ANYONE from Bo’ness knows that there are really only two times of the year – Before the Fair and After the Fair! Before the Fair starts 5 minutes after the bells on Hogmonay, when someone inevitably pipes up “It’ll no be long till the Fair!” Unfortunately the older you get, the more true it seems.
The Queen is now picked in early January (it used to be mid February) and this year it wasn’t long before the important text came through. Not to tell me that Louise Wilson had been chosen as the Deanburn 2014 Queen-Elect, but the one to remind me it had been 30 years since I had been chosen, 30 years! How did that happen?
I was very lucky in that the weather for the 1984 Fair, and the run up to it, was great, so the men who had out in so many hours on my fabulous “London Bridge” are were able to put put it up without a hitch.
In those days you didn’t show your outfit in a hall on one day, and so for five consecutive nights there was a constant stream of people coming to see my dress which was set up in my mum’s bedroom. As is still the norm in June, there wasn’t much in the way of “sit-down family teas” but there was always a fresh batch of vol-au-vents and scones to be had!
One of the things I love about the Fair is that we have our own wee words – as anyone who has ever tried to explain to an outsider what the “Kirking”. “Presentees”, or a “Dress Showing” can attest to. We even have our own special Thursday – The Fair E’en – where we walk round all the amazing arches and hopefully bump into many friends, some of which you may only meet once a year, so that a stroll that would normally take half an hour takes about three! That to me is what the Fair is all about – friendship, laughter and the sense of community you just don’t quite get anywhere else.
I still get a lump in my throat whenever I hear a band on the Fair morning for it I can’t hear one I’ll put the CD on! as it reminds me of Kinneil Band under my arch, and my grandad Rab Markie. A retired miner who couldn’t have been any prouder that day. I remember to that they changed the route for the school to make their way to the Glebe Park so that we could open the Bridge (still quite impressive today that it actually opened and shut!) and all the kids could walk under it.
When I got to the top of the stage I was shocked at how many people were in the Glebe Park – you can’t quite appreciate it until you are actually up there, and as I had never been anything before, it was certainly an eye-opener!
I was crowned by Mrs Jean Brown and we have developed a special friendship which still continues today.
It was also a great year for the football as Bo’ness United won the Scottish Junior Cup and I was presented with a beautiful bracelet to mark the occasion.
Another thing that’s special if you’ve been to school in Bo’ness is that almost everyone has been something (“What was you in the Fair?”) and for those lucky enough to have been a presentee, you can still do it for years to come – my partner was in “Hello Dolly” in 1983 and I’ve lost count of the times he has danced it around my kitchen! In 1984 though, while all the presentees were great – the detail on the Pearly King and Queen costumes was fabulous – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was my particular favourite, not least as two of my best friends were in it.
The rest of the Fair Day is a bit of a blur but I do remember we had a Street Party under the arch on the Fair Saturday with a disco set up in the garage (the DJ had just left it their from the Fair E’en). This was a fabulous night to thank everyone who had helped in any way to make my day, in particular Ray Paterson and the late Davy Johnston, we really were “Dancing in the Streets” that night!
It is our passion for the Fair that keeps it going. Such passion can also be our pain, however, as we often get ourselves so stressed with every minuet detail in the pursue of perfection. I once agonised for days whether to include butterflies or pearls on a fairy wand (civil war in Syria? political unrest in the Ukraine? Theses are concerns for After the Fair – Before the Fair, these are the decisions that matter!
I am fortunate to have two children of my own now and my daughter Corinne has already been a Fairy, a Flowergirl and a presentee. My son Connor has been chosen to be a Guard of Honour this year and he is really looking forward to being part of the retinue. As long as the kids enjoy it, that really is the most important thing of all and I can only hope that they will have as many happy Fair memories as I do.