1965 programme - click to enlargeItems from past programmes


including, below:

Local businesses of 1965

Description of Marymass 1867

Scenes at the Moor 1867

This section has been possible through the safekeeping of old programmes by one of the members of Irvine Carters Society.
Read about Provost Brown's moves against liquor in the 1860s - see 1867 article.


1980 - Capt Robertson reports that 'The Irvine Archers' will march with Wallace & Bruce - "This is really a most important item because it is widely believed that King Robert the Bruce was responsible for bringing archery into the Scottish Army of the time".

1980 - Chairman John Carson (not yet 'Jack') hopes for good weather and that "the only water we see is dispensed in glasses".

1979 - Marymass greetings came from Matt Brown, Provost, CDC, Sam Gaw, Chairman of the Marymass Committee, Jack Allan, Captain of the Carters, and Stan Robertson, Folk Festival Director

1979 - a Folk Cruise on P.S. Waverley, from Irvine to Brodick to Campbeltown to Brodick to Troon and back to Irvine by bus was advertised for Tuesday 21st at a cost of £5.95, children £1.25

1973 - Irvine Burns Club offered a Grand Concert of Scottish songs and music in Woodlands for 40p

1973 - the Irvine Development Corporation advert started "There's one thing we'll never change - Irvine's Arran view" - rather ironic that this view was almost change by Scottish Power's windfarm proposal of a few years ago!

1972 - the Budget Rent a Car advert starts "Sorry! We don't rent horses . . but cars and vans are no problem . . "

1972 - the article "Marymass and the Folk Scene" was written by Joe J Caldwell - he wrote that while he feared "long-haired, not-too-clean, guitar playing drug addicts", he found extremely tidy, well-mannered lads and lasses" - the initial pilot committee of the Folk Festival was chaired by ex-Provost Wilson Muir

1971 records, on the Tuesday of Marymass week, a Fashion Show organised by William J Freckleton in the Drill Hall - flagged up as "a completely different type of Fashion Show - first time presented in Irvine".

1971 - T Martin Cameron, President of the Rotary Club of Irvine, wrote: "Irvine Carters Society seems destined to go on for ever" and "No other community throughout all its divisions of class and creed come so close to unity and an indefinable but almost tangible sympathy - an intense feeling of wholeness and of sharing and belonging - as Irvine does on Marymass Saturday"

1969 - the programme contains a photo of the War Memorial unveiling in 1920 - it was set in front of the Town House, but moved after the Second World War to its present site due to the increase of road traffic

1966 - there is a mention of the co-operation of the (then new) Harbour Arts Group in the organisation of folk-singing

1965 - "an ex-committee member" (and an "incomer to Irvine") writes "I would say to all you gentlemen who have come to reside in this Royal Burgh - join the Carters' Society and help to keep our old traditions - in fact it is your duty - so join us ere next Marymass comes round."


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The following businesses advertised in the 1965 programme


Name and trade, 1965


Bone & Shields Ltd, joiners and cabinet-makers

171 High St; long gone

J B Hutchison, plasterer and cement worker

1 Lamont Drive; long gone

Jas Cochrane & Sons, plumbers, heating engineers, slaters

36 Bridgegate; long gone

Visit Irvine's official RADIO CAROLINE SHOP
T F Campbell Ltd

11 Bridgegate; long gone

Hynd & McQuillan, painting contractors

1 Greenfield Drive; long gone

Ritz Ballroom - "enjoy dancing to the EXILES"

where West Court is today

A T (Mays) Ltd, the All Travel Service

71 High Street; where Stagecoach Buses are now

The Delta Bar, proprietrix Mrs J McEwan

still there today!

Gordon Brown (Painters) Ltd

150 High Street; now an optician's

Irvine & Fullarton Co-operative Society Ltd
for the favourite Jodhpur Boots for men, women, boys and girls" and "Modern Pedoscope Fitting"

153 High Street; now a computer shop

Porthead Tavern

still there today!

Crawford - the Schoolwear Shop

33 Bridgegate; now a bookmaker's

Waterside Dairy - Hamilton Aird

4 Waterside; long gone

Jacqueline, specialists in baby linen

5 Bank Street; now a key-cutting and boot-repair shop

James Anderson, driving instructor

apply at 5 Bank Street; see previous

Ayrshire Metal Products Ltd


George S McAllister - a "Fair" treat -
Table Bay Sherry Rich Brown 14/6 bottle

10 Bridgegate; long gone

Robert Wilson, Vauxhall and Bedford dealer

Townhead Garage; now Andrew Wright Windows

"The Co-op" for complete school uniforms

now a frozen food shop

Easiphit - shoes for all the family

now a travel agent's

John Kerr & Sons, haulage contractors

Gottries Road; gone

Gaw's for Gifts

35 Bridgegate; now a baker's

A & M D McAllister, newsagents and stationers
approved dealer for Meccano, Triang, Trix Toys, etc

19 Fullarton Place; long gone

The King's Arms Hotel, prop. Mr John Scott

still there today, now run by a nephew

George W C Wilson & partner, electrical engineer

3 Bank Street; now a hairdresser's

E & J Walker, High-Class Stationers, Newsagents, Booksellers

39 and 97 High Street, now R S McColl's

G & M Donaldson & Son, retail licensed grocers & butchers

37 Thornhouse Avenue, Irvine; still a shop, but no longer a butcher's

N D Alexander, fishmonger and poulterer

10 Bank Street; now a florist's - same family

George Watson, MPS, dispensing chemist

Medical Hall, 110 Bank Street; no longer a chemist's

F Reid & Sons, building contractors

long gone

Maria McAllister, Irvine's leading fruiterer & florist

181-185 High Street, now an optician's/hairdresser's

Caledonian Hall, Irvine & Fullarton Co-operative Catering Dept., for catering at its best

now empty (was a night-club)

Lamont's, the licensed grocer with the modern appeal

1 Eglinton Street; now a Chinese restaurant

J B Shaw, your local Ford dealers

Bank Street; later Irvine Glass & Glazing; moved away 2006

Robert Craig, butcher, purveyor of high-class meat

166 High Street; now Donald's electrical

The Iona Hosiery Manufacturing Co.
sole partner: Andrew Malcolm

108-110 Montgomery Street; now factory units

Greer, Robertson & Scott, electrical engineers

40 Fullarton Street; long gone

Sadie's, Irvine's leading fashion shops

25 Fullarton Place & 44 Bridgegate; long gone

William Kerr, retail and wholesale tobacconist

8 Bank Street; now empty

The Crown Hotel, proprietor John McAtamney

High Street; still there today

Dick's Xmas Toy Fair, opens 16th September
Provident cheques accepted

H & J Dick Ltd, 70 Bridgegate; long gone

Thomas Barlow, decorators

36 High Street; long gone

S M Barlow, newsagents, tobacconists

108 Dickson Drive; still a newsagent's

W Duncan & Son, butchers

14 Bank Street; still there today!

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Marymass 1867 (as reprinted in the Marymass Fair 1967 programme)


The Marymass Fair is the one grand event of the year in Irvine, and is participated in by a very large population surrounding. For a few weeks before, the shopkeepers feel a dullness in trade, on account of the hoarding up of the stray shillings, for the purpose of "hauding the fair", and this by both old and young. It is looked forward to by the young, for that day generally adds to their purse; whilst the more advanced see with it a few days relaxation from labour. We confidently believe that this pleasure would be greatly enhanced were there placed at the disposal of the working man the means of taking himself and family away from the town to other places where they could enjoy themselves for a few days.

Our fair week opened with weather altogether foreign to what we generally have at this season of the year. Good weather for Marymass is the rule, bad the exception. The whole week continued unpropitious, and Saturday came forth in tears. None daunted by the prospects of a wet-day, pedestrians began to arrive and continued to increase till after mid-day, at which time the rain abated and gave prospects, which were realised, of a good day. With the early morn the carters were astir, and from various quarters in the town unfurled their banners to the breeze and rain, thus showing that come what may they were determined to go it, and so it proved, for the town-officer next comes forth and makes the proclamation that "all carters who intend marching in procession are to meet at the old Captain's quarters by 10 o'clock", and ere the hour appointed has come numerous riders on gaily caparisoned steeds are standing at the rendezvous. The Stewarton Band, which was engaged for the occasion, parades the streets and enlivens with excellent music the not unlively scene. The nut-barrows, with their bad nuts; the wheel-of-fortunes, to the owners; the sweetie stands, with their gaudy and flowery confections, and all the parapharnalia [sic] that constitute part of the fair, are all in working order, the anything-but-delightful or musical noise emanating from the Mons Meg throats of the owners is heard above all, whilst the seedy photographic walker, who we think would for once be a great deal the better of a good bath, insists upon the loungers to come and have a correct likeness for sixpence, weather no obstacle, and so accommodating withal, that if it is not a good likeness, they are not necessitated to take it: nay more, for the small sum of one shilling extra, those who never had a spark of red in their cheeks are made to vie the Mdlle. [Mademoiselle], fresh from her rouge. Past the Photo Galleries are Shooting Saloons and shadows of Shows, for they cannot be called Shows proper, the whole forming a first-rate collection for a bonfire. Twelve o'clock, and the streets are crowded, hundreds wending their way to the moor, whilst the carters come to the Court-house and receive the magistrates and others, then march to the race ground. The races commence immediately thereafter, and at stated intervals are run. They are proclaimed by those who know to be superior to last year, and good races too. We must confess our ignorance in respect to the races, as nearly all our knowledge regarding them is simply that the first horse wins. The number of visitors was not so large as on former occasions – the weather no doubt preventing many from leaving their homes in the morning. The hundreds of happy faces thronging the grounds, say that they have come for a day's enjoyment, and they seem to get it. Looking around and seeing such a vast multitude all so well behaved, and so respecable [sic], we thought, "Well, what's the use of all the noise and talk that has been made in the papers of late regarding this gathering! Where's the drunkenness that has been denounced by Provost Brown [see note at end of this article] and others? It must be more in imagination than in reality, as only a few tipsy persons are seen here and there. But then, we think again that the day is young, and so must wait and then see. So with this thought, we proceed along the grounds and see the tents which have attained such notoriety. Passing along, we observe that all are busy, not quite so busy as we have seen them, yet doing a fairish business. Our new feature however, is conspicuous amongst the tents – towering high like a Goliath, and looking down on its pigmy neighbours – stands the tent of the Ayrshire Temperance Union. A most magnificent affair it is; flags floating at the entrances; around it are rung pictures illustrating the effects of drink upon the system. The interior presents such a contrast to the other tents; no roaring, or shouting, or fighting, but quietness and decorum. An airy, clean, and respectable appearance it has; the tables covered with white table-covers, around which are seated a large concourse of persons of both sexes, evidently enjoying the refreshing beverages. Prices are very moderate – cup of tea, 1d; do. coffee, 1d ; bread and butter, 1d., etc. The whole of first-rate quality, the tea putting almost new life into some of the females. All pronounce it first-rate, and only hope it will pay (so do we), but at such prices it can scarcely do so. We hear one remarking that "this is the best teetotal lecture that has ever been delivered"; whilst another declares "that it beats a’ the writing o’ letters in the papers". On inquiry, we find that between two and three thousand visited it during the day and partook of the refreshments offered. We must not omit to mention that the Directors of the Union, with other friends, threw their dignity aside with their coats, and thus stripped, acted as waiters during the day. We must congratulate them on this most decisive step in their history, for by acting in this way they make themselves felt in the country, and give the most effectual blow to the drinking customs of society ; whilst they at the same time test the matter in regard to amusement, that real refreshments are wanted, not stimulants. We hope that next year will see them in the same place in greater force, and all arrangements complete. We may mention here that they paid for tent ground the large sum of £9.7.6, so that if they cleared themselves it would be all; but they must not look so much to money gain as to moral gain. The races are over, and the multitudes are marching to town. On the moor the amount of helplessly drunk is not so large as what it was two years ago; although we are told that a very large number of tipsy persons staggered into town. If a reduction of the number of drunkards has taken place, as we believe it has, we cannot attribute it wholly to the temperance tent, but we will assuredly give them credit for a good portion of it.

The town now (5 p.m.) is very crowded, many proceeding to the station, whilst others are preparing their vehicles for the road. As night advances the crowd becomes more dense, and walking the streets is accomplished under difficulties. At the Porthead, the fair is at its height and going on in all its glory. The steam merry-go-rounds are well patronized by all ages from the stripling youth to the grandmother. The infant Heenan (any relation to the great prize-fighter, we wonder?) of 36 stones weight is being well gazed upon, though few seem to fall in love with her, although she's only 19 years of age and has been so, if we are correctly informed, for the last three or four years. A number step inside of another van to see magic or the mines, whilst others prefer the shooting saloons. Hundreds are walking to and fro with neither aim nor end, but simply to see the fair. By 11 o'clock the respectable portion of the community are moving home and the public-houses are being emptied. We really wish that as the curtains of night have vailed [sic] the sky, we could really draw the vail over the scenes that are witnessed from this time forward, whether they are the results of the tents or of the public houses, truly the Provost's words are verified, for, as was remarked to us "drunkenness like a river runs down our streets", the person must be untrue to himself who does not own that it is most degrading, if he does then, he must be classed amongst those who love to see and revel in vice, for in the words of the poet –
"Vice is a monster of such hideous mien,
That to be hated, needs but to be seen;
But seen too oft, familiar with its face,
At first we pity, then adm'ire, and then embrace."

As is to be expected, after the closing of the public houses, a large addition is made to the number of inebriates. Here and there lying at full length on the pavements, are persons helplessly drunk. Along the streets others are staggering, some cursing and swearing as if all the vocabulary of demons were in use. The roads leading to the villages around have their quota, lying with heads under hedges, with body in road and head on pavement, some half on and half off. At twelve o'clock and after, the streets are very busy, and vendors selling their goods; and not only they, but some of our shopkeepers, hastening to be rich, are as active doing business, their windows glaring in the darkness; others are reluctant to give in, and stand with doors wide open to catch the last penny. The precincts of the Sabbath restrain them not, and they scarcely manage to get closed before they hear the "wee short hour ayont the twal".

As we wend home about this time, we meet more than we could wish to see, some singing, others bawling, and all "jolly good fellows". Further on in the morning we hear "John Brown's Body", with a roaring chorus by the whole company, and we were glad to hear their music dying away in the distance. As we are only relating what we saw and learned, we prefer keeping our thoughts on our ramble to ourselves. In regard to Sabbath, we may say in a word that from all sources of inquiry, we learn that the public houses seemed to do a good trade; and from the number of tipsy folks, we can well believe it. Monday is now part of the fair. The streets were very busy, although a large number set out on excursions; it is a repetition of Saturday, though not on such a large scale, although in proportion the elevated are greater in number than on Saturday. The Dean of Guild gives this order for all and sundry who belong to the migratory tribe, to bundle up their traps on Tuesday, and present the best part of their bodies to the populace on said day. Thanks to him for giving them their tickets-of-leave, for now quietness prevails, and only a relic of the Marymass Fair is seen in the shape of a few drouthy worthies.


Footnote: John Strawhorn, "History of Irvine", p.147: "For a number of years from 1866 the grant to the committee of the Carters Society was fiercely argued, because of the practice of letting tents on the Moor for the sale of liquor on Marymass Saturday. In 1869 the council banned this sale, and for a number of years ‘the Tent Question’ became a major issue in municipal politics. By 1877 the prohibitionists on the council were strong enough entirely to ban the tents, but two of the magistrates granted a special licence, At the subsequent election in November four of the six retiring councillors failed to win re-election, ad the poll was topped by ex-Provost George Brown who re-entered local politics to reinforce the ban . . From 1878 and for the next 42 years the usual £20 was granted for the Marymas races, but on condition that no liquor be on sale."

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by an Occasional Correspondent [sorry, no indication of his identity]

(probably 1867; reprinted from the Marymass Fair programme 1967)

Last Saturday, reader, was my annual holiday – a day which I am accustomed to look forward to with bright anticipations. On that day Irvine is generally honoured with my presence. At early morn I anxiously peeped beyond the window blind to note the weather, but had I not been half asleep I might have saved myself the trouble, as the pouring rain was musical enough to gladden the heart of any hard-up umbrella merchant or scientific cobbler. I consoled myself, however, by thinking of many who had more reason to be damped by the watery elements, viz., the ladies whose chignons could not be covered by a napless hat, and whose ample skirts refused to be encased in a waterproof Macintosh. My SPIRITS were a little elevated, however, when a friend subsequently informed me that the GLASS was rising; and a faint glimpse of sunshine encouraged me to pay my railway fare with good grace, and quietly submit myself to the noisy demonstrations proverbial in a third-class carriage.

I reached Irvine just in time to catch a glimpse of the last tail of the last horse, decorated with as many ribbons as would have served the illustrious Beales and his ministry, and a quantity of banners sufficient to give effect to the best procession of Reformers. Under such a load of honours it is just to add that the animals (that is, the horses) conducted themselves with becoming dignity. Arrived at the Moor, I found the sunbeams shining on a promiscuous multitude, embracing all shades of political opinion and social status, and what seemed strange, the happy sunshine fell as brightly on the Tory as the Radical.

Often as I have attended Irvine Races I never witnessed such a preponderance of the sporting fraternity – never saw so many crutches, never heard so many blind men sing, and never WATCHED my ticker with more zeal. Had the motley crowd collected to show their contempt for Provost Brown's motion anent the tents, or had they come as living monuments of the necessity of temperance? I know not, reader! – you must judge.

To describe the crowd, however faintly, would take too much of your space, and more writing ink than I can afford at present. I will simply glance at some of the most notable specimens of humanity which came under my observation. In honour I must begin with the gentler sex, and the very earliest specimen I meet is a female thimblerigger, whom I thought might have found more dignified employment for her implements of trade, though she should have been compelled to accompany herself with Tom Hood's immortal "Song of the Shirt". This I venture to think was an innovation deserving the attention of the Irvine Town Council at next meeting. Then there was a lady in charge of a wheel of fortune, whose Amazonian qualities would have gladdened the heart of any member of the P.R.. Somebody had been ungallant enough to annoy her, and quick as electricity the Amazon flourished a formidable stick, and her own fair arms dealt powerful blows, which made an effectual opening in the sea of faces, and drew bad claret from more than one unlucky wight. There were females of all classes present – betting, gambling, fighting, dealing, charming, and fascinating, including the visionary lady in the caravan, who personated Pepper's Ghost, and whose praises were sounded by a very black man who thundered a blacker tambourine.

Passing to the next caravan, the scenery indicated it as the temple of a quack doctor, for skeletons are perched in front on whisky barrels, and diagrams of dead men's stomaches, diseased and hea1thy, decorate the canvas all around. A closer inspection, however, reveals a banner with the words "The temperance star is shining", and a peep behind the canvas reveals the tent of the Ayrshire Temperance Union, where crowds are sitting, blowing the heat from boiling coffee and vainly trying to gulp a mouthful at a time, thus affording a practical illustration of the benefits of moderation.

To escape the appeals and the liquids of an ice cream manufacturer I took refuge in the tent, found the refreshments first-class and the charges below par, and I have no doubt that its location on the ground did a little damage to the spirits of the dealers whose tents were near it, as it was well patronized during the entire day. Sharpers were on the ground in great numbers and great variety. First and foremost, a very talkative gentleman with a nobby white hat and a profusion of cheap jewellery mounted a cart and invited a wondering crowd to purchase Brummagem brooches, full of glitter and destitute of value. As an inducement, he popped two half crowns inside the box, and showed his disdain for money by giving the whole affair for 2/6. Of course crowds of spectators kindly extended their patronage, but most of them found that the silver had mysteriously melted into copper, and none enjoyed the laugh against the purchaser better than the white-hatted gent. One might write all his lifetime cautions against this class of "fleecers", but it would not stop the trade, as fools and their money will always continue to be easily parted, and fools WILL find their way amongst wise men, even at Irvine Races. Card-sharpers, thimblers etc., as usual, also did a fair trade, though all of them were clearly marked by some infirmity – a broken nose, a wooden leg, a bloated face, a black eye, a seedy garb, or a shabby hat with a bull-dog head within it. Despite these signboards, however, customers were drawn as surely as the magnet attracts the steel, and left the scene with heavier hearts and lighter purses. But for their ugly looks and agility at picking pockets, they would have formed a valuable staff of stall-keepers at the bazaar in the Royal Burgh of Irvine, and had it been possible to transform them into honest men, just for a few hours their services would have equalled the efforts of the smartest lady stall-keeper. A heavy lot of these gentry, however, relieved Irvine of their presence and their patronage by the 5.25 p.m. train. On the platform at the station a well-meaning and diligent policeman approached one of the most swellish of the pickpockets and advised him in a suppressed whisper to take care of his watch, as there were many pick-pockets in his immediate neighbourhood. The gent repeated his thanks, and at once took his seat amongst a dozen of his own fraternity, to whom he would likely repeat the Bobby's friendly caution. The races, some of which were well-contested, resulted as follows:-

[ At this point, the correspondent details the races and the winners – of the Irvine Cup (value 25 Sovs., being 15 Sov. by the inhabitants of Irvine and 10 Sov. by the Earl of Eglinton), the Burgh Hurdle Race (value 20 Sovs., given by the Burgh of Irvine), the Innkeepers’ Plate (value 10 Sovs., given by the Innkeepers of Irvine), the Consolation Plate (value 6 Sovereigns, for the beaten horses), and the Harness Horse Races, of which four took place – "and if not keenly contested, they created a good deal of interest, and afforded not a little amusement". Then he ends as follows: ]

At the close of the races the Whipmen re-formed into procession, and marched into the town. In the evening the streets were crowded, and continued so till late; but order generally prevailed, and the day on the whole passed off quietly.

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