Queen's Retinue
Queen's Retinue

Get your flags out, your fair frock on and your arches up because it’s almost time for the best day of the year.

By Jenny Scott

Thousands of excited children are anxiously waiting for 9’oclock, probably the only time of the year they are actually impatient for school to begin. Wherever you look people are dressed up, be it in regal costumes, fancy dress or their very finest. There’s not a car or bus to be seen, the only noise heard on the streets is the resounding chorus of pipe bands dotted all over the town. Girls in matching white dresses carrying huge baskets of freshly cut flowers are surrounded by dancing boys kitted out in sparkling spandex whilst fairies are vigorously tugging on their wings and giving their wands a final once over, anxious to get on their way and use the ‘special fairy walk’ they have been learning for the last two months. Just what exactly is going on in the sleepy little mining town of Bo’ness?

It’s the Fair Day. Or to use it’s full title ‘The Borrowstounness Children’s Fair Day Festival.’ The biggest of it’s kind in Europe and easily the most important day of the year for any true Bo’nessian, effortlessly eclipsing Christmas or Easter. It’s difficult to show how passionate Bo’ness is about it’s Fair Day without experiencing it firsthand for yourself, however Douglas Snedden, the famous ‘voice of the Fair’ sums up how the locals feel perfectly: “Over the years, we may have lost our docks, our pits, our hosiery’s and our potteries but the one thing we haven’t lost is our fantastic community spirit – this sense of camaraderie – that has seen our fair grow from strength to strength as the years go on and long may it continue to do so. For wouldn’t Bo’ness be a poorer place without it”.

Since it’s beginnings in 1779 the Fair Day has changed significantly. What originally started as a celebration to the end of the thirling of miners – one eyewitness described the first fair day as “a drunken orgy” among the coalminers of the district – gradually evolved in to the lavish festivities that are even more popular today than ever before. Nowadays the Fair is all about creating a huge send off for the children before the summer holidays begin and the town does a brilliant job at kick starting the summer with a bang.