By Warren Pratt
The principal event of the social calendar in Garmouth is the celebration of the ‘Maggie Fair'. People from the village and surrounding communities come together for the opening of the fair by a local dignitary, followed by an outdoor market at The Cross, and then traditional games and teas in the park. Funds collected are distributed to local charities and used for local amenities. In olden times it must have been quite a sight; it was a ‘merry, merry market day', with hordes of stalls (‘stannies'). There are descriptions of gingerbread ‘mannies', rabbits with currants for eyes, barley sugar and the ‘Peninisular hero', the ‘Captain', who doled out a halfpenny to each boy and girl and terrorised with a stick any who attempted to come round for a second time. Almost every household, regardless of their status, dined on salmon and raised a toddy on Maggie Fair day.
But who was Maggie and what exactly does the fair, one of the oldest traditional fairs of its type in Scotland, celebrate? The answers require a short historical preamble, sometimes violent, so nervous types should not read on!
The fair is inextricably linked with the first landing in Scotland of the ‘Merry Monarch', Charles II, in 1650. He was the last true Scottish king, crowned according to the rites of the ancient Scottish coronation service. However, the origins of the fair are older, possibly pagan.
Garmouth's Maggie Fair Day traditionally takes place on the last Saturday of June each year and is one of the few – if not the only – historical Street Fair still held in Scotland that has been celebrated annually, virtually without interruption, since it was established.419 years ago, on 30th June 1587, the village of "Garmoch" (deriving from two Gaelic words – "Gar" meaning rough and "Mach" meaning a mouth) was granted a Crown Charter by King James VI, erecting it into a Burgh of Barony and a Fair Day marked the occasion.
From the State Paper Dome stick Scottish Registry Office which states."James VI, by a Crown Charter of 30th June 1587, in favour of Robert Innes of that ilk, 19th Laird of Innes, Garmouth was erected into a Burgh of Barony, with power of creating free burgesses, a Mercat Cross and harbour and to hold two fairs, to be held annually at the aforementioned Merchat Cross, one on Saturday nearest the 30th June and the other the Saturday nearest 20th September."There is little doubt that the Mercat Cross of 1587 was on the site of the present "Cross" at Garmouth. Moving the site of Maggie Fair would invalidate the Charter of 1587 and a custom of 419 years, the oldest in the North of Scotland would be lost forever. (Committee take note) ed:
The identity of the Lady whose name became conjoined with the Fair is the subject of speculation, but could have been one of three.