As I sit down to write this article for the 2015 Bo’ness Children’s Fair Festival, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and everything in the garden is starting to grow. Buds are on the trees and flowers are appearing in the garden. Changing times can only mean one thing – Bo’ness Fair is upon us once more.
When asked to write an article for the fair programme regarding my affiliation with Kinneil School and the Bo’ness fair I was apprehensive as to what I could write, but after some thought it was obvious – the changes over the past 45 years. When I was a primary one pupil attending Kinneil Primary, my parents turned me out in full school uniform – white shirt, black and gold tie, grey short trousers and my school blazer for my first fair with the school. This was normal dress code in these days .The following year I was chosen to be a presentee when the theme was Teddy Bears Picnic. There we were, in full fur brown teddy bear costumes, head to toe, with a pair of shorts over the top on what felt like the hottest fair day ever. Just my luck. I was again chosen to be a presentee in 1975 as a Roman soldier. This year was Kinneil’s turn to select the retinue. I can remember for months on end, mothers going along to the school in the evening to dress make. In these days Bo’ness had a shirt factory where a lot of the mothers worked full time, sewing for a living. This in turn meant many of them were prepared to come along in the evening and help make the costumes for the presentees. The school decided that every boy from primary 6 down to primary 4 would be soldiers – a total of around 50 children, so this meant a lot of material being cut and costumes being made. Once again my luck was out! Miss Bole, who was my class teacher, better known these days as Mrs Raeburn, who crowned the2014 Fair Queen from Deanburn School, was to choose two boys to pull a wooden chariot around the town in the parade. Yes, you guessed it, I got picked. Thanks Liz. I am pleased to say that we did get some assistance from our school janitor Mr Heron and my father, who went along as a steward. How times have changed. Today due to the very hectic lifestyles we all lead, most schools find it much easier to order the costumes online rather than have these made. 45 years ago it was” keep in line” rather than online. The following 2 years as a primary 6 and 7 pupil I walked with the school banner party. This was a good way of guaranteeing a first class view of proceedings in the Glebe Park, right at the front. It felt like going back in time to primary one – white shirt, school tie – all very smart.
I then moved on to high school and for the next few years watched from the road side along with all other high school pupils and most of the Bo’ness residents. My father(Jimmy) continued to support Kinneil School on Fair Day as a steward until my younger brother moved on to high school .I decided that I would like to show some support towards the school and put my name forward as a steward to the then head master Mr Beresford, who was assisted by deputy Mrs Margaret Connarty, who later became head teacher. I turned up on Fair morning reading to walk with the kids from the school, only to be told by Jackie Heron the janitor, “Scott, can you go with the banner boys?” Jackie, being the old wiry fox said he couldn’t go as he had to prepare the school hall for the presentees lunch. I in turn suggested Mr Beresford walk with the banner. Jackie with his poker face said no, that Mr Beresford had problems with his knees so he couldn’t walk in the procession. “You’re a young guy, fit, plenty energy. You will be fine.” The “You will be fine” saying has stuck with me for the rest of my life. When I attend the school today and there is a problem regarding any fair issue, I always turn, look towards Principal Teacher Mrs Downie, who has taught at Kinneil School for 38 years and we say in harmony, “It will be fine!” This was the first year I had the responsibility of the banner party and yes it was fine. So much so that when the band strikes up on Fair Day this year I will have had 34 consecutive years of walking with the school banner party.
The banner party over these years has seen some changes, one of the first being when Margaret Connarty became head teacher and seeing our banner held together with selotape, Margaret quickly addressed this and after the school summer holidays this became a priority for the art teachers and since 1984 we continue to walk each year behind this banner. This is a true credit to the work carried out by the art teacher – Ollie Desmond. I have walked in all sorts of weather conditions with the banner party children, ranging from primary one to primary seven boys and girls. In the early years, school uniform was the norm for the banner party. As the years have gone by we have moved on to more formal dress code with the kilt black kilt, black shirt and gold tie being worn. All very smart. We have walked both fair routes, West and East, from the perfect fair day weather of blue sky, sun, light breeze to grey skies, wet and windy. Never the less, the children have enjoyed their day. No matter the weather conditions the children in the banner party have never failed to walk on fair day. On one occasion that I can recall, the crowning took place in the town hall and yes it was Kinneil’s 1990 Queen, Lisa Welsh. We still marched with the banner party behind Kinneil brass band.
The Bo’ness public are always out in mass, cheering the children on from the road side. As each year passes, the passion never changes from both the general public and the children. Two ,four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? is the cry from all school children from each individual school, then ending in shouting out the school’s name. This, I always think is great, but the real appreciation is all the hard work that goes into the whole Fair Day and the build up from parents, teachers, fair committee, the general public and of course all the children, who help to make the Bo’ness Fair the best day of the year.
I have also helped over the years with school fundraising for Fair projects. This is the money that is now being used to help support the children’s costume costs, along with school frontage and all the other extra costs that comes with having the Fair retinue. This is another example of change. We have moved from the days of the jumble sale in the school hall to the quiz night – yes – in the school hall, to the online auction or text bids from the mobile phone to raise the funds. This is another good example of the true character of the Bo’ness people. Once you mention it’s for the Fair, people are always willing to help in whatever way they can.
Change can be a positive thing, and one more change is from my primary one head master (as they were called in these days) Mr Anderson’s Fair suit and tie, along with his walking stick to the current head teacher (as they are now called) Mr Flemings shorts and t shirt and ipad .
The Fair, along with myself, have seen many changes over the years and I am sure we will continue to see change over the coming years, but the community spirit, enthusiasm and joy of the Fair will never die.
Happy Fair Day 2015