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Stirling’s Gala Days

Plean Gala Day Group C. 1956 (1)
Plean Gala Day Group, 1956. Courtesy of Stirling Archives, donated by Plean Library.

It’s summertime in Stirling so we thought we’d take a look at a traditional Scottish festival that usually takes place in June or July, the Gala Day.

The very first Gala Day may have been held in Loanhead in 1770 when the miners from the Dryden Colliery and their families were invited to celebrate the birthday of local landowner, Lord Lockhart of Carnwarth.

black and white image of a group of girls in long dresses and large hats. One girl sat in front with a crown and gown.
Cowie Gala Queen 1950s courtesy of Stirling Archives, donated by Cowie Library

Gala Days then evolved into community-organised celebrations, and by the mid-1800s they were being held across Scotland to commemorate the achievements of the workers’ rights movement. It was a chance for hard working industrial and agricultural communities to come together and have a well-deserved day off work, having fun with family and friends. Gala Days are still celebrated by towns and villages all over Scotland, and the traditions vary, but many involve the crowning of a child as the Gala Queen, fancy dress, floats, a parade through the main street, races, and large outdoor gatherings and parties.

colourful float lined with ballons and children dressed in red and green gnomes outfits
Drymen Gala Day 1990, courtesy of Stirling Archives, donated by Alison Brown.
Group of children in costumes lines up to take part in a race
Doune Gala c.1997. Courtesy of Stirling Archives, images donated by Rose Ritchie

‘Arches’ are built outside the house of the Queen and her courtiers, and now they can take the form of anything from castles to recreations of movie sets. These modern arches stem from the original tradition of constructing huge wooden arches which spanned the roads in front of the homes of the Gala Queen and her courtiers. Then as now, things got competitive, and prizes were given out for the best arches. Bunting would line the streets, and the whole community got behind the event, with Gala Day Committees spending all year organising the day itself, and keeping their fingers crossed for good weather. Some things never change!

Black and white image of 5 toddlers in costumes, child in the middle is sat on a little cart decorated with flowers
Doune Gala Day by the Castle c.1948. Courtesy of Stirling Archives, donated by Mary Myles

The images in this blog post were collected and donated to the Stirling Archives as part of their Re:Collections project, so we have to say a huge thank you to the donors for sharing their photographs with us and giving us glimpses of Gala Day’s past.

Stirling Archives Re:Collections project aims to use local libraries as hubs for people to come in and share their images and memories. If you want to find out more, contact

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