The Honest Toun's Association 1936
The Birth of Our Festival
by Ex-provost Bill Caird, Honest Lad, 1937
The Riding of the Marches held in August 1935, was said by many to be the greatest ever, a view still held by many of us. It was a tremendous show of Pride of Burgh by the whole Community and the decoration of houses and businesses has yet to be surpassed.
The success of the Riding of the Marches lingered on for a long period. During this time, I was fortunate enough to be often in the company of two people who were very keen to maintain some sort of Association, i.e. an Annual Festival. We had been elected Burgesses of the Town during the Riding of the Marches celebrations, we were members of the Rugby Club and walked home together from Inveresk Church on Sundays. These two men were George Aitken, then of 81 Inveresk Road and Jimmie Archibald of Grove Park.
It was after some discussion on our Sunday walks that we decided to call a meeting of people representing various groups in the Burgh. This meeting was held on 26th September, 1935 with Mr David Maxwell of Hope Place in the chair.
Present were:- Messrs George McNair, Tom Mitchell, Alex Davidson, Malcolm Kirk John Clark, James Sandilands, George Aitken, George Colville, James Brown, James Archibald and Ian Archibald.
It was an Informal meeting to discuss the proposal that an Association be formed, with regard to an Annual Town Festival. A detailed programme was submitted and it was the feeling of the meeting that an Annual Festival could be held, on a minor scale, without infringing on the traditional Riding of the Marches.
A deputation was then elected to meet with the Town Council, to obtain their approval for the formation of an Association, Messrs George Colville, T. Mitchell and A. Davidson formed this deputation.
A public meeting was held in the Town Hall, on Thursday 26th March, 1936 where it was unanimously agreed to form the Honest Toun's Association. In these early days the entrance fee was 2/6 and the Annual Subscription 1/-. The membership was very strictly confined to residents in the Parish of Inveresk and applications for membership from 'outsiders' were examined by the Executive Committee. Only applicants with a residential or family qualification were granted membership.
Jimmie Archibald, the first Secretary, who had visited Hawick Common Riding and became the first Moss trooper in 1935 from Musselburgh, played a big part in motivating the enthusiasm during the early months by organising whist drives, sales and all manner of money raising schemes.
Nominations for Honest Lad and Lass were vetted by the Committee and one nomination for Lad and Lass from each Ward was selected.
The election was held at a Public Meeting at the Town Hall on 2nd June, 1936 and Provost Lowe announced Jimmie Arthur and Ina Vass would be the first Honest Lad and Lass.
A very popular choice they proved to be, they set a very high standard in carrying out their duties during that first year and earned the support of all sections of the townspeople for the Festival.
With the start to the Festival, that year, ceremonies were restricted to the Kirking in North Esk Church on the Sunday and on the Friday, a concert and sashing, held at the Town Hall, followed by a Fancy Dress Dance at Stoneyhill Institute, now the Community Centre. Saturday saw the ride-out and sports in the afternoon which were followed by a Dinner in the Grandstand together with an open air Concert and dancing in the paddock, attended by hundreds of people. The first of many great festivals had come to an end and proved that the sponsors had been correct in that there was a need for the people to maintain an annual show of pride in Burgh.
Sadly many of our Honest Lads and Honest Lasses are no longer with us, may I on behalf of the survivors of the 1936 Team convey greetings to this year's Honest Lad and Lass and wish the Festival Committee a happy and successful year and in the many years to come.
(Copy as printed in the 1986 Festival Programme)
The 1936 Official Party