IT WAS the city's biggest birthday party and lasted a whole year.

The celebration of York's 1,900th birthday took in balls, performances, services, galas, fairs, and even a visit from the Queen.

The year of revelry kicked off with a New Year's Eve Ball in the Assembly Rooms.

Everyone seemed to be involved in the celebrations in one way or another, remembers Janet Farmer.

Janet, who works at Pocklington Arts Centre, was only 12 years old in 1971.

York schools were invited to take part in a pageant in York Minster, she said.

Each school acted scenes depicting the history of York on wagons.

She performed a scene with Queen Anne Grammar School, based around the workmen involved in the building of the Minster.

"Our wagon was inside the South Trancept," she remembers.

"We were dressed up as stone masons and labourers in these medieval sack cloth-style tunics.

"I seem to remember the celebrations were a big thing at the time and we were learning about York and its history in school. "Everyone seemed to learn more about York."

On June 28, 1971, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh officially endorsed the celebrations by visiting York.

Les Marsh, who was a young councillor back then, remembers meeting them in the Museum Gardens.

There were street decorations and a great deal of excitement, said Mr Marsh.

"York was very proud. We have a tremendous history to look back on and I only wish that sense of pride was there now," he said.

One of the most spectacular events was the six-day Services Searchlight Tattoo on Knavesmire in September.

A new fanfare, called Eboracum, was composed for the occasion by Captain Keith Boulding, director of music for the Royal Signals at Catterick.

It heralded a magnificent programme featuring no fewer than 520 musicians from nine service bands.

Around £1 million-worth of military hardware formed a static display on the Knavesmire all week. Exhibits ranged from a Thunderbird guided missile and a 50-ton Chieftain tank to a Navy Whirlwind helicopter. Even freshly baked buns from a field bakery were on show.

Other events dotted throughout the year were lectures on Roman York, an archery tournament, a transport of yesteryear' fair, a Bootham Park gala with fireworks finale, an exhibition of Roman objects, an Edwardian fair, a 1,900th celebration evening race meeting, the Sealed Knot procession and ball, and the cremation of Emperor Severus after a torchlight procession.

Juliet Carroll remembers her mum taking her to the Castle Museum.

"The Victorian Street came to life, with the sweet shop selling sweets of the time and the Post Office selling penny black stamps and various characters dressed in costumes of the time," she said.

"The jail housed a live' prisoner. I think the theme was the Living Past.

"I seem to recall that the Queen visited and I can remember standing behind barriers, again with Mum, at the bottom on High Ousegate/Spurriergate and watching her carriage go up High Ousegate."

All kinds of souvenirs were produced for York's birthday, from replica Roman lamps made by The Potters Wheel, which were sold for £1.25, to statuettes of Petilius Cerialis made by Bellerbys of Petergate for 95p each.

You could even toast the year with a variety of celebration ales and beers, provided by local brewers especially for York.

The celebrations ended in December, with a production of Handel's Messiah in York Minster.

"The celebrations throughout 1971 are designed as a prolonged birthday party for citizens of York," read a special anniversary supplement in The Press.

"But it is a party to which everyone is invited.

"From within its ancient walls, York has not always looked favourably on outsiders - and sometimes with good reason.

"Today, however, the city is looking outwards, welcoming everyone from near and far to see and share in its proud heritage. This 1,900th anniversary year will thus be a national and international occasion as well as a local celebration."