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.
In those far off days Kingston was a flourishing place with hundreds of men working in the shipyards. They came from surrounding villages and unemployment was virtually unknown. When a boy left school he was taken straight to the yards to train as a shipwright. There was no transport then and many weary men must have walked home at the end of a working day as there was little accommodation available here in the villages.