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We started this historical overview of the Victorian Market by noting the ‘meagre’ opening ceremonies which took place in 1870. Perhaps the civic dignitaries in 1891 had also read or remembered those accounts, because when the rebuilt and expanded market was formally opened at noon on Tuesday 8th September 1891 the Town Council made sure that it was the subject of an elaborate ceremonial occasion.

The Scottish Highlander sets the scene with a long article on the ‘Great Fancy Fair at Inverness:

THE OPENING CEREMONY
The opening of the Fair, involving, as it did the opening of the
Market also, was made the occasion of some ceremony. The
Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council had agreed to attend in
their official capacity, and, preceded by the halberdiers in their
ancient costume, and (as befitted the municipal rulers of the
Capital of the Highlands) by the pipers of the 1st Volunteer
Cameron Highlanders under the direction of Pipe-Major Ferguson,
they arrived at the hall punctually at twelve o’clock, the pipers
playing the beautiful ‘Crusaders’ March.’ Accompanying the
corporate body was Sheriff Blair; Mr James Ross, the burgh law
agent; Mr Burns, Solicitor; Mr A. P. Hay, Town Clerk, and others.
Taking up a position on a raised dais leading into the Music Hall,
the members of the Choral Union, under the direction of Mr Ruddie,
sang the National Anthem, while the audience loyally uncovered.
The opening ceremony then took place.

This carefully choreographed ceremony would have been an important civic occasion. Involving the pipe band of the Cameron Highlanders was a particularly poignant touch – the regiment had served in Egypt and the Sudan, with their participation commemorated in the monument in Station Square which would be erected in 1893. The Cameron Highlanders had also, as we have seen, sent fire-fighters to the scene of the 1889 Market fire – it was their intervention which saved the adjacent buildings on Union Street from destruction.

Their choice of music would not be acceptable today, with its overtones of the Crusades and the clash of Western Civilisation with the Arab world, but at the time it would have tugged at colonial and imperial heart-strings and would have met with public approval.

As well as the formal opening ceremony for the new market, the Town Clerk formally declared the opening of a three-day Grand Fancy Fair, basically a fund-raising craft fair, jumble sale and bazaar to promote the development of a skating and curling pond on Loch-na-Sanais and of the Ballifeary bowling green. In this it was outstandingly successful.

“…eclipsed all
previous efforts…”

We will spare you an account of the long speeches delivered by the Provost and other officials; the Scottish Highlander newspaper devoted four columns to its coverage. But its description of the transformation of the market hall into a Fancy Fair deserves reproducing:

“For many months preparations have been in progress for the event which culminated so successfully on Tuesday and the amount of labour that must have been undertaken by the committee and all concerned was abundantly manifest in the extraordinarily complete nature of the fair and its numerous accessories. Indeed it would probably be well within the mark to say that the event of this week has, in point of uniqueness of character, quaintness, and general business-like enterprise eclipsed all previous efforts of a kindred nature in the Highland Capital. Inside the spacious central hall of the markets there was certainly all the appearance of a fancy fair in the literal sense of the term and as the stall-holders or their assistants began to move about in the active work of the day the scene was at once picturesque and beautiful.

The form of the building to begin with is as nearly square as possible and admirably lends itself to a formation of this character. Round the sides are ranged in the form of stalls representations of old Inverness buildings which have so much the appearance of reality that it requires no great effort of the imagination to fancy oneself really transported to a date half a century ago, and only the greater energy of the present day method of doing business serves to dispel the illusion.

“…a spectacle
of no ordinary
description…”

Occupying almost entirely the whole of one side of the square is an admirable reproduction of the old Town Hall, with the Commercial Hotel adjoining, the latter with one of those outside staircases so prevalent in days that are past. The other three sides of the hall are similarly adorned by buildings which we understand are authentic reproductions from old illustrations of the one time shops and residences of the worthy citizens of the Highland Capital.

With their turrets and pointed gables, their little obscure windows, and queer old fashioned designs, a study of the buildings would of themselves be sufficient to attract the attention of the antiquarian and afford material for a very good exhibition to the general visitor. But when added to these there is a wealth of those articles of a useful and ornamental character which only ladies know how to produce, it may readily be imagined that the fair itself, even apart from the subsidiary attractions and novelties, is a spectacle of no ordinary description.”

Along with their descriptions of the opening ceremony and the Provost’s rather lengthy speech, the newspapers gave detailed descriptions of all the stalls, with all the volunteers acknowledged at great length. From this it is clear that the credit for the success of this enterprise rested almost entirely with the women and girls of Inverness – at least 150 of them are named in the Scottish Highlander article – though the assistance of various male tradesmen in assembling the stalls and decorations is also acknowledged.