When Ingliston’s famous market operator caused chaos in Kirkcaldy High Street

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There can’t be a Fifer who didn’t cross the Forth to to the legendary outdoor market at Ingliston.

Run by Spook Erection, they drew thousands of people every weekend, in search of bargains and to enjoy the banter of the great stallholders. At its height, the market had over 2700 stalls, car parking for 11,000 vehicles and accommodated up to 500 buses of visitors. It ran for 30 years.

It was a place which buzzed with noise and bargains as traders sent you home with packs of tea towels they sold through the gift of the gab, and folk looked up to see the jokey signs strung between the lanes of stalls.

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But who remembers the day the company moved into the High Street in Kirkcaldy, caused utter chaos with an unofficial market … and ended up in the cells for the weekend?

Nigel Maby, owner of Spook Erection who ran Ingliston Sunday Market near Edinburgh.Nigel Maby, owner of Spook Erection who ran Ingliston Sunday Market near Edinburgh.
Nigel Maby, owner of Spook Erection who ran Ingliston Sunday Market near Edinburgh.

It happened on November 12, 1977 when a convoy of 100 vans headed into the town centre, led by Nigel Maby in his Rolls Royce. He was Spook - a childhood nickname which stuck - the legendary supremo behind the Ingliston business.

Spook Erection was named because traders set up during the night, and people woke up to the sight of a market which had “magically” appeared!

He clearly had one eye on spooking businesses in Kirkcaldy’s High Street which was then a busy, bustling place filled with major retailers. Locally, Spook started in premises in Balfour Street before that deal was terminated. Then it moved into Volunteers Green until Kirkcaldy District Council forced it out. Those were minor skirmishes compared with what happened on the High Street.

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Chaos reigned for about four hours on the Saturday morning when traders invaded the town and set up an open air market. They arrived in Kirkcaldy in a convoy of over 100 vehicles and began to assemble their stalls in the middle of the road - this was at a time when the street was open to traffic. The market stretched from the Mercat along to Port Brae, and the action led to nine arrests and a weekend in custody before an appearance at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court.

Kirkcaldy High Street, November 1977 - over 100 market traders  set up stalls along Kirkcaldy High Street, causing  chaotic scenes.Kirkcaldy High Street, November 1977 - over 100 market traders  set up stalls along Kirkcaldy High Street, causing  chaotic scenes.
Kirkcaldy High Street, November 1977 - over 100 market traders set up stalls along Kirkcaldy High Street, causing chaotic scenes.

The accused all admitted conducting themselves in a disorderly manner, refusing to remove their stalls when asked to do so, committing a breach of the peace.

The man described as “the general” was Mr Maby. He was fined £120 while the traders, who came from Clydebank, Wishaw, Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy, were hit in the pocket between £35 and £65.

The court appearance also revealed the story behind the bedlam. Two days earlier, Mr Maby called Douglas Nelson, the council’s director of planning, asking what progress had been made with regard to an open air market site in town. When told it was under consideration, he replied: “You will get a surprise one of these days”

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On the Friday a civil action was raised at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court by one of the accused against the council, claiming that, by Royal Charter, a market should be held every Saturday in the town On Saturday, it was time for direct action. Police received a call stating that a fleet of vehicles- believed to be in excess of 100 - was on route to Kirkcaldy The convoy arrived at 7:10 am, headed by Mr Maby’s Rolls Royce. They stopped in the High Street and started to set up

There was no way through for traffic, and Mr Maby and another man walked among the vans telling the people not to obey the police instructions. They were lifted.

At that stage most of the traders packed up and “melted away”, but seven refused and they too were arrested. The street was closed until 11.00 am and conditions were “quite chaotic - as well as causing traffic problems, the stalls sat above fire hydrants, and blocked shop doorways and exists

In court, they were represented by Brian Wood, who said the the Royal Charter indeed made provision for a street market in Kirkcaldy - to be held every Saturday and certain other days of the year for the benefit of the Burgh and its inhabitants, He said the traders had a petition with 9800 names of support.

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After his appearance in the dock, Mr Maby described the market stunt as “a frustrated cry.”

“It was not a wasted trip.” he said. “Traders should have had the opportunity to sell their goods. The least we have done is bring the matter into the public eye, and into the eye of Kirkcaldy District Council which must now realise it has to do something constructive.”

The weekend’s events were also discussed at a meeting of the council’s, planning sub-committee. Cllr James Brodie (Ratepayers Party) said it was “diabolical” that outsiders could come into town and cause such chaos.

But they did, and they certainly ruffled feathers, led by a man who was the “market supremo.” Mr Maby died in 2004 aged 58.

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