History of the Bo’ness Fair (Part 2)

The morn’s the Fair and I’ll be there, and I’ll hae up ma curly hair. I’ll meet ma lad at the fit o’ the stair, an’ I’ll gie him dram and a wee bit mair.
Tuesday 16th June 2020

Gradually, as the years of Queen Victoria’s long reign passed, and the barriers between the coal miners and the other members of the community were slowly broken down, other workers in the town began to take part in the Fair and each of the trades found in Bo’ness was represented in the procession. One of the most interesting and colourful groups in the procession was made up by the craftsmen from the local potteries, for the potters always wore their white trousers, white aprons tied with black ribbons, black tailcoats and tall black lum hats and carried with them examples of their craft and symbols of their trade, including model china sailing ships and miniature kilns. Although for a time more of the townspeople took part in the festivities, as Queen Victoria’s reign wore on the Fair’s popularity began to wane partly because of the excessive drinking which took place at it and which shocked the more soberly minded citizens.

Finally, in 1894, the miners realised that something had to be done if their annual celebration was not to die out and so they approached the local Police Commissioners, who at this time governed Bo’ness, before the creation of a Town Council, and suggested that these gentlemen should take part in the Fair Procession. The very proposal caused consternation in the town and several of the Commissioners were opposed to associating themselves in any way with this day of drinking, one demanded to know whether they would be expected, “to get fou like the rest?” After long and heated discussions, however, Provost Ballantine persuaded his colleagues to join in the proceedings, on the strict understanding that they would be properly conducted.

Announcing their decision, the Provost stated grandly that he felt that, “It became the authorities of any place that, for one day at least, they should be on a level with their neighbours”, and that, therefore it was, “quite in keeping that the Commissioners of Bo’ness and others outside should for a few hours, join in the general friendship and forget any differences that have taken place.”

And so that year the procession was led usual by the miners’ Deacon, but he was followed by the Provost and the Commissioners in open landaux, flanked by scarlet-coated outriders and led by banner bearers proudly carrying a large banner depicting the Burgh Coat of Arms with its ship under full sail and on a scroll beneath it the town’s motto “Sine Metu” Without Fear”
The Fair as we know it now.
The Crowning
All previous Fairs, great as they were faded into significance when compared to the glittering spectacle that was introduced in 1897. A new tradition was born and after a few minor details it has been preserved unaltered ever since.

At last a touch of pageantry had been added to Bo’ness Fair, but this was nothing compared to what was to come only three years later in 1897, at the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, for the wave of celebrations, which swept across the country was seized by Provost Stewart as the ideal opportunity to bring the children of the town into the festivities for the first time. As his model he chose

Lanark’s Lanimer Day, at which the boys and girls of the town elected one of their school friends to be their Fair Queen.
Fact – Larimer Fair started a few years previous in this format of introducing children. This was the idea from the Lanark Secretary. The funny thing is that his wife was born and brought up in Bo’ness.
The new-style Bo’ness Fair was received with great enthusiasm by the local people and first school girl “Queen”, Grace Strachan, chosen by the pupils of the old Anderson Academy, was cheered as she rode in her carriage in the first grand procession after her coronation, which was performed in Craigallan Park by Mrs Balfour, wife of the Chairman of the school board

From Craigallan the procession made its way out to the Kinnigars Park at Bridgeness, where the first Queen’s revels were held. The route took it down to the new Philpingstone Road, which was officially declared open by Mrs Cadell, before the Queen’s horse drawn carriage entered from Grange Terrace.

In all over 2,000 children from Bo’ness Infant School, Grangepans Infant School, Bo’ness Public School, Kinneil School, Borrowstoun School and Carriden School, as well as the Anderson Academy, took part in the first Fair. As well as Queen Grace, many of her classmates from the Old Academy and boys and girls from all the other schools played the parts, dressed lords and ladies of the royal court, fairies, flower girls and other characters, just as their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great, grandchildren still do every summer now. At the new-style Fair the emphasis was now all on the children’s enjoyment and old horse races were replaced by a programme of revels, which included sports and selections of music played by both brass and pipe bands. These early revels, which were held alternately at Kinnigars and Kinneil.

Read more tomorrow about the history of the Bo’ness Fair Crowning in the Bandstand!!!!

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