Fairs were at the centre of the medieval economy. Markets, usually held weekly, were for buying and selling local produce, but merchants came from great distances to fairs, where, in addition to goods, cattle, sheep and other animals were traded. Scotland was at the edge of Europe, but its fairs made it part of the European economy. Fairs were the chief means by which new kinds of goods and luxury items were introduced from wealthier countries, such as cloth, spices, dyes and drugs, and high-quality metalwork.
In 1189-98 Glasgow's Bishop Jocelin obtained from King William the Lion the grant of a fair for the city. It was to start on the octave of the Feast of St Peter and St Paul (29th June), that is the eighth day following, 6th July. The fair was proclaimed that evening and trading started the following morning, the anniversary of the consecration in 1136 of the first cathedral in Glasgow. (It moved to its present date later in the month when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1752). The fair lasted for eight days, counting the evening on which it was proclaimed.
The fair at Rutherglen, easily accessible to Glasgow people, dated from the reign of David I (1124-53) and so was older than Glasgow Fair.
Although fairs existed to make trading easier, they were also entertainment. It was an opportunity for the people to see foreigners and to glimpse unusual commodities. They came, too, just to see the crowds, and entertainers such as jugglers, tumblers, dancers, singers and pipers who found a ready audience.
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