History of the Gala

In the late 1940’s a group of local villagers got together to organise an event specifically for the children of North Queensferry.  Those people effectively began what we have now all grown to know and love as The Gala!

We are told that the original gala committee consisted of Betty Chalmers, Madge Stobbie, Martha Jaques, Betty Stobbie, Jock Archibald, John Stobbie, John Innes, Jock Brownlie, Albert Stewart and a Frank someone.  Sadly most of these people have since gone to a better place, but Madge has been kind enough to fill me in on some details from the original gala days.

Many, many things have since changed in our village but the Gala has remained a constant event over the years, evolving from one simple day of fun and games for the children, to what we now have as a whole week of events ranging from cycling and running, to a spectacular showing on the gala day itself.

Back in the early 1950’s, before the New Community Centre was built (1992), some of the Gala day revolved around the Institute.  The Carlingnose area was the old Barracks, where we are told that the Polish Balloon Barrage was stationed, and a lot of Brock Street was just potato fields.

Money was collected prior to the Gala Day in a huge whisky bottle, donations being given in at the local pubs.  To get things bought for the children on Gala Day the bottle would be emptied and “goodie bags” were made up.  In those days there were many shops in the Village who would give things for a small raffle to raise money too.  The “goodie bags” consisted of such things as biscuits, cakes, juice and some fruit.  All the children would gather round into circles to receive their bags, sometimes at the local Institute in bad weather.  There were no inflatable bouncy castles in the early gala days!  Traditional egg and spoon races and flat races were ran and instead of the medals that we currently give out to the winners, the children would all get a lollipop or an apple or orange as their prize!  A Tug of War competition would be organised between the two pubs in the Village – the Albert and the Roxburgh (now the Ferrybridge Hotel).

From further information given to us by Terry Myles from when his father Willie was involved in the Gala, the committee was very small – consisting of Willie Myles, Bob Cubin, Jimmy Burnett, Ina Burke and Madge Stobbie.  Terry tells us that the Pipe Band from HMS Caledonia used to come along and play their music and the Band Members would compete in the tug of War against local people from the Village.  The bike races would take place between the bottom of the hill, out past HMS Caledonia at the dockyard and back again.  Of course there wouldn’t have been the road there that we use now, but probably more like a country road.  The running races started from the foot of the Brae also ad the runners would run along what would have been the old coastal path, out to Cruickness and then back up the old road (where the quarry now is).  On those gala days there would be various races held for the children with small amounts of cash given as prizes.  At present we have all the children walk down the main road to the pier at the Albert Hotel to begin the traditional parade up to the playing fields, however it used to begin at the old yachting marina where the parade would get under way, picking the Primary 5 and 6 children up at the foot of the Brae, collecting the younger children up at the top of the hill.

Over time the Village grew in size and residency and new committees were duly appointed as the years went by.  These new Committees introduced the concept of a Gala Week and made things t sell on stalls etc to raise funds.  In the Silver Jubilee year of 1977, some villagers can recall being given a commemorative Silver Jubilee coin at the Gala.  A precious keepsake indeed!  Nowadays the gala committee organise approximately 3 events throughout the year, to raise funds in order to keep our Gala a free day out for the village.   Although a specific committee is in place for the running of all the proceedings, we are extremely grateful to all the extra helpers and volunteers, without whom we wouldn’t be able to have such a smooth running Gala.

During the old galas, many children and adults would dress up in fancy dress for their gala day.  Now we have traditional costumes that the children wear in the gala procession.  These were introduced in the late 1970's, adding new costumes each year,  and many were made and donated by Gertrude and Robert McAlpine.  We still hold a fancy dress competition which the younger children are especially keen to take part in.  The format of Gala Week has remained roughly the same since it began.  As we know it these days, we begin a week of events with a fishing competition.  Contenders take to the pier on the Saturday morning and fish all day, with the winner being the person to have caught the biggest fish – or indeed the only fish as has happened on occasion!  Saturday night brings a very competitive quiz night, with various teams vying to become the winner!  On the Sunday we have a raft race along at the marina pier, with all shapes and sizes of home made rafts, where either teams or singles take to the Forth to paddle round the old pier platform and back.  Mondays and Tuesdays brings us the cycling and running races, both at the playing fields for the primary children ad then the Landmark and half Landmark races down Ferryhills Road for the high school children and adults.  Ladies netball and boys football comes along midweek and our budding stars entertain us in the community centre on a Thursday evening.  Friday night has been either a Treasure Hunt or a Scavenger Hunt over the last few years and has families running around the village looking for clues or items off a list.  Then the big Gala day itself comes at the end of a very tiring but pleasurable week.

The Gala King and Queen are nominated from the Primary 7 children with contenders names going into a hat so that the lucky recipients are picked totally at random. 

The winners of each race are presented with a medal.  The little centrepiece picture for the medals is run as a competition through the Primary school and the winning artwork is used for that particular year’s medal.  Throughout the years, many shields and trophies have been donated or bought for the winners of various activities over the weeks events.  The winner of each individual award gets their name and year of winning engraved on the shield or trophy which gives a good history of previous winners.

Today’s Gala evolved out of the original Gala days being a fun filled day for the local children, into a Historic and Traditional event incorporating the same fun filled festivities for the whole community.  We celebrate the landing of Princess Margaret who arrived in Fife, accompanied by her brother Prince Edgar and her mother Lady Agatha, to seek refuge with King Malcolm of Canmore.  Malcolm subsequently fell in love with the Princess and crowned her his Queen around 1069.   The King would have taken Princess Margaret and her family up to Dunfermline Abbey after they docked at what is now known as St Margaret’s Hope along towards Rosyth.  Here in the 21st Century, our Gala Princess arrives off the boat (tides allowing) at the Town Pier to be met by the Gala King and his entourage, before being led up The Brae by a local Pipe Band.  With the community forming a procession behind them, they lead us ceremoniously through the streets of North Queensferry up to the Community Centre and the playing fields, where the crowning of Margaret as Queen is re-enacted for all to see.  “The Bishop” reads from his scroll telling us of how it came to be that Malcolm and Margaret met and married, before the locals raise three cheers to the history of our Village.  After which the festivities then return to the fun filled aspects of Gala days gone by.

We are very privileged to still host an annual event such as this, after all this time, with the main focus having withstood the test of time, as well as being very proud to be one of the very few Gala’s remaining who do not charge on the day itself for the events happening.  We continue to provide the Gala as a free day out for all, choosing to fundraise throughout the year to be able to put such an event on.

Long may this continue!!


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