The previous chapter
was devoted to the shale oil trade and its influence in the parish.
After the statements and statistics given therein one would hardly
believe that so lately as the year 1848, or only 16 years before
Acldiewell Works were started, West Calder was literally in darkness
at night, save for the dim glimmer of the old fashioned lamps and
candles—dips— for ‘Paddy’s Lantern’ never shone there on a dark
Yet true it is and of verity that the Thistle Lodge of Free Masons
West Calder took a step in the right direction, seeking a brighter
light than they had hitherto been accustomed to, for in the year
1848 with all the deliberation and seriousness of a constituted and
constitutional body, they actually resolved “That a deputation of
their number proceed to Whitburn to see a Naptha Lamp burning : with
power to purchase”. Oh ye gods! this is always the way with you,
leading your children through darkness. How many million tons of a
purer and brighter illuminating power did this deputation tramp over
on their way ? No wonder Spunky frightened them that night with his
wild-fore as they passed the moors and mosses to Whitburn!
endeavouring to sheio them where light glorious light lay buried.
Since then gas has even been introduced to the village. But I must
hurry, on to the Fair which occurs this month, and give it a passing
notice from a historical point of view.
West Calder Fair or Gymnastic Games.
These games may be said to have taken
the place of what was formerly known as West Calder Fair, which,
from being a business day amongst the farmers, fell to be held only
as a f sweetie and groset fair ’ amongst the children. On some
occasions games were got up by the young men of the village when
funds could be got; but I think it was in the year 1854 that this
fair reached its lowest possible ebb without vanishing altogether.
Though duly heralded for a week or so in advance by the boys and
girls hand in hand in as wide rows as the street would allow them to
pass, with merry faces and happy hearts lustily shouting a rhyme, of
which the following is a portion :—
“Catber Fair's comin on.
We’ll get pies and porter!
Guess ye what the fiddle says?
Come and kiss my dochter.”
“A’ the jucks are in their nest
They’ll no be oot the day,
There’s some o’ them black and some o’ them green
And some o’ them like a turkey bean,
The cocks to craw, the hens to lay,
The morn’s Want Gather Fair Day”
Yet in the year I refer to, only one old
woman put in her appearance in front of the auld yairds with chair,'
table, and basket-of-good-things, if I may so call home-made gundy,
ginger bread, and the few other confections spread out upon a clean
white table cloth to tempt young eyes and stomachs out of the few
coppers in their pockets.
Ay! coppers were scarce then; but possibly the stomachs were none
the worse of that. We begged hard for pennies but got them few and
far between ; for parents then were oppressed by the dreariness of
everything as well as the extra taxation, consequent upon the
Crimean War. Happy was the boy or girl who had saved up sixpence for
the Fair, for the commodities in question were about four times the
price they are to-day. Sugar aiul treacle having then to pay their
share of the cost of fighting the Christian Russian for t\ e sake of
the Mohammedan Turks or rather for India.
This annual fair or games has revived with the increase of
population and wealth of this parish, and now constitutes the
principal gala-day of the year.
This year—1885—is announced as the “ 52nd annual ” of these games or
sports; and Friday the 31st July is fixed as the day upon which they
are to be held in the Games Park.
The prize money offered is nearly £30 which is said to be £3 more
than last year. “The West Calder Brass Band will be in attendance,”
says the programme, which en-numerates 25 contests for the occasion,
commencing with a quoiting match and ending with a five-a-side
football competition, interspersed with foot racing, putting,
leaping, vaulting, tilting at the ring on horseback— the only
knightly game in the programme unless hurdle racing may be included
in that list. There is also a miners’ race, sack race, and conform
to the times a bicycle race Admission to the grounds, sixpence ;
subscribers free. These with the entry money constitute the funds of
the committee, who make no pretence of being ‘under distinguished
patronage/ Tradition says West Calder Fair used to be a regular
cattle, hiring, and settling market, held on a strip of
land—supposed to be an old roadway to the Parish Kirk before the
Cleugh Bridge was built—reaching from the site of the Burgher
Meeting House or old U.P. Kirk down to the Killan Water or West
Calder Burn. The business portion of West Calder Fair seems to have
naturally gone to Mid Calder the ancient centre; but the pleasure
portion seems destined to out-live even Fast Days—a result directly
due to the divisions within the Kirk, the clergy scorning and
miscalling each other, the people have scorned the clergy and burst
the bonds. Pome was wiser in her day. We regulate our fairs by her
festivals. Her festivals were her fairs, when from her goodly rent
rolls she regaled her votaries, e’er the ^heritors :—
“Singing Sanct David’s psalter on their books were found .
“Rugging and ryving up kirk rents like rooks!” The greater part of
abbey lands paid their rent in kind; and as the lands of Calder
formerly belonged to Kelso Abbey, doubtless they also paid their
rents in kind—in this then out of the way place—on the summer term
of Lammas or Lamb Mass, the first of August, which still regulates
West Oalder Fair or so many days from it. Doubtless the collecting
place was once Chapelton or previously Kirkhill near Addiewell; but
the Fair or what remained of it may have removed with the Kirk. Far
away and beyond Holyrood lay Kelso Abbey at the beautiful confluence
of Teviot with Tweed, but the road was by Edinburgh and down by the
Stowe or Storehouse at the ond of the old Roman bridge on Galawater
— the last stage for staying overnight—e’er passing Melrose for
Kelso. The traditions of Stow are full of the monks and attendants
passing and repassing there ; and Calder was thirled to Kelso.
When the Reformation upset the ‘Haly Kirk’ of Rome, the1settling day
came as usu&l and rents only went to other pockets; but the people
could not all at once be weaned from their pleasures, hence
King-James VI.’s State-Craft and Poetry on the subject, to which I
refer the reader who may be interested in fairs and holidays?—and
who is not?
Having referred to fast days, I may not inappropriately conclude
this chapter by stating that the parish minister, finding that these
had become mere holidays, has practically abolished them. They were
formerly held at least once a year to make the communion the great
solemn festival of the Kirk. Latterly fast clays were appointed
twice a year, viz., Thursday before third Sunday of June, and first
Thursday of December, which for some reason or other were changed to
the Thursdays before third Sundays of April and October or vice
versa as I find both ways in the calendars.