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Marymass: The Origins and Evolution of Irvine’s Historic Festival

The Marymass Festival in Irvine, North Ayrshire, is a longstanding celebration dating back to the Middle Ages, although the exact origins of the festival are a subject of some debate. The festival has gone through many changes and adaptations over the centuries, and the modern version that we know today dates from the 1920s.

The Origins of Marymass

Originally, the festival was associated with the Virgin Mary and was a religious celebration in honor of her ascension to heaven. Over time, the festival became more secular and began to feature a variety of activities and events, such as fairs, markets, and competitions.

Carters Society

Today, the Marymass Festival is organized by the local council and the Irvine Carters Society, and it features a wide range of activities and events that take place throughout the town. One of the festival’s main highlights is the crowning of the Marymass Queen, a role that dates back to the 1920s. The Queen is accompanied by her “four Marys,” who are the queen’s ladies-in-waiting, as well as two page boys, all of whom are local children. The Queen’s role in the festivities culminates in her being crowned.

Historical Marymass Events

Another major attraction of the festival is the parade, which is thought to be the largest horse-drawn procession in Scotland. The parade winds its way through the town before arriving at Irvine Moor, where the festivities continue. Here, visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, including young men climbing a greasy pole for a coveted prize ham, and horse racing around the moor.

Popularity of Marymass

The festival takes place in mid-August and attracts large crowds of both locals and visitors from further afield. The Marymass Festival is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Irvine and is an important part of the town’s identity. Despite the many changes and adaptations that the festival has undergone over the centuries, its enduring popularity is a testament to its ongoing relevance and importance to the community.

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