This annual festival started out as the celebration of the Virgin Mary in Irvine Parish Church. Assumption Day (when Mary entered heaven) was 15 August and on that day the statue of Mary would be taken from its altar and paraded through the town.
After the Reformation (1560) this parade developed into a horse fair with traders, entertainment and food stalls, and horse racing on the moor.
In the 1920s Marymass was in decline but was revitalised with the introduction of a Queen and attendants. The Marymass Queen and her four Mary's allude to Mary Queen of Scots and her maids who passed through the town in 1563.
Today it is a week-long event with flower show, angling competition, football match, folk festival and such like.
The photograph below shows a race card for the Marymass races from the collection of North Ayrshire Heritage Centre.
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