The Cockenzie and Port Seton Gala is a community event first held in 1949. At the time the Gala was organised by the headmaster of Cockenzie School with the help of the teachers and the participation of most of the school. Today the Gala is run by a group of community volunteers. The Gala involves a procession and somewhat uniquely the opportunity to travel between two harbours on decorated fishing boats – weather permitting. Associated events are held during the Gala week and on Gala day itself and include a fancy-dress competition and fair.
Look at the First Gala page for some details on the very first gala.
The Gala court and participation
The Gala 'court' is formed of many characters in costume, starting with the 'Seton Queen” and her escort, her champion, heralds, standard bearers, maids, pageboys, flower girls, fisher girls, sailors, pirates, Britannia; spirits of the land, the sea and goodwill and many other characters to accommodate every child (of appropriate age) who wishes to take part (Some costumes and props are loaned by the committee.) The court is drawn by a lottery-style draw which is picked by people unrelated to anyone in the draw. Many houses in the village are decorated with bunting and the “Court” houses are often decorated in spectacular fashion (although this is not compulsory.) A walk around on Gala day is recommended to pay tribute to the artistry of parents and family!
There are rules concerning who can take part in the gala which
are partly based on tradition and the need to have a local
connection. All children residing in the village can take part
in the gala even if they attend a school outside the village.
For major parts in the court children must both live locally
(Cockenzie and Port Seton) and attend Cockenzie primary school.
To be eligible to be “Seton Queen” girls must live in
the town and attend the village school. Any child who attends
Cockenzie primary school but resides outwith the
town can also take part.
Please check the official Gala Facebook page for a definitive statement of the current rules as they have changed from time to time in the last few years.
Although children are sometimes reticent to put themselves forward for the Gala, those that take part thoroughly enjoy their day in the spotlight.
Organization and fundraising
The organising committee of volunteers and parents meets from October to start planning for the next Gala which is normally held at the end of May or beginning of June (the date depends on the tides). New members are welcome and the gala can only continue with the help of those who organise it.
Much fund raising is needed to meet the costs of hiring bands, marquees, catering etc. and activities such as discos, treasure hunts, easter egg hunts, etc. take place throughout the year. A Gala programme is available in the weeks leading up to the Gala and any gifts from local businesses and/or townsfolk are much appreciated. Of particular note is the effort of the local fishing fleet who give their boats and time for Gala day.
On Gala Day
In the morning of Gala day the children get ready, final preparations are made, the fancy dress competition is judged and the soon-to-be-crowned Gala Queen makes her way to the Centre. The following map shows where various parts of the Gala take place (click for larger version).
The Gala parade begins at the community centre where the children and helpers board decorated floats and proceed through the nearby streets to the village green where a wreath is laid at the war memorial. It then proceeds to Cockenzie 'Old Harbour' where the queen and court go aboard local fishing boats for their journey to Port Seton 'New Harbour'. Meanwhile the 'Pirates' have taken to sea and lie in wait hoping to capture the "Royal Barge". Battle ensues but the 'Royal Navy' is on hand to defeat the miscreants. The floats carrying the younger members travels along the High Street to meet the court when they disembark, on the way the fisher girls dance outside the Thorntree Inn. The parade returns to the Centre where the queen is crowned by a local dignitary. In the early years the crowning ceremony took place outside the Pond Hall (now demolished), in recent years the ceremony takes place in a marquee in George V Park. During the ceremony prizes are awarded for best dressed shop and to the skipper of the “Royal Barge'. For many years prizes were given to the best dressed houses but parents voted to discontinue the prizes for the 2015 gala.
The Gala Ball takes place after gala day which gives the participants another opportunity to get together and wear their finery.
Port Seton Gala Queens
This is a list of the Cockenzie and Port Seton Gala Queens starting from the very first Gala:
28 former Gala Queens were presented at the 1988 Gala crowning ceremony in front of the Pond Hall. More than 30 former Gala Queens were invited to the 70th Gala in 2018.