In 1965 Rev Norman Swan came to Bo’ness as Minister of Carriden Church. Norman Swan loved history and tradition and at the same time was forward thinking and open to new ideas. Talking with Charles Snedden, Provost of Bo’ness who was keen to expand the activities surrounding the Fair to establish a Fair Week, the germ of an idea was formed to introduce a Kirking of the Queen Service. Provost Snedden took this idea to Committee and it was agreed that such a Service would be introduced in 1966.
In church terms “Kirking” is when an individual or group is invited to present themselves at Church and the Kirking of the Queen Service was based on the tradition of the Kirking of the Courts, a service which is held annually in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and the Kirking of the Council which has all but died out, where at the start of their year Courts and Councils pledge to faithfully execute their duties and receive a blessing.
The first Kirking of the Queen Service was quite a simple affair. The Committee responsible for organising the Fair, largely consisting of Provost and Bo’ness Town Council Administration, agreed that no formal dress would be worn by Queen and her Retinue.
In 1966 Queen Ruth Frank attended by her Chief Lady in Waiting Marion Grant with Page Boys Charles Hunter and Allan Johnston joined Queen Elect Jeanette Neil, her Chief Lady in Waiting Ann Grant, Page Boys Robert Livingston and Ian King and Retinue at Grange School to be led in procession by Carriden Band to Carriden Church. With the congregation already seated, Queen and Queen Elect were welcomed at the door of the Church by the Minister, Reverend Norman Swan and led in.During the service, the first Reading was by Queen Ruth and second Reading by Queen Elect Jeanette, Carriden Band playing during the offering. The service, lasted about an hour and at its close, Carriden Band led the procession back to Grange School where Queen and Court dispersed.The Kirking of the Queen Service was established, rotating according to the particular school and appropriate Church.
In the very early years, the preparation of the church service was the responsibility of the Church in co-operation with the Headmaster of the School. At this time in all branches of the Church, greater participation by lay members of the Church was being encouraged and of course, this extended to the Kirking of the Queen Service where the children were now taking on greater roles within the Service. This in turn led to the School having greater responsibility in the planning of the Kirking of the Queen Service.
Another innovation was the introduction of the post Service Garden Party where refreshments are offered to the Royal Court and invited guests. The occasion has grown and grown.
Over the years changes have taken place within the Education System where the curriculum is making greater and greater demands on teaching staff. Back in 1966 most Heads of School and teachers lived locally and had grown up with the Bo’ness Fair running through their veins! Fifty years on, this is no longer the situation.
The last thing I would hope to see is the discontinuation of this Service.However, perhaps the time has come to have a fresh look at the Kirking of the Queen Service, returning to a simpler format with responsibility for the service lying with the Church;the young people still contributing to the service while relieving teaching staff of some responsibility.
Long may the tradition of the Kirking of the Queen continue where Queen and Queen Elect with the Royal Court are welcomed into the Church. One young lady giving thanks for her reign and the other promising a year of duty, both receiving the blessing of the Church and Community.
(Elder, Carriden Parish Church).