“It’s only twenty eight weeks until the Fair day, Freda”.
Always I would remind my wife, as I counted down the weeks until the big event of the year, the Bo’ness Fair Day. My anticipation grew each week. Family and friends who knew me well from our early days at St Mary’s knew how excited I became leading up to our festal day.
Unfortunately I was never lucky enough to be chosen in the Queen’s retinue but I took pride when other members of our family were; when my brother John was chief herald, my brother Willie was crown bearer and my sons and daughter were all involved, including my youngest son Mark who was fortunate enough to bow to the Queen. My only daughter Marie was even born on the Fair day in 1960. Meticulous planning regarding clothes and arches always took priority over any other event in the year.
On the Fair E’en I used to walk with Ian White with the Carriden band when they marched from the band hall to the murries and in 1986 it was suggested by Eddie Tooey that I should take over from him by walking with the banner boys in front of St Mary’s school. My outfits were always designed to coordinate with that year’s theme for the school. The late Helen Ward-Birkby was very instructive in choosing an outfit for me to wear befitting the occasion. The work she did for St Mary’s, especially the Fair day, should never be forgotten. I, and many others, still miss her being here to make sure everything goes to plan for the big day.
The building of the Arches, particularly St Mary’s school arch, was quite an event for all. Particular thanks go to old Andrew McBlain and Willie McAllister, who with myself and others who wanted to help, would be there every night for weeks to make the best arch in the school every time. We would always have a good laugh with much banter between us as we worked to create the arch. “Those were the days boys!” I hope the younger generation have as much pleasure helping with the building of the arch as we did.
My last two years with the school were extra special for myself and my family as mu granddaughter Eilidh Thomson was the 100th Fair Queen. I, as always, walked proudly at the front of the school dressed as Rhett Butler from the film, Gone with the Wind, as this was the theme for that year’s retinue but unfortunately due to ill health in 2009 I was unable to continue with my tradition of walking proudly at the front of St Mary’s school.
A particular thanks to my very patient wife Freda who always encouraged me to help with the school for the Fair day. There are also many background workers, for all the schools in Bo’ness, who seek no praise but the Fair day would never be the success it is without them.
Thank you for the unforgettable memories I’ve had over the years of helping out with St Mary’s school and the Fair day that will stay with me forever.