I remember being taken to school that sunny Friday morning in 1970. As I skipped along Braehead wearing my new dress and shoes I was completely unaware I was about to be gripped by a ‘fever’ I would never quite shake off.
All through my primary school and teenage years I couldn’t wait for the Queen to be picked and having just about attended every primary school in Bo’ness it was a given I’d probably know the lucky girl and her retinue.
Fair days during the 1980’s are a bit of a blur to say the least.
Always at the crowning ceremony for 10am then rocking up to the Redcroft in the early 80’s and down to the Viewforth into the late 80’s, don’t think I ever saw any revels in the Dougie Park but always entertainment aplenty in the local hostelries. Happy, happy days!
Then it happened!!!!!………..1990!!!
Never mind earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions this was the disaster to end all disasters – Bo’ness Fair was rained off and the crowing had to be held in the Town Hall!
This had never been heard of since the early 1900’s and no true Bonessian ever believed it could happen again.
I remember leaving the Glebe Park soaked to the skin and heading to the Viewforth in disbelief that this nightmare was becoming a reality.However, the show went on and Lisa Welsh was crowned in the town hall and kept smiling throughout in true Bo’ness spirit.
Meanwhile along the road in the local hotel we were having a wee ‘Fair’ of our own. All characters were chosen fairly with their fair experience in mind. Those who didn’t go to primary school in Bo’ness were given the honour of being presented to the ‘Queen’ in honour of the Norwegian Band (well come on…. If yer no fi Bo’ness ken….)
We ended up having a fantastic fair day and night, probably one of my most memorable with lots of friends some who are sadly no longer with us.
Apart from a very wet Fair Day in 1990, I had also turned 26 years old and got married.
I made a decision – it was time to grow up, be responsible and do a bit for the community.
So in the October I trotted along to the Town Hall to the Fair AGM and put myself forward to help out in any way I could – very responsible I thought and doing a bit for the community.
I must confess I did have a word with myself regarding the ‘growing up’ bit and it was decided that it could wait a few years until I was ready to tackle that huge change in my life!
I joined Helen Ward-Birkby’s appeals committee and soon came to realise just how hard people worked to make sure the Fair went ahead every year to the high standard people had become accustomed to.
One of my first experiences on the Appeals Committee was helping at the annual prize bingo and what an experience it was! For a start I couldn’t believe how popular it was and how much money it could make for such a great cause. The other thing was the amount of home baking donated by so many people in the town. It was quite overwhelming; I’d never seen so many scones and cakes before.
It wasn’t long before I roped my Mum into doing some baking and her meringues became so popular there was practically a fight for them every year!!
In March 1991 I was given the task of the door to door appeals collection in Marchlands Avenue and Marchlands Terrace. This job has a very special place in my heart and one I still do to this day.
I have made many friends in Marchlands and sadly lost a few over the years but I do look forward to my annual task, although now, 26 years on, it takes me 2 or 3 hours 5 nights a week to complete the mission.
There is always plenty of news to catch up on and some new faces too who like to know what the door to door fuss is all about.
Around 1997/1998 I was asked to give Christine Horn some help in selling adverts for the Fair Programme. I must have made an impression as in 1999 I was nominated for Fair Programme Co-ordinator.
TIP 1 – never think you are in it to lend a hand or for the short term!
I did successfully put together my first programme but I have to add here I could not have done it without the valued help and guidance of David Brown Fair Chairman in my first few years on the committee. His experience and wealth of knowledge of Bo’ness Fair will always leave me in awe.
Year 2000 brought a big change to the Fair when David Brown stepped down from the chair after twenty years.
Jeff Stewart came on board as chairman and the first thing I was told was, ‘Wendy, the programme is your job and I shall leave you alone to get on with it’! EEEEEK no pressure then I thought. I could only hope Ididn’t let him down as much as I did in Geography!!
That confidence Jeff had in me gave me the drive to go on and successfully produce another twelve fair programmes all of which I enjoyed doing immensely. Every year was different and every Queen Elect and her retinue were an absolute pleasure to work with. Thank you all.
But, the pinnacle for me was in 2007 when my son Jordan was chosen to be Queen’s Champion for the Public School. I remember signing the letter to put his name in for the part and thinking, ‘och it won’t be him’!
TIP 2 – Never think that EVER!
Not only did I have the Champion but my dear friend Elaine’s daughter Amy was chosen to be Queen of the Flower Girls. That day in February was to be the start of the busiest and most hectic few months to date.
What with working full time, appeals committee, Fair Programme Co-ordinator and doing Tom Burns’s football gates to say I never had a minute is an understatement.
TIP 3 – Never take a phone call from Tom Burns!
Once the phone calls had been made to family and friends to tell them the exciting news it was down to serious planning – and that came in the form of my sister Lynn who appointed herself
Project Manager of the frontage for the next 5 months. She was there every step of the way to make sure Colin my joiner (the main man) and all the other volunteers who arrived armed with tools of their trade to help out.
There were so many laughs along the way especially when Brian Martin would dare to suggest to Lynn one of his great ideas – ‘yes Brian it’s a good idea but you just leave the ideas to me and do the job you have been assigned to do’, which I have to add, was the drawbridge.
Brian took his job very seriously so much so his partner came homeafter work one night to find the huge project on the kitchen table with Brian burning marks into the wood’ to make it look more authentic’!
TIP 4 – Always have someone on board who will go above and beyond the call of duty.
Meanwhile, behind closed doors another band of busy bees were making a horse – now this proved to be a real challenge – but one that Lynn and Margaret managed to pull off after hours of hard work and a shed load of plaster of paris.
Up in Grangemouth the life sized knights were being constructed by Uncle Jim while Aunty Marion was making robes fit for kings.
A few minutes up the road in Muirepark Court Elaine was flapping like a fish out of water organising her project. The laughs we had I will never forget.
For months up until June I was fretting that nothing seemed to be coming together for her. But I was told in no uncertain terms, ‘Listen it’s all organised and under control’. Now for those of you who had the pleasure of knowing Elaine, you will know being organised was never one of her strong points.
I remember the Monday before the Fair Aunty Marion was busy pinning cloaks and robes to the knights and horses when Elaine appeared with Amy’s fair shoes, ‘Do you think you could dye them red for Friday Aunty Marion’??!! (She was everyone’s Aunty by this time)without hesitation the shoes were taken from her and returned two days later matching Amy’s dress perfectly.
The Fair E’en was upon us and everyone’s hard work had paid off, Jordan’s Camelot themed medieval castle was spectacular and a credit to all those who worked so hard to produce such a work of art. But, in true Elaine Portis fashion she took everyone’s breath away when Amy’s frontage came to fruition in the shape of Merlin in the snow globe – it was truly fantastic! Who said she wasn’t organised eh?
TIP 5 – Having a principal character is truly worth the blood, sweat and tears.
Friday 29th June 2007 Fair Day dawned. It was a beautiful sunny morning and the sun shone on and off throughout the day.I attended the whole day as a guest along with my sister Lynn and it is truly a day we will never forget.
Proud Mum and Aunty doesn’t even come into it.
Well here we are ten years on and again it’s the turn of Public School to provide the Royal Retinue. Their theme this year is Cinderella and I can only imagine our small town will turn into a Disney paradise on the Fair E’en.
It is every little girls dream to be a princess for a day and on Friday 30th June we will witness just that. All that satin, lace, net and taffeta will have been transformed into dresses only fit for princesses and I’m sure each and every one of them will be accompanied by “prince charmings”who will look equally dashing in their costumes.
The stage will be set for what would pass as a Broadway production.
The ultimate honour to be bestowed on a woman from Bo’ness is to crown ‘The Queen’ and that honour this year has gone to Ann Ritchie and a very well deserved honour it is.
The staff and children of Public School must be delighted Ann is crowning their Queen. Her dedication and commitment to the Public School over the years has been second to none.
Both my kids have fond memories of Ann accompanying them on school trips and her tireless hard work with the girls and boys football teams.
The Fair is the time of year when friends new and old get together and celebrate the day itself but also reminisce on Fair Days past.
We all have that special Fair in our heart and the memories that go with it. For me it was the 2007 Fair not just because Jordan was champion but because I shared it with my lovely friend Elaine, who was an inspiration to us all, and those memories I will cherish forever and remember every Fair Day.
On a final note may I take this opportunity to wish Gillian Genoe and the Public School a fantastic Fair Day and to all my friends near and far, especially my wee pal Jack McCaskill, who for the first time in his life is missing the Fair, but will be celebrating it down under in Australia.
TIP 6 – Pray for sunshine for at least 2 weeks before the big day and if the weather isn’t what you prayed for just remember it’s all for the children and THE SHOW GOES ON!
A Happy Sunny Fair Day to you all.
Wendy (Oliver) Myles