This article has been written in response to requests from visitors during the Lanimer Week, and from newcomers to the town, for an explanation of the excitement, the air of expectancy, and the enthusiasm of the residents which comes to the surface during this one week in June. Each year brings something new to Lanimers. We have a new Lord Cornet and a new Queen. We have a new procession (often with old faces!), with new pageants and displays involving more and more people. It all started a long, long time ago.
Lanark is one of the oldest Royal Burghs in Scotland, its Charter being granted by King David I (1124-1153). One of the conditions attached was that the Burgesses of the town were required to examine their March or boundary stones every year and report back that all was well or ill according to what they had found. Lanark is probably unique among the Royal Burghs in that it has carried out this duty every year since it was first imposed. This duty of the Land Marches soon became an annual celebration – “The Lanimers”.
What started as a simple duty soon turned into an annual festival including horse racing on Lanark Moor with music by the town drummer and minstrel. By the 17th Century members of the Burgh Council were competing for the honour of carrying the Burgh flag or standard. Until 1834 the Burgh Council and Deacons of Crafts took it in turns to appoint the Lord Cornet – the Standard Bearer. From 1834-1974 the Provost & Magistrates alone chose the Lord Cornet. Since 1974 a Committee has chosen the Lord Cornet, that group comprising of representatives of the Lanimer Committee, the Guildry, District and Community Councillors and the Lord Cornets’ Club.
The Perambulation of the Marches dates back to 1752. Until then riders did the whole circuit on horseback. However as agriculture developed in the area, particularly at Jerviswood, it was thought that less damage would be done if horses were absent. The Monday evening marches now draw vast crowds, and involve much fun (and mud) for all. Although horses are involved throughout the week, the big event for them is the Wednesday evening ride out.
Processions, with decorated vehicles started in the 19th Century, and gradually developed into the colourful affair that we have today. Much of this dates back to 1893 when the first Lanimer Queen, Grace Adams, was appointed. At present the Lanimer Queen is elected by her peers, in rotation from six schools, Lanark Grammar, Robert Owen Primary, Lanark Primary, St Mary’s Primary, New Lanark Primary and Kirkfieldbank Primary.
Lanimer Day falls on the Thursday between the 6th and 12th June (General Elections permitting!) Don’t ask why, its just “aye been”. Lanimer Day is the highlight of the weeks celebrations, and for many, the culmination of months of inspiration, application and perspiration. Schools are closed, grown ups are off work and the pubs are open early. The Procession is huge, the children excited and tired, the adults tired and emotional! The Bands now play all day, and Castlebank Park is jam packed with people and attractions day and night. Lanarkians love Lanimers!
Originally the entire Lanimer celebrations were packed into Lanimer Day. Gradually during the 20th Century celebrations began to expand to fill the whole week. This is a list of some, but not all of the events:
- Sunday: The Kirkin’ of the Cornet.
- Monday: “The Perambulation of the Marches” by the Cornets and public masses, followed by the “Sashing of the New Lord Cornet” and the “Shifting of the Standard” at the Cross.
- Tuesday: The Lord Cornet’s Ball. The Lord Cornet escorts the Lanimer Queen elect to a Ball at the Cartland Bridge Hotel.
- Wednesday: Evening Ride Out by the Lord Cornet and friends to examine the March stones on the east and south sides of the town.
- Thursday: Lanimer Day. The Procession: The Crowning of the Queen: Fun for all Castlebank Park. The Queen’s Reception.
- Friday: The Queen’s Reception at the Memorial Hall.
In addition to all the official events, numerous semi-official and unofficial social gathering are held, often in licensed premises. Such events, if held on more than three successive years, become traditions.
(Lanimer Brochure 2001)