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all the fun of europes longest travelling fair!
Kirkcaldy in General
Member Name: thebigc1690
Kirkcaldy in General
Advantages: a piece of history as well as great fun!
Disadvantages: a bit expensive!
this review isnt actually about kirkcaldy in general but rather about europes longest travelling fair which sets up once a year along kirkcaldys prom!
Although many of you will never have heard of it this travelling fair is world famous for many reasons not least the fact that it is still to this day the Europe’s longest travelling fairground. The giant Lorries carrying these fairground rides roll into Kirkcaldy at the same time every year and they have been since it started as a weekly market for traders, farmers, craftsmen and the like. In 1305. The market opens each year on the closest Wednesday to the 14th of April and stays open till the following Monday attracting more than half a million visitors over the six days.
Way back in 1304 a traders market began and a year later as Kirkcaldy was one of Scotland’s oldest burghs it was granted permission to carry on with this market on a yearly basis. This type of market is said to have carried on right up until 1850 at which point the traders were granted access to Kirkcaldy’s promenade instead of being confined to Links Street. As there was now so much more space for the traders they soon started to look for new ways to make money and introduced stalls where tickets could be bought to try to win prizes and also the first coconut shy’s were believed to have been introduced.
In 1903 tramways were introduced to links street and the traders were forced out of there altogether and there for took up even more of Kirkcaldy’s long promenade which is where the market still sets up to this day. By this time steam had began to be used to harness power and the first rides were being introduced to the market, a few carousels and a hand turned swing ride were said to be the first to appear. Along with these there were now tents with performers eager to entertain the public in exchange for their hard earned pennies.
By the mid 1900`s the rides were taking over the market, the sellers and entertainers had all but gone to make way for the men who could make real money by thrilling the crowds with their rides. This period saw the arrival of the hobby horses a ride which still comes to Kirkcaldy every year along with its giant organ built into the side of a trunk which pumps out organ music from opening time till closing. Along with the hobby horses came the speedway and the first Walters and each and every year since the rides have got bigger and faster.
As a local I have been visiting this market for as long as I can remember and before. Although it has always been a fairground during my years of coming it has still changed an awful lot, with new rides coming most years and even the way it is run changing noticeably. Gone are the days where the showmen used to run round collecting the fairs of people as the ride was starting and having to hunt them down at the end of the ride for your change. Its all pay booths and tokens and tickets these days which does take away some of the atmosphere of the old days where it was just a mad rush to find a seat first. These days due to health and safety it’s all cues and first come first serve.
The type of rides is what fascinates me most; many things have evolved but actually changed very little! Some rides however are of brand new concept and tend to draw the biggest crowds, each year there will usually be one new ride and that is the one you will have to cue to get on and pay the most to ride. For the last few years there has been one favourite which stands at the very front of the market called the bomber. It’s similar in style to the old dive bombers but much higher. It is basically one arm with a carriage on each end which spins round at your lowest point you are only a few feet of the ground but at your highest you are more than 50 metres of the ground. The ride turns so quickly that at night when the lights are on it leaves speed trails in the sky.
Gone are a lot of the old rides many of which were favourites of mine such as the speedway, whip and octopus they have all been replaced with more modern styles of being scared to death. As well as all the fast and tall rides which now come to the links market there has been for a few years now a full size twin tracked spinning roller coaster which has of course become a firm favourite with visitors.
The rides which attend this famous market are not only from all over Britain but are from all around Europe, the afore mentioned roller coaster travels each year from Holland and there are a few other rides from Belgium and France which appear at the links market from time to time. For one millennium market in 2000 the world’s largest big wheels were present having travelled from America to be at the links market. They were quite a spectacle standing side by side at a massive 95 metres high. This record has now been eclipsed and some wheels stand much taller but at the time they were the worlds largest.
Many different types of entertainment has passed through this market in the years I have been visiting it including a strip tent where adults could pay to go and watch strippers and us kids could go round the back and stick our heads under and watch for free (not that I ever did of course) ha-ha. There was also for a long time a tent which I remember well it housed the world’s tallest man and smallest lady.
This would of course be seen as cruel and rightly so, the giant man used to talk to the kids and I think he actually enjoyed meeting all the people but what a sad life it must have been for the two of them. Both are dead now and rumour has it the lady killed herself but I can’t say if it’s true or not. I will never forget shaking hands with the giant man, aged 11 I was somewhat scared at first but his kind words made me instantly calm down. He shook my hand and said he was very pleased I had come to see him and what a handsome young man I was, patted me on the head told me to enjoy my time at the fair and moved on to the next child eager to see him. A memory I will never lose!
In more recent times there have been so called freak shows such as the house of oddities in which you could see such things as a rabbit with two heads and the skeleton of a man who stood only nine inches tall. These oddities were fakes as clear as the nose on your face but still people flocked to part with their money and look at this nonsense. Thankfully this no longer comes and this sort of robbery has been stamped out.
The actual location of the fair nowadays is half the length of Kirkcaldy’s promenade, the actual length of the fair is almost a mile exactly but there is also a part at the end which is much wider than the rest of the fair so if stretched straight out would actually measure over a mile in length. To see the prom transformed from an old boring stretch of road into a wonderland of excitement was something I used to look forward to as a child and still somewhat do to this day especially now as I have a son of my own who cant wait for the fairground to come and I can relive my memories through him.
Many people have different opinions on the fairground however claiming that it is grossly over priced and a total rip off. Yes it is expensive but you have to expect that to a certain extent, these showman have to travel miles to be here, spend days setting up, pay for their plots, pay the car garage and the cafe on the prom to close for the period they are here, pay the council the rent for the blocks of flats on the prom who get their rent free when the market is here because of the noise and pay for the policing of the event. The rides there for are hardly likely to be cheap. I have to admit some do try it on as they bump their prices up at the weekend because they know it will be busy but on average the prices for kiddies rides will be Ł1.50 and the adult rides will be Ł2.00 although the roller coaster is Ł2.50 or Ł3.00 at the weekends. The one ride which does charge through the nose is the afore mentioned bomber. It is usually Ł5 per person but can be seen as high as Ł10 per person at the weekends they claim this is because unlike other rides where many people ride at a time the bomber can only seat 16 people at the one time there for has to charge much more to make its money. Unfortunately as it is such a popular ride even at Ł10 per person they still have people lining up ready to ride so they get away with their prices.
There have been many rumours circulating for a long time that the market will eventually stop coming because of the charges placed on them for their time there and due to the closure of the prom driving big lorries and busses along links street, the health and safety issues are becoming more stringent too and there is also the factor of the trouble that can sometimes arise on a Friday and Saturday night. I for one would be very sad to see the end of this attraction it has been part of my growing up in Kirkcaldy and has already become part of my sons too. With that and the history that surrounds this fairground it would be very sad to see it end. I like many others have years of memories of this place and would love to have years more. I can still remember the E.T ride which came to the links market shortly after the release of the film and another called the ghost buster, all great rides which are now just memories as many of the present rides will be soon too no doubt.
A giant travelling fair and a giant piece of Scottish history which I hope will not be allowed to end!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my trip down memory lane as much as I have enjoyed writing it!
Summary: a massive fairground with rides from all over europe!
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