There is something about a market that is irresistible and I’m sure, like me, many of you make a beeline for markets wherever in the world you are, whether that be a Moroccan Souk, a middle east bazaar, or a local farmers’ market. I’ve bought jewellery from market stalls in Italy, Malta, Spain, and many other places. I still have silver earrings I bought in Yugoslavia a few years before war ravaged the country. In case I haven’t mentioned it, I have a weakness for earrings.
|St Jacob's Market, Canada|
The largest market I’ve visited over the past few years was St Jacob’s Market in Ontario, Canada. If any market deserved the name of muckle market, it is surely this one with masses of outside stalls where a wanderer could easily get lost and an indoor market on two levels. Food and produce downstairs and crafts and artisan goods upstairs. A market-goers paradise.
|St Jacob's Market outdoors|
|St Jacob's market, Crafts section upstairs. An Aladdin's cave of goodies.|
I love to wander around markets whether they are indoors or outdoors. The stalls vary from those selling food to the ones selling all kinds of crafts. And you can always tell when you’re in the vicinity of the fish stall by the smell.
Some indoor markets nearer to home, like the ones in Bristol and Newcastle, are permanent fixtures. The stalls trading in much the same way as the shops on the High Street. And, if they’ve ever visited it, who could ever forget The Barras, Glasgow’s outdoor market. Then there are the markets which set up frequently, some once a month like the various farmers’ markets up and down the country. Some more seasonal, like the Edinburgh Christmas Market and the various town markets marking specific dates like the Valentine’s Muckle Market taking place the week before Valentine’s Day in Brechin, Angus. In case you don’t know where that is, it’s in Scotland.
|Entrance to The Barras, Glasgow|
Brechin recently resurrected the Muckle Market largely through the efforts of Glen Grant and his team of volunteers. They set one up at Christmas and it was fantastic. It was in the Mechanics Hall in Brechin and spread out over two floors of the building. An ambitious undertaking that was highly successful.
So, what is a Muckle Market? Well, muckle is an old Scots word that means big, and the original Muckle Market referred to a historical market that was held regularly. So, basically it just means a big market.
Brechin has had markets since the Middle Ages. The right to have a market in Brechin was originally granted by King David 1, who reigned from 1124 to 1153 and this right was confirmed by William the Lion. This privilege to hold a market was granted and confirmed by repeated charters over the years and the burgesses of Dundee and Montrose were prohibited from ‘troubling the merchants of Brechin’. So, Brechin markets were exclusively for Brechin merchants.
Over the following years, as well as the Muckle Market there were various markets in Brechin, one for farmers, initially at the Prentice Neuk and then at Park Road, which would be mainly livestock; the horse market at Clerk Street; the Timber Market, frequented by Highlanders, at Market Street; and not forgetting the Trinity Market, locally known as the Taranty market, established in 1819. This market ran for many years, and I remember visiting it in the 1960s when it was still going strong and had a range of amusements as well as stalls.
|Market at the Mercat Cross, Brechin|
As for the Muckle Market. This was originally in St Ninians Square, a short distance from the railway station. As its name suggests, it was a big market. It was also a hiring or feeing market. This was where farm workers came to sell their services to the highest bidders. The farmers looking for ploughmen and dairy maids would come to inspect what was on offer. The women would line up at one side and the men at the other to be inspected by the farmers looking for workers. Once a deal was struck, the worker would be hired for a year or half-year. I can’t help feeling it must have been a somewhat similar experience to that of slaves being put on display at a slave market.
|Brechiners meeting at the Mercat Cross, the main hub of the town|
Although the main business at these markets was the hiring of workers, it was also a day out with amusements and stalls and, on the completion of business, attention would turn to sampling everything on offer.
|Mechanics Institute, Brechin. New hub for the Muckle Market|
As I said previously, the revival of the Muckle Market in Brechin at Christmas was an all-round success and I’m now looking forward to the Valentine’s market which takes place on Saturday 5th February and Sunday 6th February at the Mechanics Hall in Brechin, with all sorts of goodies on offer. And I assure you that with over 32 stalls in the building it will live up to the name of Muckle Market, although I can’t guarantee we’ll be hiring out ploughmen or dairymaids.
Check out the Brechin Muckle Market Facebook page and see what it’s all about.