If, many years ago, you had travelled the roads around the Mearns at this time of year you would have been met with a steady flow of farm folk making their way to their most important market of the year.
Some travelling with their families and their possessions on carts, others on foot, all with a singular aim… to find work for the coming year!
The May Feein’ Market was the equivalent of Job Centre and “help wanted” adverts rolled into one. Those looking for work and those looking to hire help, came together for a one day frenzy of haggling, of farm hands trying to catch the attention of possible employers, of farmers casting a beady eye in a bid to get the measure of the man.
It must have had a hurried, frantic air at the start of the day, because for a cottar labourer a job meant not just regular income, but also food and a roof over his head for him and his family. Somewhere to see them through not just the summer, but the hard Mearns winter to follow.
But as the day progressed and more agreements sealed with the paying of a ”fee”, the atmosphere would have relaxed and become more festive.
Vendors flocked to these Feein’ Markets, setting up their stalls to sell everything from clothes, to food to household items.
Entertainers, too, would have gathered. It was a chance to sing and to exchange songs and ballads, many of which portrayed the life of the farm folk of the North-east.
For those not lucky enough to find work on that day, it was simply a question of moving on to the next town and another market.
Regular fairs and markets were a common feature in Stonehaven. The Market Square was built for just that purpose. The pends you can still see at the Market Buildings were designed to offer at least some stallholders a little shelter from sun or rain.
That said, in past days it is likely that the Laurencekirk Feein’ Market was the principal centre of the feein’ trade, rather than Stonehaven. Our town considered to be a bit too upmarket, with its tradesmen, fisherfolk and wealthy holidaymakers.
But the Stonehaven Feein’ Market as we know it today has been running since 1973. It has become a tradition in itself. It’s a chance for the people of the town, and those from further afield, to kick back, have some fun and get back, in some small measure, to the roots of our community?