Glasgow Fair, John Knox, 1832
Glasgow Fair Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Oh, never gang to Glasgow Fair,
Amang the scolding lasses,
For hundreds of them's gathered there,
An' 'mang them there's a' classes.
Oh, kintra lads tak' my advice,
And never, you, gang near them,
Nae decent lads wad speir their price,
Nae deent men could bear them."
~ William Burns, 1857
There's lots going on at the Glasgow Fair! One of the oldest holidays in Scotland, Glasgow Fair Day dates back to the 1190, when permission was granted for a market holiday around the sale of horses, cattle, and fish but became well known for its circus and theatre shows as amusement centerpieces. Clowning, dancing, singing and plays were all featured in the penny gaffs. featuring simple exciting stories and the deeds of famous highwaymen, robbers and murderers! Some of the more recent favourites were stories of the 18th-century robber Jack Sheppard, who escaped from prison on numerous occasions, and the gory Red Barn Murder! Abridged and mangled versions of William Shakespeare's plays were also regularly performed. “Taps aff, we’re going doon the watter for the fair.”🎪 🐎 🎭 🐂
One of the oldest pubic holidays granted by William the Lion, King of Scotland (1165 to 1214), after Bishop Jocelin asked for permission to hold festivities within the boundaries of Glasgow Cathedral, the fair's location moved to Glasgow Green in the 1800s.
Glasgow Green was established in the 15th century and is the oldest park in the city. Initially it was a grazing area with the banks of the Clyde used for drying fish nets and communal washing. Over the years, the burns were drained and the green levelled and extended. Throughout the 19th century, the green was used for political meetings, demonstrations and public executions, as well as the location for the Glasgow Fair, one of the highlights of fortnite of summer holidays for many people.
At first, the fair was associated with the sale of horses and cattle. But as time passed the gathering became a focal point for traveling showmen, who took advantage of the large audiences. As was the custom most local businesses closed on 'Fair Friday' to allow workers and their families to attend. The community of travelling show people grew in the city towards the end of the 19th century.
For more about the Fair's history, click the penny broadsheet with the the lyrics to William Burns' 1857 rhyming verse of likely encounters at the Glasgow Fair!
And to see the dance performed in 2014 at Summer School, scroll down for the video!