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October 9th 1670

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St Dion’s Fair

Oliver Cromwell had little respect for ancient buildings, and during his occupation of Perth he removed the Mercat Cross, using the stone for the erection of The Citadel on the South Inch. It was some seventeen years later that steps were taken to replace the old cross.

The Town Council in 1699 acquired the services of Robert Milne of Balfargie, the King’s master mason “to build a cross as elegant as any in Scotland.”  The new cross was built on the High Street between the Kirkgate and the Skinnergate. On Saturday May 27th , which coincided with the King’s birthday, the Cross was inaugurated.

During this period and for some years afterwards, the Provost of the town was Patrick Thriepland, whose family later acquired the lands and castle of Fingask. Patrick Thriepland was a staunch royalist and prospered with the restoration of Charles 2nd . He worked hard for the enhancement and prosperity of Perth and having seen the erection of the new Cross, he bent his energies towards the creation of a new annual market for the town.

Under a charter granted by James 6th there were weekly markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays together with four public fairs on Palm Sunday, Midsummer, August 29th and November 29th. It was felt that a fifth fair was needed in October and Patrick Thriepland submitted a Petition of Supplication to Parliament on this issue.

“There is an great expediency for another public fair or mercat to be holden within the said burgh upon the ninth day of October which will be very conduceable and advantageous , not only to the weal of the burgh, but also for his Majesty’s whole lieges living near that place of the country.”  The petition was granted and the fair became known as St Dion’s Fair after Dionysius whose feast day was held at that time.

There seem to have been certain difficulties in the early days and there are entries in the Town Council minutes mentioning special concessions. “All cattle coming to market on St Dion’s day shall be custom free for two years.”  Later there was a similar act “exempting those bringing cattle to St Dion’s Fair from paying customs for the years 1674, ’75, and ’76. For their better encouragement.” 

After a few years the date was changed to October 20th and it became known as Little Dunning Fair. The popularity increased and it became an important market for the sale of flax, for cattle and for goats.

Later still, it became notable as a time for the hiring of farm servants.

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