Do you know the mysterious origins behind Kilmarnock Halloween?

Guisers in East Ayrshire take to the streets on the last Friday in October rather than the 31st.

Kilmarnock Halloween: Celebrated on the last Friday in October. <strong>PA</strong>
Kilmarnock Halloween: Celebrated on the last Friday in October. PA

October 31 is synonymous worldwide with being Halloween. Pumpkins, party decorations and plenty of sugar are the staples of any celebrations.

Except in Kilmarnock – unless of course October 31 happens to fall on the last Friday of the month, for that is when the East Ayrshire town actually celebrates Halloween.

It may have started as an urban myth but it has truly become reality with most folk from the area completely unaware Killie is probably the only place with the quirky tradition.

Anyone not from there would question why and quite rightly so. Theories range from the Gaelic festival of Samhain and the ancient Celtic calendar to the clocks changing on the Sunday.

ADVERT

Another theory is based on teachers getting annoyed at pupils taking November 1 off school.

Going even further back some point to when witches were burned at the stake, the practice was halted on a Friday because that is when cattle markets were held.

However the most popular theory seems to be that pay day in the industrial town was a Friday and so children knew they would get a better treat than on the 31st.

Frank Beattie, former Kilmarnock Standard editor and local historian, told STV: “We like to think we are the ones that have it right and the rest of the world has it wrong.

ADVERT

“It’s never really been pinned down but it is the day all the major employers paid their staff.

“Children clocked that dad came home with more money on a Friday even during the 1960s and 70s when industry went in decline.”

He added: “It was accepted most children would go out on the Friday knowing they would get a better treat. In England it wasn’t such a big thing until more American ideas came through on national television.

“I looked at old records and papers to try to pin it down but I couldn’t find anything. I’m happy that the origin seems to be the massive employment and Friday is just when the workmen got paid.”

Kilmarnock was not the only industrial town, though, so how did the local youngsters get so savvy about their sweets and treats?

To find out more, we asked some of our STV colleagues from the area who grew up guising on a Friday.

Assistant producer Lesley Roy, pictured above as a five-year-old clown, never really questioned when Halloween was when she was growing up there.

ADVERT

She said: “I’ve heard many rumours as to why we celebrate Halloween on the last Friday but regardless, it’s a great idea which stuck.

“As a child I just assumed every town must celebrate it then, it just makes so much sense.

“When I was younger I lived in a very small cul-de-sac of around 20 houses. All of the kids living there would go round the doors guising on the Friday after school once it was dark.”

She added: “As I got older, I got wise to the fact Kilmarnock Halloween was a unique thing and so it made sense to take advantage.

“One year I remember the traditional Halloween fell on a Saturday so my friends from nearby towns came to mine to go out trick or treating on the Friday and I went to theirs the following day.

“Even when we turned 18, Killie Halloween was still a thing. The little nightclub called Life would normally be dead on a Friday night but on that Friday it was always heaving with young people in fancy dress.

“More people should think about it – but then again it wouldn’t be Killie Halloween.”

STV Sport online production journalist Scott McClymont also grew up in Kilmarnock, unaware the annual pastime he was partaking in could be seen as unusual..

While to him it seemed perfectly normal that Halloween fell on a Friday he recalls it came as something of a surprise to outsiders.

He said “One year I remember we had neighbours who had just moved from Glasgow and were really confused by the group of kids on their doorstep on October 29 asking for sweets.

“Thankfully they had just enough chocolate to go round but I reckon they probably had to do a rush to the supermarket before anyone else arrived.

“It was only during the early days of my first year at university I properly realised how bizarre the phenomenon of Killie Halloween seemed to other people.”

He added: “Thankfully they all soon embraced the idea as students need little excuse to hold a party.

“I don’t think I’ve stopped having to explain it to friends and colleagues since, although having some fellow Kilmarnock residents in the STV newsroom certainly helps.

“It certainly makes for a better ice breaker than telling people you come from the town featured in The Scheme.”

Fright night: Costumes galore in East Ayrshire. PA

This year, East Ayrshire Council has decided to cash in on the experience as part of the Celebrate Kilmarnock programme of events.

Halloween films such as Monster House and The Witches will be shown at different venues while Sunday will see the local harriers participating in a fun run, in full costume, to raise money for charity.

Treasure hunts and a spooky trail are also being organised by members of the community.

Sandy Armour, one of those organising the trail, told STV: “The whole Celebrate Kilmarnock partnership with the businesses, community trusts and stuff is involving everybody with different theme groups looking at doing different things over the year.

“We know that over the years that Kilmarnock is unique or weird with having Halloween on the Friday.

“People speak about it but nobody’s actually done anything worthwhile about it before, so to speak, so I thought it would be a great thing to pick up on and work the full Halloween weekend into a full programme.”

He added: “On the Spooky Trail we’ve got a few stops about the town centre, we’ve got actors re-enacting moments from the town’s history.

“It’s not Pink Panther type Halloween it’s more your spooky, scary, but light-hearted kind of thing.

“For Friday night we’ve slotted in six or seven groups of 15 and I think there aren’t many tickets left.

“It’s been well received by everyone we’re speaking to and hopefully we can get the same funding next year to go bigger and better. Hopefully this will be the first of many and it will build over the years.”

What about his own theories on the final Friday in October?

He laughed and added: “People say it’s because you got paid on a Friday and they had money then but that’s hardly unique to Kilmarnock. I honestly don’t know.

“It would make sense what folk are saying but why would that not be the case for everyone else? Why just Kilmarnock?

“It’s maybe one of those questions that doesn’t have an answer.”


You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?