My dress was parachuted in for the big day!

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1. The traditional ‘white wedding’ was popularised by Queen Victoria. Some say her white gown was extravagant, but it could have been influenced by her ‘sexual purity’ values

But former teacher Jean Harris took a giant leap of a different kind back in 1954 and her momentous event was one of the star attractions at a show last week.

Jean (nee Hills), from Westquarter, was just 19 when she wed husband Peter, a local miner, in Polmont’s Kingarth Manse and her memory of her big day is still as sharp as it was 59 years ago.

Every bride wants their dress to be the main focus of attention, but Jean has ensured hers is still remembered to this day with her timeless choice
– a charming floral ballerina 
dress made out of an old parachute.

Jean (78), who was a teacher and football coach at Shieldhill Primary School before retiring in 1993, said: “I bought it from C&A in Edinburgh and it cost me a fiver. I thought it was absolutely lovely.

“I got it in the February of 1954 and got married in the April – April 2 because we didn’t want to be married on April Fool’s Day.

“The reception was in ‘The Geggy’, which was what Westquarter Village Hall was called then, and everyone took their own drink along. I don’t think you can do that these days.”

Jean’s wedding memory was one of more than 20 on display in the community wing of Westquarter Primary School last week courtesy of the Westquarter Memories Group.

The enthusiastic bunch of locals, born and bred in the community, meet every week at the venue. The exhibition formed part of their raison d’etre of collecting historic tales, stories, photographs and details of the community from past eras.

This particular exhibition proved quite challenging and took about a year to pull off, with members all working hard to collect all the keepsakes like the dresses, gifts and photographs from the weddings of local people dating back all the way to the 1940s to feature in the two-day display.

Moira Wilson (nee Donnelly) helped drive the effort of bringing it all together, and it was for more than individual posterity reasons.

The 65-year-old was married on October 29, 1966, in Redding Church to first husband Robert Burden and paid about £24 for her dress.

She said: “We discuss a lot at our weekly group meetings. There’s quite a few blethers who come along here, but every one of us feels passionately about what we do which is making sure the history of our wee community is never forgotten.

“During one discussion we all felt it was such a shame that more and more people don’t seem to want to get married any more, with most people preferring just to live together and raise their families.

“While there certainly isn’t anything wrong with that, we just wanted to show the sentiment of what used to be the accepted way.

“We decided to stage the wedding exhibition to show our younger community the wedding traditions that we lived by when we were younger because we think these traditions are being lost in this generation.

“We used to have a show of presents and music was by a band, not a disco. I had an accordion band.”

She added: “We had a few classes in from the school and showed them round explaining what everything was and it how it all worked and they really enjoyed it.

“Other traditions like hen nights have changed as well. In our day a bunch of you went out with the bride whose dress was covered in rosettes holding a potty full of salt that people put money into. The hen would have to stop every so often and jump over the potty too.

“These days hen nights are in Magaluf. It’s a shame that we’re losing our traditions.”

Former taxi driver John Carlyle (64) married wife Christine (nee Clark) in Falkirk Registry Office on May 12, 1974 and had a quiet reception at home with family and friends afterwards.

He remembers the wedding traditions, and the Westquarter area, fondly, with words the modern generation may not be too familiar with.

He said: “‘Who’s doing the purvey?’ – that was one of the first questions you asked when you were going to a wedding. The purvey was the food, the catering, and it was usually a steak pie or mince pies.”

Mrs Harris chips in at this point. “Myles the Butcher did mine,” she says. “And it was a lovely steak pie.”

John added: “People don’t seem to start their weddings from the house anymore. Years ago when you heard there was going to be a scatter you watched that house like a hawk until it happened to make sure you got some of the money.

“Everyone would be out there pushing and shoving each other to get a good position and they were brilliant times. These days kids are all plugged in and hardly ever out the door whereas our mums and dads had to come looking for us to get us back in the house.”