History of the Bo’ness Fair
Thursday 18th June 2020
Arches big and small have been a part of the Fair since its initiation in 1897 to mark the Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign. In this photograph of 1903, you can see an Arch in the background. [This is a copy of my postcard and is stamped 1903]
The first recording of Arch building was in 1905 It was built by the miners in the Snab Miners Rows. It was headed by Tam Brodie and Mr Charlie Young. Weeks of work went into the construction of the huge wooden frame, it was completed and decked all over with greenery and hoisted into position over the Grangemouth Bo’ness Road at the foot of Dean Brae. The Snab Arch with its three flags fluttering proudly on high for all to see. I wonder why they constructed it as the Queen that year was Margaret Allan and she was the last Queen to come out of Carriden School.
Extract from an old Fair programme
Many of us will remember the Arches made of boxwood but the earlier Arches were made with Fir branches. It was not until 1910 that boxwood was used for the first time, and then not on an arch but on one of the decorated horse drawn vehicle. It belonged to the well know butcher of the time Sandy Rankine whose busy shop was on South Street. Each year Mr Rankine assigned the decorating of his pony and trap to Mr Alex Heath, one of whose friends was Kinneil Estate employee John Bell. It was he who suggested that clipped boxwood would provide a much neater finish. Together the two men gathered boxwood from along the Dean. The result must
have been so impressive because from then on Boxwood became the accepted greenery not only for the decorated floats but for the Arches too.
“The big Arch I remember most was the one I helped to build for Queen Bessie Cowie outside the old Kinneil School at Deanfield in 1928”. That was the year I was married and almost divorced. He said with a twinkle in his eyes looking at his wife. “That must have been the wettest Fair Week ever, and even on the Fair Een it was still bucketing down. All the lads had made a tremendous effort to build the town’s first-ever double-span arch. As it continued to splash down their spirits sagged and there was talk of abandoning it and never getting it off the ground. At 8:00pm it was still lying there when suddenly it stopped raining and began to dry up. I persuaded them that even if we never put on a single decoration, at least we should hoist it into position.
Despite the sodden greenery we managed it, when I shinned up to the top to help to secure it, there over the Ochils was one glint of sunshine in that grey leaden sky. I knew that meant a fine Fair after all. I hadn’t the heart to leave that beauty without a single rose, so I worked through the night. By 4:00am we were almost finished when I discovered we had no ferns to decorate the base of the
Columns. Wee Willie Buchanan volunteered to get some from the ravine above the Dean Burn, we thought he was never coming back. When he did, he was drookit from Head to foot for he had lost his footing and plunged into the burn, but he got enough fern to finish the job.”