GROWING up in Queensferry, my brother, sister and I learned at an early age that Bo’ness Fair Day was so special that the majority of our classmates had to be there on the last day of the summer term. We just did not understand how special.
Later my younger sister Alicia was a Bower Girl in a St. Mary’s Junior Secondary Retinue. Although not directly involved in the arrangements I did hear about the crucial parents’ meeting, the gold brocade dress that had to be made to this exact pattern, the ordering of the decorated bower and of course a new hat for mum for a sunny Fair Day. This then was our first link to the traditions of the Fair.
Little did I realise that when my husband Dan, son Daniel and I moved to Bo’ness many years later the Fair would become so much a part of our lives. I have to admit we made a poor start, arriving in April, with no school connections at that stage, we had no idea when the last day of term was and we missed it!
Dan became involved with the Entertainments Committee later that year and we began to appreciate the inner working of the Fair and its many traditions which were on a much grander scale than the Ferry Fair Committee on which I served. The Fair songs never fail to impress me even now as they are sung with gusto and pride at every suitable occasion.
For the next two years we managed to catch sight of the Procession and enjoy the atmosphere of the waiting crowds. As Daniel’s birthday is always within a few days of the Fair Day he thought then the flags and bands were for him!
After we had our second son Paul, I became involved in the preparations for Fair Day as secretary to the Executive Committee. Although this committee has changed over the years it is made up of a dedicated group of people who work very hard throughout the year to ensure Fair Day is a success and it is a pleasure to work alongside such a team.
By then we had learned to call the Gazette the Journal and to take a swift intake of breath when the Fair is referred to as a Gala day by the uninitiated!
So nineteen years after coming here what does Fair Day mean to us, I still recall my first sight of the Glebe Park on a Fair Morning – a heart stopping moment as the tableaux of 83′ opened before us. A neighbour and I with our small sons came onto the scene from Cadzow Lane, just before Queen Gail was crowned – what a spectacle! – in bright sunshine the crowds of adults and children assembled in such happiness – a true WOW moment. Years later part of my Fair Day duties involve greeting guests and joining some of them to watch the crowning ceremony from the draughty Town Hall balcony which has given me another view of the massing crowd. From here the parents of the main characters are invited to see the proceedings and observe familiar faces in the crowds.
Although we have been involved with ongoing arrangements, stewarding, and Fair Day guests we are first of all very proud parents, both our sons having taken part as presentees in a total of seven Fairs.
1986 and Daniel’s excitement at being chosen to perform in ‘ Fiddler on the Roof ‘ seemed to grow daily as he described each new step involved in the complicated routine. We were soon caught up in building his arch and sewing his costume, and my parents were once again looking forward to another Fair Day. But the best laid schemes etc. – Daniel woke early that morning with a high temperature which was confirmed as tonsillitis – all his expectations fell flat – he could not perform! His disappointment affected us all but when his best friend took time to visit that afternoon, Neil’s description of the proceedings cheered him up a little. Daniel was chosen as a presentee four more times before he left primary and was always as excited at the prospect. We were too, enjoying the preparations of costumes and arches and helping with the choreography.
Paul’s first presentation appearance was not without mishap either, he was the limping lost boy in ‘ Peter Pan ‘ having staved his foot the week before Queen Dawn’s Fair, the same year Daniel was a pirate. Paul went on to become a G.I. and completed his run as the Genie, baking in his costume on a very hot day. Paul was also chosen as Lord – in Waiting to Queen Maria in her beautiful tartan clad Retinue.
Kirking Sunday is the first official outing for the Queen-Elect and her Retinue. With the Fair Queen now relaxed and confident in the final week of her reign, the Queen Elect appears for the first time and begins to appreciate what will be expected of her. Each Kirking Ceremony is unique but every one has brought a tear to my eye as the children take over and weeks of training by dedicated teachers pay off.
We have always managed to build our own arches but we also enjoyed the camaraderie of the teams of workers under Willie McAllister’s direction when involved in two school’s arches as well as Queen Hannah’s beautiful Inca Temple. With tradition of Fair E’en with the walking of the arches, and appreciate the wealth of talented people who volunteer their time and skills in order to create the wonderful display of arches and house frontages for which this town is now so famous. When everything is checked, friends greeted and excited children put late to bed it seems all is right with our world.
Although the Executive Committee spend the year making arrangements for Fair Day, we cannot arrange the weather and an eye is always on the skies. However, the sun shining out from the faces of the children taking part makes all our efforts worthwhile.
The final Fair Day duty for our new Queen is her attendance at a special evening reception held in her honour. To a room full of adults all connected in some way to the occasion – family, guests, townspeople, committee – many of our new Queens have stood up to speak with a confidence and dignity that silences the room and brings us to our feet in admiration. The page boys are drooping by this time as they have been on duty since early morning. The new Fair Queen leaves the room to the singing of ‘ Our Festal Day ‘, and another piece of history in the saga of Bo’ness Children’s Fair Festival is complete.
My sister Alicia now living abroad brought her family home on a holiday which included Fair week in 1996. We took a great pride in showing them ‘ our ‘ Fair. My nieces and nephews were caught up in the excitement of the Fair E’en as we walked around this bustling town, the atmosphere as usual was one of excitement, happiness and anticipation of Fair Day.
The magic of the Fair continues, all the more special through the eyes of children of all ages. And so this year as final stitches are added to fairy tale dresses, even more paint is brought for arches and we count down to the 25th of June, I wish you all the Fair joys that go with ” The best day of the Year”. ( Douglas I could not agree more ). Have a happy Fair!