King James the VI granted a Crown Charter on the 30th June 1587 in favour of Robert Innes of that Ilk (the 19th Laird of Innes) by which Garmouth was ‘erected into a Burgh of Barony’ with the power of creating free Burgess’s, erecting a Mercat Cross and building a harbour. The harbour was of course, in Kingston, and there was a pier close to the old boat green, in front of the Bank house.
The Mercat Cross was sited roughly where the war memorial now stands. The Burgh Barony of Garmouth also had the power to hold two fairs annually, one on the 30th June and the other on 20th September, or the nearest Saturday thereto.
The “State Papers Domestick” yielded this information. Originally, what we now call the Maggie Fair, was in fact the Margaret Fair. In days gone by the Cross was the site of music and merrymaking, as well as stalls and tinkers, tradesmen and revellers. Prior to the first World War the occupant of Lemanacre would hand a half penny to the local bairns, he also carried a stout stick, “in terreom”, for those who dared to ask for more.
Salmon, fresh with sea lice, and drams were partaken in quantity at this annual gathering. The September Fair seems to have faded with the first World War, as indeed the structure of the June Fair changed, due to lack of commodities.
So for three or four hours, minus the drums and trumpets rolling and blaring, we are continuing a piece of Scottish history that makes Garmouth unique.
From the Garmouth & Kingston Newsletter June 2004