Sunday, 20 April 2008

Links Market Revisited

This afternoon I visited the Links Market: 50 years after my first visit and 40 years after my last. Unsurprisingly much was unchanged but much was very different.

But I am getting ahead of myself: most of you won't know what or where is this market. Their own website describes it thus: "The Links Market is reputedly the longest street fair in Europe, running almost one mile in length along the Esplanade, Kirkcaldy, Fife. It runs for one week, around Easter, and marks the start of Scotland's season of travelling fairs.

A few years ago the Links Market celebrated its 700th anniversary. The University of Sheffield says this: "Kirkcaldy remains the premier funfair in Scotland, evolving from a charter granted by Edward I in 1304. The original charter allowed the staging of a trading fair in Easter week for the duration of 3 days.

The modern fair now extends to 6 days, and is key event for both the showmen and the locals to Fife. The amusements associated with the fair extend the full length of the Esplanade and into the famous 'basin' - the rides and shows creating an avenue either side of the Esplanade, rather than facing out to the open sea. The Esplanade was built into its current form around 1923, existing before as a single track with little to offer in terms of enjoyment. Developments in 1956 saw the demolition of many of the old buildings facing the sea, and the construction of the new flats.

The story of the fairground at Kirkcaldy is the story of the Scottish fairground, with the prominent families of the time occupying key positions in the fair. New rides were given priority at the fair, and this continues to the modern era with showmen such as M. and D. Taylor often premiering their big thrill rides at the Links Market.

Early years around the turn of the Century saw the ornate rides of showmen such as the Wilmot and Evans families - steam driven Gallopers and Switchback rides. The years after the First World War saw the advent of exciting electric-driven rides with the huge Scenic Railways being prominent. Scottish manufacturing company Maxwells (based at Musselburgh) defined the atmosphere of the fairground from the 1950s onwards. Maxwells pioneered the famous Waltzer rides and had an eye for incredible flash and lighting. Scottish showmen soon became renowned for their Waltzer and Speedway rides and provided the 'party in motion' for the fair-going masses - a tradition maintained to the current day. The later decades of the 20th Century saw a predominance of rides from the Codona and White families, who flanked the Esplanade with immaculately turned out and lettered transport.

Recent years has seen increasingly thrilling rides being presented by showmen such as the Horne family and the partnership of Matt and Douglas Taylor. The advent of portable Roller Coasters, huge tower rides and giant travelling wheels has meant that the shoreline of Kirkcaldy is transformed into a powerful beacon of bright light and intense activity for a long week of every year.

Some "rides" were unchanged from 40 years ago - dodgems, waltzers, helter-skelter, centrifugal wall (Wall of Death) and some of the simple slot machines - but the big thrill rides are new.

Unfortunately, I can't even manage the young kids' waltzers without feeling sick. If I were to try a big thrill ride my arse - and everything in-between - would be out my mouth within seconds! I restricted myself to one shot as a pasenger on the dodgems.

More importantly, the kids enjoyed themselves - even if their first ride had them needing a sit-down - and my bank balance survived..... just. Cost, that's another massive change but if I say any more there'll be comments about Scots being tight.

I had intended to include a few photos but none can do justice to the scale and colour of the Links Market.

I'll not wait another 40 years before returning. Next year I'll be back ....... for another shot on the dodgems!


  1. That is indeed a venerable tradition.

    I've always lived in a young country, except for 18 months in the UK where I was constantly being amazed by how old things were. Travelling in Europe always blows my mind too.

  2. Oh! I totally forgot that was on this weekend! I went to work instead....It was such a good day today clearly I made the wrong choice!

  3. Sounds like a fun day :-) Last time I went on the waltzers I ended up with a bruised head!

  4. That sounds great fun - to watch! Like you I am a non-rider, in my case being a scaredy-cat wimp.

    I am glad your children enjoyed it and your wallet survived.