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2000 – “Happy Memories Of An Ex-Queen” Ruth Frank (Mrs Brown)

ONE of the perks of working in a school office in Bo’ness is the bubbling excitement throughout the school starting around February and the ‘hype’ that goes with being ” The Queen’s School ” for the forthcoming Children’s Fair Festival. The Staff, with some apprehension of the work ahead are ready to congratulate and console their pupils.

I don’t remember any ‘hype’ back in 1965. My memory is not always spot on, but I can’t remember my parents talking about it at home. There seems just a little bit more pressure on youngsters nowadays.

We had finished our Eleven Plus and were sitting at individual desks in the school hall, when Mr Anderson our Headmaster ( yes Headmasters in 1965 ) uncovered the blackboard on the stage and announced that the voting for the Fair Queen-Elect and her Retinue would begin. It was quite an ordeal watching a vote being chalked up on the blackboard and I am still convinced I was chosen because I was the tallest in the class!!!

I was allowed to run down to the bottom of Dean Road to ask my mum if I could be ‘ The Queen at the Fair ‘! Poor soul – she was scrubbing the stairs and after a scream, a shriek and a cuddle she dashed off to phone my dad to give him the glad tidings!!! And so the arrangements were set in motion.

Then, as now, family and friends rallied round. There was no fundraising in those days and with a donation of fifteen pounds from Bo’ness Town Council, I now realise what a daunting task it must have been.

My aunt, Jenny Gibb, who was a wonderful dressmaker and my mother dashed off on a mission to find suitable material. I had no say in the matter of the dress – which is a bit of a change from nowadays. But after many fittings my wonderful dress was finished.

Mr. Bobby Heath, who lived beside us designed and painted the ‘Main Arch’ details. I pestered the life of poor Mr and Mrs Heath, but they never seemed to bother. Mr Heath’s workshop was his garden hut, which was full of gold, silver and wonderful things. He was indeed a master craftsman. My father had many good friends they all worked on the ‘Main Arch’ in Russell’s Yard which stood at the top of Dean Brae beside the school. These men worked very hard and gave up hours of their spare time, not only working on my arch but also helping with the school frontage. J. Harrison ( Builders ) supplied all the wood free on the understanding it was returned to them afterwards. The greenery, flowers and hanging baskets were supplied by my grandfather’s friend who had a small holding. And so my arch was built and was indeed a tribute to everyone!

Miss Hastie was in charge of our training and we practised outside on the painted stage behind the infant area until she was satisfied everything was perfect!

The Fair E’en arrived and I stood resplendent in my curlers and headscarf at the bedroom window ( like most other wee girls on the Fair E’en ). Kinneil Band arrived to play and a bar was set up in the back garden with John McLaren and Frank Mathieson as Bar Staff. An early night was not on the cards!!!

The Fair Day dawned dry, cool and dull. After an hour in Christine Neill’s hairdressers I was collected by the police and driven to Kinneil School in my ‘finery’. With smiles, kisses and tears I headed off feeling very special on what was to be a very special day.

And so to the Glebe Park for the Crowning Ceremony. My two Page Boys sat like cherubs while my wonderful Chief Lady in Waiting – Marion Grant – wrestled my tiara from my well lacquered, kirbied hairstyle. As the town clock struck eleven the sun shone through the clouds and Mrs Josephine Turnbull sat the crown on my head.

A sea of faces burst into song and my memorable day as Bo’ness Fair Queen continued.

I have treasured memories of a Magical Day. I was treated like ‘The Queen’ by everyone who looked after me.

I woke on the Fair Saturday morning with a very sore face – only to realise my muscles were sore having smiled for hours on end the day before.

I can only hope Samantha-Lee has a wonderful day and her memories will be every bit as special as mine are.

RUTH FRANK (Mrs Brown)

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