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1999 – “The Importance Of Our Fair” Douglas Snedden

THE importance of the Fair to our town should never be underestimated. Over the years it has been developed into being undoubtedly the finest Children’s Fair Festival in the entire United Kingdom. This has been achieved despite attendant difficulties along the way.

In 1974, when regionalisation took place, and we no longer had a Town Council, many people doubted if the Fair would survive for it has gone from strength to strength – thanks in the main to the dedication and hard work year by year of the individual members of the Fair Executive Committee – all of whom have a specific responsibility. For example – there is a convenor for the Glebe Park, one for the Procession, one for Appeals work, and so on, with Chairman David Brown having a finger in almost every pie.

Survival has not been without its problems, and many a lesser organisation would have collapsed completely. Recently a ramp was built to give disabled people easier access to the Town Hall, a very commendable project. Unfortunately its site coincided with the support structure of the crowning ceremony platform.

Changes to the structure would have to be made, and made they were. The problem was overcome.

Then came that bombshell – the floats which carried the Retinue, Fairies and Flower Girls in the Procession were condemned due to not coming up to Health and Safety standards. They had to be scrapped – were too costly to replace – and so the children were asked if they would walk. They were delighted! The problem was overcome.

An even bigger problem arose when the platform in the Glebe Park was also declared “not to come up to Home Office standards”. It HAD to be replaced. This could have resulted in massive capitol expenditure and indeed was an equally massive headache, especially when the new stage was only completed in the early hours of the Fair morning.

Thanks to the support and generosity of Falkirk Council and the efforts of the Executive Committee members – the problem was overcome.

This year, it was the turn of the stage in the Douglas Park to be condemned, and it also had to be replaced. Redesigning has been necessary, and a brand new-look platform will be seen for the very first time on the morning of the Fair. Another problem overcome! Hopefully!!

Those of us who have been born and bred in this little town are proud of our heritage. Despite having been deprived of almost all of our industry, we are equally proud of our community spirit.

We are joined by many, many people – men and women – who have come to live here for a variety of reasons – marriage, work, or simply by choice. They have been warmly welcomed, and indeed many local organisations throughout our town – including the Fair Festival Executive Committee – have benefited, and are still benefited, from their wisdom and experience.

It is also a fact that many of these “incomers” ( how I hate that word ) decide to retire here. They have enjoyed the friendly atmosphere which pervades the town and which they would find difficulty in finding elsewhere. Rightly, they are now considered to be Bo’nessians, and many will tell you of their appreciation of the Fair, and of it’s importance to the town.

This reputation of being a welcoming and friendly community has travelled far beyond our boundaries. There cannot be many towns in Norway for example that have not heard of Bo’ness and it’s Children’s Fair Festival, and requests from Bergen, Stavanger and Oslo simply continue to grow. They all want to send their youth bands to participate in the best Children’s Day in the United Kingdom.

This year we will have four Norwegian Bands, comprising one hundred and seventy young musicians in total, all of whom are looking forward immensely to sampling for themselves the now legendary Bo’ness hospitality. Quite amazing and quite wonderful.

Then there are the returning exiles from far and near. No distance is too great – Australia, Canada, USA, India, South Africa, Italy, Grangemouth – from a’ airts they will come to relive past memories and renew old acquaintances, and no doubt, make new friends.

I know of one lady travelling all the way from New Zealand – and you can’t come from much further than that – just to be with her late husband’s relatives at what was always his favourite day – Bo’ness Fair Day.

To our local traders the Fair Day also brings a much needed boost to business. The Butchers, Bakers, Baby Linen shops, Pubs and Hairdressers – all must welcome the fat that there is such an event. It must be like another Christmas or New Year to them. Even a super store like Tesco’s must wonder why takings go through the roof in their Bo’ness branch during the two or three days preceding the last Friday in June. Their wines and spirit sales must be astronomical!

Our Fair Day is eagerly anticipated by ourselves, our returning exiles, our foreign guests, and our local traders. But surely it is the excitement and anticipation of our children that is the most important of all. The playground buzz starts during the immediate days before the Queen and her Retinue are chosen. From then on that excitement just gains momentum until the big day itself. To the children, it is the best day of the year. As one little boy from Grange School put it during the Kirking Ceremony some three years ago – ” It’s just like Christmas – only better”. It is their day, and all the meticulous planning and hard work by teachers and parents, and anyone else who contributes, even in a small way, is well worth the effort. Long may that co-operation of all concerned continue.

Yes, the Fair Day is important. It is the one constant factor throughout years of change in this small but wonderful town of our, our wood-yards, our potteries and our hoseries, but our Fair remains, and hopefully will never die.

” Go north, go south,
go east or west,
No town has got the measure,
Our Fair still stands abune them all,
A day that we all treasure ”

It is, after all, simply the best!


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