Eaglesham Fair

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Eaglesham Fair group with Fair Queen, c1930
Eaglesham Fair group with Fair Queen, c1930

This biennial fair seems to have its origins in several fairs and shows dating back to the 17th century. In 1672, after a successful petition to the Scottish Parliament by the 8th Earl of Eglinton, an act was passed authorising a yearly fair on the 24th April as well as a weekly market in the kirk toun of Eaglesham.

The kirk toun was gaining in importance as the centre for a scattered community of around 126 ferm touns. The act mentions that Eaglesham was an ideal place for a fair and market due to the fact it was 6 miles away from the nearest royal burgh (which usually had the monopoly on fairs and markets) and also because it was on the ‘king’s highway’. The village’s growth continued and in 1769, Alexander, 10th Earl of Eglinton began the construction of the new planned village of Eaglesham which remains a particularly beautiful and historic place to this day.

The Earl was charged with collecting all the tolls, customs and duties belonging to the fair and market. The main purpose of the fair was originally entirely practical for the “buying and selling of all sorts of merchandise, and other commodities necessary and useful for the country”

The village also held a second yearly fair which traditionally took place on the last Thursday in August. The New Statistical Accounts of Scotland reports that this had been established by ‘use and wont’ and one source suggests it may originate from the ‘riding of the marches’

It also described activities taking place during the fair in August, including a feuers’ procession and a race where the winner was awarded a Kilmarnock bonnet. By the 18th century this fair seems to have been the principle event of the year and seemed to be an occasion for fun and celebration and it is said that costers visited with their wares from Glasgow and that the there were nut barrows around the village crossroads.

The April fair was often actually held in May and in 1831, the day of the 26th May was fixed for the first cattle competition, organised by the newly formed Eaglesham Farmer’s Society. The Earl of Eglinton agreed to be patron of the new society.

In 1937, the 100th celebration of the cattle show was held. Only a few more took place after this date and then the competition was discontinued.

In 1961, probably due to the successful campaign to regenerate the planned village which had become quite dilapidated, the fair was revived and carries on to the present day. It is usually held every second year at the end of May and organised by a Fair Committee who put all the money raised back into the village.

The fair now lasts a week with events and activities advertised for the duration and culminating in a fun packed fair day on the Saturday. Whilst some of the old traditions remain, such as the Kilmarnock Bonnet race, more modern activities take place including a race for ladies called the Oakes race. The last Fair Day was held on May 30th 2009 and activities on offer included: a procession around the village, the opening of Statue House (a collection of statues sculpted by a local during the 19th century), cycle races, an RAF fly past and a giant marquee erected on the village’s common ground with various exhibitions and displays going on throughout the day.

References:
Parish of Eaglesham, Rev. William Colville, minister New Statistical Account of Scotland Vol 7 Renfrew – Argyle, 1845, William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, pp383-405

Brown, Christina Robertson, Rural Eaglesham, Glasgow, William MacLellan, 1966

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