9. Dec, 2019

Reflections on the Past



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.........)

Stay warm.

Ben                                                                     Photo - winter reflections by  Bill Morgan