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Aberlady Gala - An Annual Celebration

- History and Photos -



Click images to enlarge them
1949 Aberlady Gala Queen
First (1949)
Aberlady Gala Queen
Aberlady Village Gala
June is a month which everyone in Aberlady looks forward to with great anticipation as it is then that the annual village Gala takes place. It begins on the first saturday of the month with the crowning of the Gala Queen and parade of floats and continues throughout the week with events and activities organised to suit all ages.

In The Beginning
It is a tradition which began in 1949 with the crowning - by Mrs. Hope of Luffness - of the first Aberlady Gala Queen, Jean Watson. Her Consort was Duncan Graham.

But where did the idea of an Annual Village Gala come from and why was Jean Watson chosen as the first Queen?

Pipe Band
Aberlady Pipe Band 1951
Aberlady Pipe Band 1951
Fully Kitted Out
At the time, Aberlady had its own Pipe Band which had been formed shortly after the second World War but they had little or no proper uniforms, so at a meeting of the Pipe Band in Shell Cottage, the home of Mr Arthur Guy, the idea was put forward, of holding a village gala to raise funds to have the band kitted out properly.

When the suggestion of a Gala Queen came up so did the problem of how to choose someone for the honour. It was the local Primary School Headmaster, Mr. Ross, who suggested it be the girl Dux of the school ( the Dux was the best girl academically ).

First Gala
1949 Aberlady Gala Queen Crowning
Jean Watson
Crowned by Mrs. Hope
1949 Gala Float
1949 Gala Float
That first Gala began on the saturday with the crowning of Jean Watson on the stage of the Drill Hall ( now the Community Hall ), she and her enterage then mounted a lorry supplied by Gabrial 'Gabe' Sinclair for the parade of floats around the village, led by Aberlady Pipe Band. In a letter she wrote fifty years later - to the 1999 Gala Queen and Consort - she described the parade thus, "This parade boasted a number of lorries and farm carts pulled by majestic clydesdale horses decorated with ribbons and corn dollies for the occasion". The parade was followed, at the Primary School, by the judging of the fancy dress parade.

On the Sunday it was the 'Kirkin 'o' The Queen', when the Gala Queen and her court would attend Aberlady Church, before laying a wreath at the village War Memorial. The remainder of the week was taken up with various events in the village which she attended. Most of these took place in the Church Hall ( it is now a private house ), opposite the Sea Green.

Jean said of her experience "this was a very exciting week in my life and i am so pleased to have been there at the very beginning".

1950s and 60s
The Gala was at its most spectacular in the 1950s and 60s ( my opinion ) when lorries and drivers were readily available. There was prizes awarded for the best dressed floats ( lorries ) and each driver took great pride in how well their float was decorated, which resulted in many really spectacular results. As well as lorries the parade also consisted of the entrants to the fancy dress competition and people with decorated bicycles (they walked behind the floats )- some years there was also decorated cars.

Easy Money
2002 Gala - Fire Engine
Fire Engine
From Fire School
Among the many floats was always a fire engine from the Scottish Fire Service Training School at the nearby village of Gullane. All the youngsters hoped they would be lucky enough to be able to ride inside it in the parade. Those chosen were thrilled as they would be able to operate the bell and klaxon during the journey - to the envy of their friends. The downside of being chosen was that you had to forego a chance of easy money. As the floats rolled slowly along the alloted route villagers would throw money onto them, much of which fell short of, or overshot the lorry. It was then a scramble by the children to see who could get to these coins the quickest, without being run over - it is incredible that nobody was injured in the process. Needless to say any money so collected never found its way into the collecting tins but instead increased the turnover of the local sweetie shop.

1970s Onwards
1980 Aberlady Gala Queen
1980
Aberlady Gala Queen
1981 Footballer's Wives
1981
Footballer's Wives
Even though the Aberlady Gala has always been a time enjoyed by the whole community, the 1970s, with people finding other things to do with their time and lorries being more difficult to obtain, was to be a pivotal time, with the event almost being lost for ever.

Throughout the decade it fell more and more into decline with successive years seeing a shorter parade than the previous one until - and here my memory is a bit vague - it ceased altogether? ( for a year? two years?).

It was only revived when villagers realised that the event could be lost forever if immediate action was not taken. In 1980 a meeting was held ( in the small hall ) at the Community Hall. It was very well attended and a new Gala Committee was formed. I was one of around twelve people who took on the task of resurrecting the Gala, and it has continued to the present day.

Present Day
Nowadays, Aberlady Gala is run along similar lines to those earliest ones with the crowning and parade of floats beginning
2002 Aberlady Gala Queen
2002
Aberlady Gala Queen
the festivities and various activities held throughout the week.

1949 Gala Queen Laying Wreath
1949 Gala Queen
Laying Wreath
It does of course have its differences. In recent years - at times - for some reason the parade has been led by a Brass Band rather than a Pipe Band and as the origins of the Gala came out of the need to raise funds for the local Pipe Band - sadly long disbanded - it is only right that a Pipe Band lead the floats around the village. Thankfully this has been the case most years. Other changes are that the Kirkin o' the Queen is held at the end of Gala Week rather than the day after the Gala Queen is crowned, the Queen is now crowned in the Football Field rather than the Community Hall and the events on Gala Day are also held in the Football Field rather than the Primary School as in earlier times.

Established Tradition
But wherever the events take place it is important that this long established village tradition continues, particularly in these modern times when people often live more insulated lives than previous generations, as it is one time in the year when all sections of the community have an opportunity to take part in something together.

More Gala Photographs

9 Gala Queens  Pensioners Float   Ugly Bug Ball Float  Gala Queen Maybe 1992  Gangsters Float 1993


For more pages of Gala images click Here

We would like to thank the first Aberlady Gala Queen, Jean Watson, for the use of some of the photographs on this and other pages.

If you have any photographs - or know someone who has - of previous Gala's or indeed any other aspects of Aberlady please contact us Here.


Please tell your friends about The Aberlady Pages ( aberlady.net ) web site .


Gala images by year
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
pre 2004





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