Alva Glen was first illuminated in 1937 to celebrate the coronation of George VI. Organised by the town council and using roman candles and 600 fairy lights, the event must have been a great success, since it was repeated in subsequent years. Eventually it drew in so many visitors that the comment was made that ‘Alva Council wouldn’t be happy until people from Blackpool came to the town’.
The entrance of the old illuminations.
In fact, the fame of the illuminations, which were accompanied by music and entertainment, spread so widely that buses and coaches were employed to bring people on excursions from distant towns and villages - even as far away as Glasgow! It’s said that on the most popular nights up to 200 buses were parked in the Johnstone Park.
The Second World War brought a temporary end to these pleasures, but they restarted soon after, attracting even greater numbers. Amazingly, it appears that a total of 96,360 people visited the 1951 illuminations which, at this point, extended over a four-week period and included fireworks. Coloured lights were strung along the paths in the McArthur Braes, the waterfall was illuminated and a variety of still-life scenes such as ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ were presented to eager visitors.
As time went on the event became a victim of its own success, and the huge numbers attending began to cause consternation amongst a number of Alva’s residents who became irritated by the noise, parking problems and the behaviour of some visitors. Sadly, in 1953 the decision was taken to discontinue the illuminations, to the disappointment of many.
Today, however, thanks to supporters of the Alva Glen Heritage Trust, the illuminations have been revived as a regular event that raises significant funds for the work of the Trust in maintaining and improving the Glen. Though more modest in size and duration, the celebrations still feature a variety of entertainment which takes place in the magical setting of the beautifully illuminated lower glen. The occasion has, once more, met with great success and will hopefully continue to be a popular visitor attraction for many years to come.