“Thanks for the Memories”
On Monday 6th of February 2018 at 6:00 pm my life changed for the better. I opened the door to find Scott McBride, Chair of the Fair Committee standing there. I invited him in and after polite pleasantries, he asked me if I would do him the honour of accepting to crown this year’s Queen elect Miss Zoe Carlin. WHY ME I asked [I am sure many ladies reading this would have said the same.] He said that I was the perfect choice this year as I did so much for the Church, Kinneil Estate, the Schools and Bo’ness. I said yes that I would be honoured to carry out this amazing role. Was I expecting this honour NO! I then explained that this would have been the 3rd time in my life missing the Fair as on Saturday we had just paid our £500 deposit for a Baltic Capital cruise with our friends Janet & Walter Sinclair. No Refund. Scott then left to attend the Fair meeting and announced who he had chosen to Crown the Queen Elect. At 9:00pm my mobile pinged and it was Ann Richie congratulating me. From that time all through the night it constantly pinged with people all over the World sending their congratulations. Over 400 people called within 24 hours and many more over the following weeks and I thanked them all.
Jim and I met Scott and his lovely wife Diane several times to discuss the Fair procedures etc. One evening some of the Fair Committee attended and Frank McGarry was there. He explained that he wanted to know a little more about me for his speech. I then explained that I was born in Simpsons Hospital in Edinburgh, luckily or I would have been born in Linlithgow. Well, Frank stood up and shouted” How can I stand up on the Fair Day and tell the folks of Bo’ness that a BLACK BITCH is crowning the Queen Elect. We will never live it down, never live it down” We were in fits of laughter.
The Outfit – This was playing on my mind because it was the subject of many dreams. One dream I turned up on the Fair Day with a purple holey, bobbly cardigan and wellies on my feet because it was a cold day and the grass would be wet!!!! [ I do not possess either of them.] For Anna-Marie and Stuart’s wedding we covered nearly the whole of Britain on the quest for the right outfit. In April, Anna-Marie had a Monday off, so we started the quest nearby at Catwalk in Falkirk which is one, if not my favourite shop. When we walked in it felt like a family reunion. The girls were all excited for me. Janine took command. I have known Janine since she was 4 years of age when she attended Deanburn Nursery Class, then she was my student at College. I had in my head a trouser suit, just in case I fell down the platform stairs. Janine and Pauline let me try on a few trouser suits then Anna-Marie handed me a dress and matching jacket. I was taken aback as I don’t show my legs. They encouraged me to try it on and it was perfect. Pauline came with three hats, but she knew the right one for me. It was stunning. [If anything, it was that big it would keep Scott and I dry if it rained.] We phoned Jim to come up to see the outfit. He never asked how much it was as he was grateful the quest was complete, and he wouldn’t need to take days off from the golf to keep looking for THEE outfit. Thank you, ladies, at Catwalk Falkirk.
I wanted to get to know Zoe and the current Queen Andrea, well before the Fair Day and it was a pleasure to meet these two young ladies and to be welcomed into their families.
Exhibition – 2017 Stephen McPeake, the Head of St Mary’s Primary School asked me if I would assist P6 in their project regarding the history of the Bo’ness Fair. We started to work in January to collate information etc. I could see that the class and their extended families were so involved that I felt that the exhibition should be for the whole of Bo’ness to see not just for the school. With assistance from Councillor Ann Ritchie and the Fair Committee, we held the exhibition in the Town Hall. Showing the Robes, crown, outfit through the ages etc. I had some photos of ex Queens but made it my task to find a photo of every Ex Queen. It was the talk of the town; many people could not attend so I placed the photos in Maryanne’s Alterations window. They were there for 2 months as people wanted to see them over the holiday period.
Rehearsals- Every Tuesday afternoon after Easter right up to the Fair week was the Retinue rehearsals. The children quickly got into step and perfected every move. The invitations flooded in for me to view Fair outfits, Wow they get more inventive every year. Thank you to all the families, it was truly an honour to be invited.
Kirking of the Queen – Another first for the Fair Committee, by moving the event from a Sunday to a Friday afternoon televising it to all the schools and around the World. It was such a success that it will be the same format this year.
The Fair E’en – The stage was set, and the rehearsals were HOT, more ways than one. It was the hottest day of the year, 32 degrees on the stage by 11:00am. The Fair Committee did the town proud by handing out bottles of water to the children and the crowd. Douglas Park rehearsals were cancelled due to the hot weather [another first for the Fair] Night time – Magical, what else can I say, it was like walking through a Disney film set. Thank you to all the families that invited Jim and I into your lovely homes that evening.
The Fair Day – I love it when the first sound you hear is a band playing somewhere in the town. I was privileged to have Unison Kinneil Band play at my house. My Dad played cornet in the band. 44 people sat around our back-garden tucking into sausage and bacon rolls and washing it down with certain liquids. It was lovely that the neighbours were out and joined in the fun [some still in their jammies] 9:00am The make-up and hair done thanks to Dimensions and Jennifer. Outfit on then Paul Cuthell arrives in the Limousine with Scott and Diane McBride. Luxury, he had cold bottles of water with their own labels on and other refreshments too. Jim asked Paul, “did he have many return journeys with his job?” The performance was perfection, all the rehearsals paid off, the children were superb. Just as I was placing the crown on Zoe’s head the video system crashed for a few seconds because so many people were viewing from all over the world. My fear of the platform steps was unfounded, I had no problem whatsoever. I did still cling onto Scott as we descended. The Douglas Park performance and the Dinner in the evening was wonderful. Yes! Frank did tell everyone I originally came from Linlithgow. I did get him back in my speech though.
My oldest cousin Alice came up from Yorkshire to see me crowning the Queen. Unknown to the family, she was dying. She was brought up in Castleloan and told us they were ‘Raga Muffins’ The only time that she saw a ‘Lady’ was on the Fair Day. They did not have a TV or magazines. She always tried to work her way to the front to see the lady who crowned the Queen, descending the stairs dressed beautifully with a fur stole over her shoulders. One Fair, the Lady sat down and turned to Alice and asked if she was having a lovely time, Alice was so shocked she just nodded her head. Alice said that she never thought that the day would come when one of her relations would crown the Fair Queen. She could not express her joy enough and how proud she was of me at achieving this honour. Bless her. Alice died a few weeks later and we played the Fair Song at her funeral, just for her.
Please remember that “we are all Jock Tamson’s Bairns.”