For 2017, Anstruther Harour Festival again revived Anstruther's historic market-day 'Anster Fair',. The market-day is immortalised in the burlesque epic poem "Anster Fair" written by local man William Tennant in 1812, which is set in the Scotland of James V.

The last verse of Tennant's  poem records just how popular Anster Fair was in those days   

Nor sigh the young alone for ANSTER FAIR; old men and wives, erewhile content to die

who hardly can forsake their easy chair, to take farewell of sun and sky

with new desire of life now glowing, pray  that they may just o’erlive our famous market-day

The poem's full 60 verses can be seen on

Tennant's poem tells the tale of bonnie Maggie Lauder, who dissatisfied with the local talent, holds a competition at Anster Fair to find a worthy suitor – the competition involving a donkey race, a sack race, a piping contest and a story-telling competition. The winner was Rob the Ranter, a pseudonym for KIng James V who liked to wander Scotland incognito in search of female companionship. Rob the Ranter later became the name of a well-known Scots pipe tune and song, the last line of which is ‘Gin ye should come tae Anster Fair, speir ye fur Maggie Lauder".

Another of James V's incognito exploits in Anstruther is recorded on a plaque on the wall of the Dreel Tavern, which tells of how James was carried across the Dreel Burn ( this was long before there was a bridge) by a stout gaberlunzie (beggar) woman, who also provided extra favours for her fee. The 'Beggars Bennison', a 18th century Anstruther gentleman's club on the lines of the notorious Hellfire club, took its name from the bennison, or blessing, that the gaberlunzie gave to the king after performing her service.

This year’s Anster Fair had art, crafts and food stalls selling local artwork, seafood and artisan foodstuffs, all in the big Anster Fair market marquee on Anstruther’s Folly harbourfront. Around the harbour there were street entertainers, and the Fair’s other big marquee had kids activities, dance and live music throughout the day and late into in the evening.

This year’s Anster Fair was sponsored by Muir Homes, a family-run Scottish housebuilder that is currently building a superb range of high quality detached and semi-detached homes and cottage apartments at Silverdykes in the beautiful and historic coastal burgh of Cellardyke.  Grace Brownlow, sales and marketing director at Muir Homes said: "We're delighted to be sponsoring this year's Anster Fair, as not only are we currently building new homes in the area, the company also has a long-standing connection with Anstruther and the East Neuk community. We hope this year's Anster Fair, along with the rest of the Harbour Festival, will be a huge success."


Anster Fair's traditional music and dance element was given the Gaelic title "Feis Anster", and  started on Friday evening with a pipe band parade through the town to the harbour by the City of St Andrews Pipe Band.

This was followed by a display in the Festival's pier marquee by Dunedin Dancers, one of Scotland's top scottish country dance troupes. Friday evening finished with a big dance ceilidh led by renowned local ceilidh band Nackytoosh.  Saturday in the marquee saw local band Measach giving their contemporary take on traditional ceilidh music, and Iain Gray accompanying his Gaelic songs on guitar.

Renaissance music expert Jim Tribble from Anstruther, who regularly performs in Scotland’s historic castles,  demonstrated and played the kind of historic instruments that might have been seen at Anster Fair in Maggie Lauder’s day. The photo shows Jim with his hurdy-gurdy.         Feis Anster was sponsored by the Spindrift Guest House