The Royal Burgh of Lanark Crest
Lanark Lanimers - One of Scotland's Oldest Traditions Lanimer Mascot - Larry Lanimer Mascot - Bonnie

An ancient celebration held within the Royal Burgh of Lanark on the Thursday between the Sixth and Twelfth days of June annually since the year 1140.

Whit's The Mairches A' Aboot?

Whenever Linlithgow Rose FC play local rivals Bo'ness United in a derby football match, the Bo'ness terraces ring with the refrain 'Whit's the Mairches a' aboot?" It's a taunt designed to annoy the Linlithgow supporters who are, to a person, staunch and loyal followers of the town's Day of Days, held every year on the first Tuesday after the second Thursday in June. The Bo'ness question sterns from the fact that, to the untutored eye, the Linlithgow Marches Day does seem an odd mixture of tradition, pageantry, ancient lore and unbridled revelry. To Bo'nessians, more used to their own Gala or 'Fair Day', involving nothing other than the crowning of a child Gala Queen, a few mock-heraldic speeches and a street procession, the Riding of the Marches must indeed seem a quaint and esoteric custom.

What we see today on the ancient streets of Linlithgow on that unforgettable Tuesday in June has its roots deep in Scottish history. The granting of a Royal Burgh Charter was crucial to the political existence and economic well-being of a community. When King Robert III granted Linlithgow its burgh status in 1389, the town was able to exercise control over its domestic affairs: charging tolls on entry to the town; leasing water mills; holding a weekly market at the Cross; spending what it thought necessary on education and burgh infrastructure.

In order to continue that independent control, the Town Council, led by their Provost and Bailies, had to promise to perambulate annually the boundaries of the town, the Marches, and ensure that their domain was in safe hands. This is the origin of the Linlithgow Marches Day: an event which has continued almost without cease for well over 600 years and one that is still led by the Provost and the Bailies - now elected by the Deacons' Court - the specially created successor of the Burgh Council which went out of existence in 1974.

To this day, the town continues to cling on to its proudly-held traditions: those ancient practices it shares; those occasions when the community unites to express its deep-rooted emotions; to cherish its very identity and its historic roots.

In this respect Linlithgow and Lanark are as one: towns linked by heritage and history: once sharing a common Member of Parliament; once entrusted with the nation's weights and measures and now equally remembering to share their common love of time-honoured practices and revisiting their historic landmarks. It is fitting that representatives from the two burghs are invited to each other's historic celebrations.

We do share so much common tradition. The same sights inspire us: the burgh and national standards proudly raised on our annual day of days; the presentation of the long-sought- for trophies: whether it's the Waugh Cup or the Vancouver Shield; the military band parading our High Street. The same sounds kindle the same emotions: the noise of horse hooves on cobbles; the cheers of the crowd; the strains of the flutes; the skirl of the pipes. The same feelings pervade our breasts: those of friendship, fraternity and fellowship.

The same quaint proclamations evoke the same knowing smiles:

"all residents of Linlithgow are summoned to appear on the Marches Day in their best equipage, apparel and array - on penalty of 100 Scots" and I particularly like Lanark's declaration about a "respectful and ready obedience being shown to teachers." We rejoice to the same heartfelt cries of "Safe oot; Safe in" as the cavalcade returns from its perambulations.

Nothing will ever stop our dearly held customs when the 'communitas' of Lanark and of Linlithgow pay tribute to their existence and revel in their individual identity. Even the Second World War didn't manage to stop us. The story is still told of wartime Linlithgow when the Marches was officially cancelled under the Government's DORA legislation which forbade any large public gathering which might be a target for enemy bombers. But tradition is not an easy thing to legislate against.

Coming off the night shift from Lochmill Paper Mill at 5-OOam, on the first Tuesday after the second Thursday, in June 1940, two of the machine laddies, Geordie Ainslie and Phil Pudney, obtained a pair of drumsticks, a tin lid and a penny whistle and marched through our westernmost boundary, where the River Avon flows through Linlithgow Bridge, all the while belting out the Marches tune: 'The Roke and the Row' with all the energy and enthusiasm they could muster. Windows were thrown open and bleary eyed women in goonies and curlers were heard to shout such approbation as: "Gaun yersel lads; dinna let that b---- Hitler stop oor Mairches."

Nothing will ever stop the Marches - nor Lanimers. Our ancient ceremonies will be here long after we have gone. Long Live the Marches; Long live Lanimers.

Bruce Jamieson
Provost of the Court of Deacons, Linlithgow