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2005 – “Is It Really 30 Years Ago?” Isabel Stewart

“HELLO MAM it’s me, I’ve been picked for the Fair Queen”. Those were the first words I said to my Mum when I phoned her from the Headmaster, Mr Beresford’s office.

The day had started with a lot of excitement, as this was the day that the 1975 Fair Queen was going to be elected. It was in the afternoon that the two P7 teachers, Mrs Nimmo and Mr Banks took both their classes to the GP room where the voting took place.

That was really just the start of it all. After my Mum and Dad got over their initial excitement it was down to planning what needed to happen. The build up to the Fair Day was almost as exciting as the day itself and there was a tremendous amount of work and effort put in by all those involved from parents, teachers, neighbours and the Fair Committee.

For my Mum, it was time to start thinking about my dresses and who was going to make them. The first thing my Dad thought about was how on earth you go about organising and building an arch. Luckily our neighbours, Ian and Mary Robertson came to his rescue. They arranged a meeting for all our neighbours to discuss what needed to be done. That was the first of many a helping hand from the people of Jessfield Place. The support shown by our neighbours firstly at that meeting and throughout the building of the arch and the run up to the Fair was tremendous.

So what should the arch be? My Dad asked Balfour Paton for his advice as he had a lot of experience with decorating floats and arches. His advice was “stick to a fairy castle and you can’t go wrong”, which we did and the arch was a very large and impressive fairy castle that even Walt Disney would have been proud of.

The whole event was a special time for me, my family and all our neighbours. It was extra special as quite a few of us involved in the Fair that year lived at Jessfield Place. From the top street we had Andrew ( Herald ) and Elizabeth ( Dancing Girl ). In the middle street there was myself, Sandra ( Lady in Waiting ) and Hugh ( Lord in Waiting ) and finally from the bottom street was Brian ( Sword Bearer ). Come the Fair E’en, Jessfield Place was quite a spectacular sight covered with flags, decorations and the many arches. Again this was testament of Bo’ness People working together within the community and taking pride in what the Fair stands for.

Meantime, Miss Aitken and Miss Hastie from the school had started the hard task of getting the retinue ready for the big day. I cannot remember how many practices we had, too many to count. My memory from this time is walking down from the top gate of the Kinneil School to just outside the infant building where all our practices took place. There I was with my curtain round my shoulders so my wee pageboys Brian and Jan had something to hold onto to help them keep with our practice and as far as I am aware they are still there to this day.

Our final practice was on the Fair E’en at the Glebe Park and it was a scorcher of a day. The practice went well with only a few hic-cups, or should I say only a few people fainting (but I’ll spare the blushes of the strong strapping lads involved!!).

The final event for me on the Fir E’en was the masses of people who visited my arch and spent time chatting to each other about their plans for the Fair Day, while being entertained by the disco blaring out from one of the garages.

Finally, after all the build up and hard work, it was the Fair Day. My first memory was the sound of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Pipes and Drums playing outside my house. What a fantastic sound that was and its something I’ll probably never hear outside my front door again. Then it was time to leave my house and head to the school where I met up with all my friends who were equally nervous and excited. Kinneil Colliery Silver Band then lead us all down to the Glebe Park and it was getting closer to the magic hour.

All the hard work put in by Miss Aitken and Miss Hastie then came into play. The procession into the park and the crowning ceremony went like clockwork. At 11. o’clock, Douglas Snedden loudly announced “We have a new Queen, three cheers for Queen Isabel” and a huge cheer went up.

For me one of the most spectacular and enjoyable events of the Fair programme was the performance of the school presentees, and now it was time to sit back and enjoy. What was particularly good was being able to see everything that happened from the enviable place high up on the platform. The best view in the park! Every year I’m always amazed at the high standard of performance by all the presentees and I find it difficult to choose a favourite so I didn’t that year.

The most nervous part of the day for me (and probably most Queens) was walking down the red-carpeted stairs of the platform after the crowning ceremony. All I thought about was either tripping up or the crown falling off. It didn’t help that the crown was a little wobbly on my head and if you look back at the pictures of me walking down the steps you will see the intense concentration on my face and not many smiles. Fortunately I made it to the bottom without mishap and it was time for the procession round the town.

It was Kinneil School’s turn for the Queen so the procession went out Corbiehall, Castleloan and up the Snab Brae. I think the whole of Bo’ness was out cheering the bands, the floats and all the children. Even the miners stopped work and came out to cheer us on.

The whole Fair Day was, and continues to be extremely well organised with a programme of events that are second to none. It started early in the morning from the judging of the arches and the various bands playing around Bo’ness right throughout the day including the Command Performance in the Douglas Park. It finished for me late at night at the Fair Dinner held in the Town Hall where I even managed a little ‘thank you’ speech.

Before writing this I asked my Mum and two of my friends, Sandra (Lady in Waiting) and Jill (Queen of the Fairies) to help with their memories. For me it was a fantastic day and the whole experience is a special and treasured memory of my young life.


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