Today is a holiday here in Glasgow, as is official the start of the Glasgow Fair Fortnight. The Glasgow Fair Fortnight is always the last two weeks in July, and is traditionally when Glaswegians (the natives of Glasgow) would go on holiday.
The origins of this holiday can be traced back to the 12th century, although the Glasgow Fair these days is far changed from those of the 12th century!
In the 19th century the Fair took place on Glasgow Green and thereafter developed into a full blown holiday fortnight. During the Fair horses and cattle were sold, and servants hired. Later on it changed to include amusements, circus acts and theatre shows.
By the middle of the 20th century, there would be an annual exodus from Glasgow of thousands of the locals to Troon, Rothesay, Saltcoats or Dunoon – This became known as going “doon the water”! The Fair would start on Fair Friday (the Friday prior to the holiday fortnight), when all the factories and business would close down for the 2 weeks of the fair. This meant that on Fair Friday it was not unusual to see large queues of people at Glasgow Central Station waiting to board a train that would take them to their annual holiday destination.
This tradition continued on until the 1960’s or 1970’s, although I am aware of some companies still closing down their factories for the two weeks of the Fair in the late 1980’s, although whether this is still the case or not, I don’t know. If you know of anywhere which still closes down for the Glasgow Fair, I’d love to hear from you.
These days, you’ll still Glaswegians talking about the Glasgow Fair, and you’ll still find the first Monday of the Glasgow Fair Fortnight is still observed as a local holiday, however you won’t find Glasgow the ghost town it used to be at this time of year. Many folk take their holidays at different times of the year these days, so there’s mass exodus on Fair Friday anymore.
Also these days there is no Fair as such that takes place, however I believe Glasgow City Council have been considering restarting some kind of fair on Glasgow Green.