Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Greenock Fair

A Greenock Tram all decked out for celebrating...
The Scottish calendar is littered with famous festivals  such as Hogmanay and Halloween, which are rooted in tradition and folklore. Yet while all Scots are happy to first foot or raise a toast to the bard, there are also some peculiarly parochial dates in  our  diary, dates which warrant further examination. Almost every town in Scotland has its own fair, traditional holiday periods celebrated in summer. The oldest of these ancient market days is of course, the Glasgow Fair,  originally established by a charter from William the Lion in 1190, but latterly the last two weeks in July when factories and offices closed for summer holidays  and everyone  went "Doon the Watter" to Largs Rothesay and Gourock.
Greenock for her part celebrates the fair on St Helens Day, at the end of June, close to the summer solstice and has done for over three hundred and fifty years. In 1635  John Schaw Laird of Greenock  received a charter from King Charles the First  which conferred upon Greenock the rights and privileges of a Burgh of Barony which  amoung other things  gave the people living there  the right to hold two annual fairs  and to trade in home made commodities. 
The day was looked forward to for months, not merely for the holiday, but for the celebrations that came with it, and often as summer approached, the townsfolk would be heard to say, “hoo much hae yae saved up for the fair?”.
The fair itself was held either at Westburn Street, or St Andrew's Square, and it was truly a sight to behold. A whole host of caravans, all decked out with flags and bells. The blast of trumpets, the cracking of riffles – an invitation to joins the celebrations. Waxwork models, photographers, magicians, merry go-rounds, plays and musicians; all just some of the attractions one might see in bygone days.
Yet as time marched on, the fair diminished in size, until one day, the caravans came no more. Today the fair is still celebrated, although in a very different way. No longer does the town come together to toast its own, but rather we travel far and wide on Fair Saturday. Actually, mostly just to Blackpool and Largs…but all the same have a right good Fair Saturday!

If yer stuck for something to can read a wee story of some Old Greenock Characters enjoying a Fair Saturday in times past, or ironically enjoy the 80s feelgood hit "Walking on Sunshine", because as we all know, it ay rains on fair saturday...

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