Looking back, and taking you through the history of fairgrounds that have and still do visit Ayr over the years, with a touch of circus input, Ayr Nostalgia and some pics from the other more famous Ayrshire Fairs.
Ayr’s big weekend – but no funfair
THE FAIR has moved on from Ayr – before the holiday starts.
That’s the crazy situation in the Auld Toun as everyone gears up for Ayr Races.
But there’s no business for show business after centuries of fairs.
“People will be looking for us, but we won’t be there,” said showman Irvin Stringfellow
Mr Stringfellow tried to explain to a council official how the fair is part of Ayr’s history.
“I even took along a map of the town, with eight possible locations,” he said.
“But he said he couldn’t help with any of them.”
One of them was the Low Green – one of Ayr’s biggest open spaces.
“I knew a circus has recently been on the Low Green,” said Mr Stringfellow.
“And I was told a fair can be permitted – if it’s linked to another major event in the town.
“But the estates department official I spoke to didn’t think Ayr’s biggest holiday and Scotland’s biggest race meeting is major enough.”
Horse Racing is said to have begun in Ayr as long ago as the 1500s.
Crowds came to enjoy the racing and this led to entertainments including a fair.
The ‘shows’ were once right in the heart of the town, probably in the Sandgate.
Many towns keep the street fair tradition, as it is good business for everyone.
But officialdom in Ayr has never gone out of its way to welcome ‘the shows’.
And the town’s fair has had to move around a bit.
It attracted huge crowds at Newton Park from the 1920s to 1940s.
Then it was at Dam Park for a time in the 1950s, and at Churchill Barracks, near the seafront in the 1960s.
When Ayr couldn’t host all the shows who wanted to come, Prestwick helped out.
And there were September Fair shows at Prestwick Toll and Prestwick seafront for a number of years.
Heathfield then became the venue for around 15 years, prior to a new car showroom going up.
And Ayr Racecourse provided a venue this year – but only before the big race weekend.
A spokesman for Ayr Racecourse said: “We were more than happy to welcome the funfair here last week.
“But we are unable to accommodate it this week, as the ground is needed for parking, and the element of noise could have affected the horses.”
Veteran showman John King was one of those who had to move on.
He said: “I’ve been here for 52 successive fairs.
“And I’m very very sad not to be in Ayr for the races.”
Mr King added: “A proud tradition has come to an end.
“All the showpeople want to be at Ayr for the September Fair.
“I was lucky to inherit ground through my wife’s grandparents, the Neilson family.”
Jim McQuillan is South Ayrshire Council’s head of property and neighbourhood services.
He confirmed Mr Stringfellow had approached the council for help with a site.
But Mr McQuillan said: “Unfortunately, these sites either posed public health and safety risks, or were too close to residential areas.”
He also confirmed that South Ayrshire Council earlier this year adopted new criteria for the use of Low Green.
Mr McQuillan said: “As trustees of the land, it was agreed that applications needed to offer additional leisure, recreation, entertainment and similar facilities with the potential to attract visitors to Ayr.”
He added: “These facilities should not conflict with other planned tourism related activities or events in the area at the same time.
“The new policy does allow for the provision of a fairground but only as an integral part of a wider event.”
A HUGE clean-up operation greeted showpeople when they arrived in Ayr this week in 2009, to stage what is going to be the last ever September Funfair on its present site since 1987, in 2010 its hoped that the centuries old funfair can move over to Ayr Racecourse or the Low Green, as this site at Heathfield Road is due to be redeveloped when the shows leave in two weeks time!
Workers were due to set up their gear for the famous Codona Funfair, due to open tonight(Thursday).
But they were faced with a rubbish tip left behind by gypsy travellers who objected to leaving the site.
Trouble almost flared on Sunday when the Codonas rolled into town for their popular two-week fair.
But their base was occupied by a group of travellers – who weren’t for moving.
After a brief stand-off the travellers agreed to shift camp, but made their mark on the site before leaving.
Now the showpeople face a race against time to get the site cleaned up ahead of a council visit.
Stall holder John Irvin explained: “This isn’t a new problem for us, but usually the travellers will accept the land is ours and move on.
“However, this time we faced a lot of backlash and they left the place in a right state.
“There’s gas tanks, all sorts of rubbish and a smashed up caravan – and it’s now up to us to clean the mess away.
“The council come for a site visit to grant us our licence, but if we haven’t cleared up the mess left by other people, we won’t be able to open.”
The row is just the latest in a long line of problems involving the travelling community, who are increasingly setting up camps around South Ayrshire.
Authorities are relatively powerless when it comes to stopping the roaming neighbourhoods.
And that angers the showpeople, who say they’re tarred with the same brush.
John, 41, revealed: “People tend to think that travellers are travellers and look at us all the same.
“Our fear is that they see the terrible state of this site and blame us for it.
“We come here, we put on the shows, we pay for our rubbish bags and keep the place clean.
“Yet now we’re having to clean up other people’s mess. None of us want to pick up human waste and don’t feel we should have to.”
Nearby garage businesses are also thought to be unhappy by the presence of the travellers so close to their premises.
And it’s believed the travellers may return to the privately owned land once the showpeople pack up in a fortnight.
MP Brian Donohoe has led the fight against travellers living above the law, and sees this as just another example.
He confessed: “I’m appalled and not at all surprised.
“It’s simply another example of complete anarchy among the travellers and I get extremely angry when I hear stories like this.
“Sooner or later they must be held to account for their actions.”
Graham Peterkin, depute chief executive of South Ayrshire Council, added: “The land on which the Codona’s Funfair will take place in Heathfield in Ayr is not owned by South Ayrshire Council. It is privately owned.
“The council will carry out necessary inspections of the area prior to deciding whether to issue any licence that the funfair operators will require to carry out their public entertainment.”