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Second City of The Empire: 1830s to 1914

Culture and Leisure


By John R Burnett

Excursions to Ayr Although there was festivity at the New Year, Glasgow Fair was the main holiday of the year. During the nineteenth century, the holiday period at the Fair expanded from being a Saturday, first to two or three days, and then to a week or ten days. It started on the second Monday of July.

The Sights of Glasgow Fair Until 1870 the Fair was held on the Green, at the foot of the Saltmarket. Amongst a babble of noise, of pushing, shouting and whistling, were the berry sellers, the pickpockets and the shows. By the 1840s the latter had grown to the point where one of the temporary theatres on the Green could hold 3,000 people. In 1871 the Fair moved to Camlachie.

Day Trippers c 1913 By the 1840s steamers were sufficiently large and numerous to make it possible for large numbers of people to go "doon the watter". In 1840 the Glasgow and Greenock Railway opened, enabling Glasgow people to join boats at Greenock. From this date sailing to Dunoon and Rothesay became central to the experience of the Fair. The Victorian villas at Dunoon, and the ones which stretch around Rothesay Bay, were built for business and professional families to spend a few weeks by the sea. Working people could only go down the Firth for a few days, so accommodation was not built for them. They were crushed into houses, sometimes with two or three families sleeping in one room, and many slept in the open air. "How do you get more people into a Rothesay pub at the Fair?" asked the Rothesay Advertiser. "Take off the wallpaper".

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