Showmen's Guild: Scottish Section

When the showmen became united in their fight against the Moveable Dwellings Bill put forward in 1889, two of the most prominent Scottish showmen of the day were involved. By 1907 when the Guild became split into regional divisions, the names of Swallow, Stround, Paulo, Wilmot and Henderson joined the names of McIndoe and John Wilmot on the governing bodies of the Guild. As Johnnie Swallow writes in his introduction to Round-A-Bout Scotland, published in 1989, this relationship had its problems, the most severe one being the troubles which nearly resulted in the Scottish Section instructing their delegates to inform the Head Office in London that the Scottish showpeople were frustrated with the administration from London and that they would be leaving. At the bi-annual meeting of 1933, held at Swansea, the Manifesto presented by the Scottish Section was the talk of the day, with their fellow showmen from all over the country feeling that there was a lot of truth in the complaints put forward. Unity and co-operation won at the end of the day, with the Head Office agreeing that stricter measures were needed to see that all Sections, not just some, obeyed the rules.

The following information is taken from the Showmen's Year Book from 1900 and reveals the importance of the Scottish run of fairs, not only to their local showmen but for showmen from other regions. The Year Book's advice is to take one or two of the excellent series of Fairs and Rounds organised by Messrs Wilmot, Green, Swallow or White. The 1900 listing includes many famous fairs still with us today with, of course, Dundee, Burntisland Charter Fair, Aikey Brae Fair and Kirkcaldy Links Fair as important today as they were then.

The travelling showpeople in Scotland have as strong a family history and heritage as their southern counterparts. This is especially the case when one reads Round-A-Bout Scotland, which was privately published by Johnnie Swallow, because in his opinion the funfairs in Scotland were neglected by historians and many members of the Showmen's Guild. Famous names associated with Scotland include George Green, a Lancastrian who left his native Preston and found prosperity as a showman and cinema proprietor in Glasgow and elsewhere. The story of the White family tells us how Joseph White and Sons was founded and went on to become one of the leading showland firms in Scotland.

Fairs in Scotland are presented around the same time as they are in the rest of Great Britain with a similar mixture of Charter, Prescriptive and private business fairs found there also. The run of fairs include Buckie fair, Inverness, Kirkcaldy for the Easter period, Elgin and the festivities associated with the Highland Games, the historic fairs held at Dundee and Arbroath, and the private business events presented by Codona's, Swallow and White's amongst others.

We have recently added a series of galleries of documenting Scottish fairs and showmen throughout the 1940s - click here to view these images.