THE MORN’S THE FAIR . . . . BUT TONIGHT’S THE FAIR E’EN. . . . and for most of the local bandsmen that is when the Fair starts.

In my case it was into band hall in Grangepans for 7 p.m. after ensuring that the uniform was cleaned and pressed, shoes polished and shined, buttons polished and white shirt ready. There would be no time for any of that by the time I got home!

When everyone was assembled we would then set out on our traditional Fair E’en route which was through Grangepans to Bridgeness along Carriden played through the houses, up Carriden Brae to the ” Murrays “, where there was always a nice hospitable welcome ( or two ) waiting, provided by two local businessmen. This was greatly appreciated.

After playing there for some time we would then make our way along Acre road and play through Grahamsdyke and then make our way to Grahamsdyke Road. From there it was down Harbour Road to Bridgeness Club where the excitement for the Fair was beginning to mount.

An impromptu concert usually followed interspersed by the odd break during which we would meet old friends from home and abroad who always tried to get home for the Fair. The evening would then be rounded off by the playing and communal singing of the Fair Songs. And so not quite to bed, but up the road to polish your instrument. Thank God I didn’t play the BB’ bass ( that’s the great big one )! Everyone does try that wee bit harder for the Big Day!

However, during the seventies and early eighties a seemingly old custom was revived, that being a torch light procession whereby we would leave Bridgeness Club and Kinneil Band would leave Kinneil Club and march and play our way to a designated spot near the old docks.

During this procession in the dark, light was provided by supporters marching with the bands carrying lit waxen torches. It was like something from the old days. I think that is when wax jackets were invented!

When the bands met a huge bonfire was made from the torches, a rendition of the Fair Song from both bands and then home eventually, to get ready for the ” morn “!

I remember quite vividly one particular Fair E’en, the first Fair after regionalisation – when Bo’ness became part of Central Region – we had left the band hall in Boundary Street, played along Thirlestane, stopped and played at Dower House precinct and started on our way to Bridgeness.

We got as far as the Billboards when a police car blocked the road ahead of us forcing us to stop. Two policemen got out and asked us what we thought we were doing.

We explained what we were doing and had been doing for many many years, but they were not in the least bit impressed. ” You’ll have to walk on the pavement “. was their response. This provoked a furious outburst from onlookers and local residents. After a great deal of consultative they reluctantly allowed us to proceed. Well we did proceed and finished our traditional route ending as usual in Bridgeness Club.

We had just arrived when the phone started ringing. It was John McLaren the Journal Reporter. ” Is it true the polis’ stopped the band? ” he asked. He had just heard about it and couldn’t believe it when I confirmed the story. He asked if I would accompany him to the police station. Which I did. When we arrived at the station Sergeant Morrison was already aware of the situation and he was not a happy man! At that precise moment in walked the two policemen involved. Sergeant Morrison disappeared upstairs with them and well and truly dealt with the matter. Shortly afterwards two crestfallen Constables appeared and departed without a word. Sergeant Morrison en re-appeared, apologised and said they didn’t know any better as they were from Central Region, out of towners, it never happened again!!

And now it’s the Fair Morning, which means an early rise ( usually after a late night ) and down to the band hall for 6.45 am. ready for the Big Day and if the Queen’s School happens to be in your area that entails at least one more stop during the traditional route.

An added imposition for a couple of years was getting up REALLY early, driving my eldest son. Kirk, to the newsagents, getting his bag of newspapers and driving round his paper run. Run being a very apt word! I bent my bumper on more than one occasion trying to cut corners and save time. Move over Schummacher!! Then it was back home, quick change into uniform collect younger son Kenneth, and the three of us headed for Grangepans.

After our early morning stint, which took in Grangepans, Bridgeness, Harbour Road, Grahamsdyke Road and Erngath Road. It was down The Links to the band hall for a quick breakfast normally prepared by a couple of the committee. We would then make our way back up to the Grange School for 9.30a.m. ready to lead the School to the Glebe Park.

In recent years this rush was eased considerably by two local businessmen – George McFarlane and Duncan Paterson – who took it in turns at providing breakfast in their gardens. Well done gentleman, that was greatly appreciated.

Along to the Glebe Park, and if it’s your turn, you take to the stage ready to play for the Crowning Ceremony.

Once upon a time the band played for all the presentees presented to the Queen, which meant a great deal of work arranging and rehearsing. In fact, we used to go to the Grange School and rehearse with the pupils involved, so that everything was right on the Big Day, and depending on the type of presentation it would also be performed during the procession.

At the end of the big procession it was lunch in the Academy, and I must admit to the dramatic improvement in this area over the years.

When I first started with the band it was a pie – not always hot – and an empire biscuit, and I don’t like jam! Now a very nice lunch is served. Full marks to the Fair Committee!

After lunch, a quick march to the Douglas Park for the Command Performance which normally attracts a large crowd and engenders a really carnival atmosphere.

At the end of our performance we would round the day off by marching down the Wynd thru’ the town to the band hall where the Treasurer would have arranged for something cooling and refreshing to be waiting for us, purely for relaxation!

You know it wasn’t until I stopped playing that I realised I’d never ever seen the Fair. Always in the procession with the school and then with the band. Most of the time in the band you just see what’s in front of you and that is normally a pair of exhaust pipes or a horse’s backside ( mind your feet )!

Anyway by this time it would be about 5 o’clock – time to go home – that’s it until next year – when you hear the magic words once again. . . . THE MORN’S THE FAIR!

ERIC RICHARDSON

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