The 2016 Royal party:
Queen Elect Abbi McLeish with Marys Alex Bannon, Danni Murphy, Sophie Kirkwood and Chloe Watson
Also . . the 2015 Carters' Marymass shop in the Bridgegate
and in previous years . .
Irvine Carters Society was first formed for business and charitable purposes. Their history is as old as the Incorporated Trades of the Royal Burgh of Irvine. On the left, 2014 Captain Willie McColl with past Captains Andy Tremble and Danny Kerr. On the right, the 2014 queen & Marys. In 1753, 106 members subscribed to the 'Box' - this is said to have been the beginning of their charitable activities which continue to this day.
The Festival of Marymass dates back to the Middle Ages and the rich pageantry of this fair draws old Irvinites home in August each year. Visitors too come from all over to enjoy the atmosphere and are never disappointed.
Interest in this fair appeared to be flagging a little in the late 1920s and credit is given to the then Provost of the Royal Burgh of Irvine, Peter S Clark, for first proposing that a Marymass Queen be chosen and crowned as a part of the ceremony. A meeting took place with the Captain of the Carters, James Sloan and members of his Society and so it was that Miss Martha McHarg, a pupil from Bank Street Primary School, was chosen to be the very first Marymass Queen in 1928. This added greatly to the event. Four local girls were also chosen to be the Queen's four Marys - as it was in the days of Mary, Queen of Scots - and two young boys were chosen to act as pages.
Although, in the 1910s, the trade of horse carter was destined to disappear in an era of motor transport, the Carters' Society survived, and the annual Marymass fair has gone from strength to strength. Entering the 21st century, the Irvine Carters Society is the only surviving carters society. No motorised vehicles are allowed in the parade.
Marymass Saturday - The consumption of alcohol in public places is no longer permitted. This policy, introduced in 2007, makes Marymass Saturday more enjoyable for all those in attendance. There is a designated beer tent on Irvine Moor.
With great sadness, and with sympathy to his family, Irvine Carters Society noted the passing, in February 2015, of Past Captain Sandy Muir. He had helped to organise 46 Marymass festivals. Current interim Captain Danny Kerr said "It's because of men like Sandy that its tradition is still alive today." Described by Brian Donohoe as a "friendly, likeable chap", Sandy did much of the information gathering for this website (its technical organiser enjoying many cups of tea in Sandy's company during the process of getting all its content right).
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