We’re off! It’s the Fife Fair Fortnight exodus

Linoleum Factories - Kirkcaldy - Workers leaving factory
Linoleum Factories - Kirkcaldy - Workers leaving factory

Mention the words ‘Fair Fortnight’ to anyone of a certain age and above and it will conjure up memories of days gone by.

Nowadays it seems to be something that’s been lost, or perhaps if not completely lost, on its way out.

In the past, the trade fortnight was the two weeks when all the industry would close down and all the workers would go on their holidays.

In Fife the fortnight was always the last two weeks in July – the same weeks as the Glasgow Fair.

And for many Burntisland Highland Games would mark the beginning of those holidays as it took place on the first Monday of the fortnight.

The region would shut down, factories, mines and businesses would close so that staff could have a summer break.

Through the west, people may have gone ‘doon the watter’ to the seaside towns such as Largs and Ayr for their holidays, but in the Kingdom there was not just one specific place that people would travel to for the two week break.

Looking back through the archives of the Fife Free Press Group newspapers we’ve discovered that over the years people would go all over Scotland, as well as further afield for the holidays.

The Glenrothes Gazette from July 21, 1965 revealed that there was a sunshine start to the Fife holidays as there was a “mass exodus” from Fife for the annual Trades Fortnight.

It was reported that “with the Fife holiday traditionally coinciding with the Glasgow Fair, Scotland’s greatest-ever number of holiday makers were on the move by air, sea, road and rail”.

Many went abroad in search of the sun. A spokesman for the Glenrothes branch of Mays Travel Agency said: “Holidays abroad are on the increase every year, and this year is no exception.”

The article went on to say that the Scottish and English resorts still attracted their full quote of visitors with Aberdeen and the Clyde coast reporting heavy bookings and in England, Blackpool, Scarborough and the Channel resorts appeared to be “as popular as ever”.

And in 1965, it was the first time there was a “direct bus link between towns in Fife and Butlin’s Holiday Camp at Ayr”.

Direct buses also operated between Kirkcaldy and London, Liverpool, Manchester, Scarborough and Blackpool.

However looking further back long-distance travel has been a common theme for Fifers over the years, although the definition of ‘long distance’ may have changed.

Delving deeper into the archives, a look at the Fife Free Press from Saturday, July 22, 1922: “Despite the scarcity of money and the prevalence of unemployment, the number which left Kirkcaldy during the weekend was quite up to the average holiday total.”

“One feature was the exceptionally large number of long distance tickets issued, on Friday evening no fewer than 200 being supplied for places over the border.”

It was reported that among those destinations Fifers were heading for were Edinburgh and District, Glasgow, Newburgh, Perth, Dundee, Blairgowrie, Crieff, Montrose, Arbroath and Aberdeen.

And in the newspapers from the weeks running up to the two-week holiday break a variety of adverts, selling all sort of holiday items – holidays themselves, clothing and even photography services – can be found.

Despite the exodus of local people from the Kingdom, the fortnight did also see an influx of visitors from elsewhere in the country.

The 1922 reports stated: “For the present week at anyrate east and west have changed places, for while the ‘Lang Toun’ has lost several thousand inhabitants their absence is to a large extent made good by the presence of numerous visitors from the west and elsewhere, who, from this year henceforward, will find Kirkcaldy increasingly attractive.”