and brothers came home from foreign parts where they had been on active service or in POW camps. And, of course, sadly, some did not come back at all, but for those who were reunited with family and friends it was a much needed touch of light relief.
I was chosen as a Flower Girl at the first Academy Fair after the war when Margaret Carson – now Mrs Wevling made a beautiful Queen and the following year I had the honour of being presented to the Queen as a Girl Guide. And as a coincidence my husband Bill was also presented that year as Senior Dux Medallist at Bo’ness Academy.
Over the years I have retained the feeling of magic which surrounds the Fair, although I always felt that I would only be involved on a peripheral level. However, that changed with a vengeance following a visit from Fair Chairman, David Brown who reduced me to a stunned silence by asking me to do him ‘ a wee favour. ‘ Would I like to crown the 1986 Fair Queen?
Needless to say Bill and our son David accepted immediately on my behalf although I must say I never had any doubt about it. Imagine my feelings – a Granger – albeit an adopted one being asked to crown a Granger’s Queen! Try holding me back!
So that’s the tale of how Bill and I came to have what we both consider to be the bet Fair Day we have ever spent. And, of course, the sun shone from a cloudless sky all day – after all it was a Grange School Fair.
The fair brings a lot of love, hope and happiness to our town. It is like a garden which lies fallow during the winter but bursts into radiant bloom as each school finds new ideas and styles and colours each year. Its importance to the town cannot be overestimated and that’s why whatever happens we must all strive to see that Bo’ness fair never fails.
Nineteen hundred and ninety seven brings us to the Centenary of Bo’ness Fair which we must celebrate with all our hearts. Take time to remember the grass roots of our Fair day – the one day in the year when the working population had a holiday and could take time to parade and enjoy themselves.
Later on, of course, this became the Children’s Day with the first Fair Queen, Grace Strachan. Then all our youngsters joined in the procession following their school banners just as their forefathers had followed their works banners before them.
In 1997 therefore, encourage your children to join the procession with their school or youth group, whether they are five or 17, and make the Centenary a day to remember.
In closing, my I wish Queen Elect Lisa, her retinue and all the pupils and staff of Grange School a truly fabulous Fair Day.