December - the month to celebrate
The end of every year means another chapter has been added to the History of an area and it's people. Times, habits and customs change but to my mind we should always consider how heritage develops and moves on. This year, as is traditional, the annual Christmas market was held in the Aberlour village square. As ever it was well organised and delivered by members of the Aberlour and Speyside Rotary Club, the Aberlour Community Association and the various stall holders involved.
Chapeau to all who helped make this such an enjoyable event for the local residents and visitors to the village. Long may their efforts continue.
It might be of interest to some readers to learn that there used to be another December Fair held in Aberlour on an annual basis on the feast day of St. Drostan who introduced Christianity to the Pictish tribes living in this area circa the late 6th. and early 7th centuries. St.Drostan's feast day was December 15th. and that fair used to last for three days and attracted villagers and members of the farming / crofting communities around Speyside.
Although building began in 1812, the Royal Feu Charter, granted on the 18th January 1814 formalised local celebrations and permission was granted:
" To erect the new village of Aberlour, presently building on the estate of Allochy, belonging to Charles Grant Esq. of Wester Elchies, into a Free, or Independent Borough of Barony, to be called Charlestown of Aberlour, with the privilege of a Weekly Market and Four Annual Fairs"
The Fair days were : Charles' Fair of Aberlour - held on the first Thursday of May, James's Fair - held on the first Thursday of July, Grant Fair of Aberlour - held on the first Thursday of September, and Dustan Fair of Aberlour that moved the Saints day to the last Thursday of November:
"to continue for one to two days....for the sale of Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Implements of Husbandry, and all sorts of Merchandise, &c. Farmers , dealers in cattle, merchants and others may depend on every reasonable encouragement and accommodation from the proprietor that can be expected, and no custom will be levied for three years"
These originally Christian celebrations were very important social occasions when people living in the area could catch up with distant neighbours and hear the local craic and news about life in the area. People would travel by foot, pony, horse. farmcarts and even Spey Currachs and boats descending the Spey. Important business would be conducted in the midst of parties of revellers who would have enjoyed a dram or two of their home distilled whisky and home brewed beers. Mixed in among the livestock for sale. These events were colourful, boisterous and ,not a little, bawdy occasions. Many a participant would have nursed a 'sair heid' on their weary trudge homeward after two or three days of commerce and celebration.
These Fair days are long gone now although some residents can remember the last few Dustan Fairs that continued late into last century. There's a wee bit of me though, that wishes these old fairs could be somehow revived. (purely for historic interest of course.........)
Ben Photo - winter reflections by Bill Morgan
A major difficulty for residents of Speyside is finding words that do justice to the beauty of this area. I live in Aberlour and am very fortunate to know a local man whose photographs capture the ever changing mood and light of this area better than any poet of whom I am aware.
Bill is a lad o pairts and is very weel kent and respected internationally in the world of whisky and, since his retiral from that business, he has devoted much of his time to world travel but is always around this area to photograph the key transitions of the seasons and changing moods of the magnificent Speyside landscape. I will be featuring Bill's wonderful photographs to illustrate this blog.
It has been a strange year weather wise with few really warm summery days although generally it has been really good walking weather, not too hot, not too wet and offering clear views of the ever changing countryside around Aberlour.
I have been holding storytelling sessions with groups throughout Moray that are organised by NESS (North East Sensory Services) an organisation that works to achieve independence for blind and deaf people. These sessions have been really enjoyable and reaffirm for me the simple pleasures to be had by sharing stories within a small group.
I have also held sessions with some of the BALL (Be Active Live Longer) groups who meet weekly in various community halls in the area. All participant are over 60 years of age and have been very lively and fun to work with. Storytelling for me is a two way street and I have gained valuable local knowledge and learned stories from each of those participating groups.
However, the autumn chills have arrived on Speyside and the land is beginning to rest and settle down for the winter. Too soon for many in the village. Apart from occasional groups of whisky tourists at this time of year there are few foreign visitors around and their prescence is missed particularly in the local bars, cafes and shops where the sound of their variety of languages of languages and cheerful banter give a real international feel to Aberlour in Spring and Summer.
We face a very difficult few weeks in Britain as our society tears itself apart over the madness that is Brexit. This is my first blog through which I will keep you all up to date with news about Stories by the Way and hope to meet with you all next year still in my preferred persona of a Scottish European.
photo: Sunset on the Spey - Bill Morgan