Speeches of the Marches

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BETWEEN the marching, feasting and revelry of the day, the speeches have a special part to play in marking out the boundaries of the royal burgh.

Breakfast at the Burgh Halls was the perfect start to the day with Norman Cummings delighted to make a return on his outgoing year as Provost. He welcomed everyone back to the town’s ancient townhouse, the “home of the Marches” saying that it was good to be back where the Marches belonged.

In one of the best replies in recent years, Leslie Donaldson from the world of sport and teaching spoke of early memories of Norman and many an unprintable joke that had the room in uproar. It was a great start to the day and the wit was only to get better.

At the Brig, deacon Dougie Ure made a fitting address to the Marches and the Brig but bemoaned the fact he had used A4 paper favoured by his wife rather than handy index cards. Deacon Francis Meenan replied with a tirade of witty banter reminding those of the Deacon’s Court and townsfolk they were kept in line by Barbara Braithwaite, and even though she was an MBE, the truth was we were all part of Barbara’s empire.

Deacon Ross McIntosh addressed the Dyers and other fraternities, including the newest members of the Dyers who will carry on the traditions as the only surviving Linlithgow fraternity, a point echoed by Deacon of the Dyers David Bennie who said they had refused to die out.

After the western boundary was found to be intact, the procession made its way to the ancient port of Blackness where, after the traditional laying on of the wreaths at the war memorial, it was on to Baron Bailie Bobby Fleming’s reception at Low Valley House. Blackness milk and shortbread in hand, junior bailie John Cunningham thanked Bobby for keeping the port safe for another year and congratulated him on his new grandson Lucas – a future Baron Bailie. In his reply Bobby praised the magic of the Marches and the feeling of pride and honour it gave him to protect the ancient boundary.

And so the crowd proceeded to Castle Hill to test their soles on the steep climb, to fence the court and install the Baron Bailie for another year. The court was adjourned until 2012, or until a riot upsets proceedings. Lunch at Blackness was served in the Marquee, accompanied by a sung grace by Barbara Braithwaite.

Made famous by Marches memories of years gone by, Bobby Bennie addressed the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow and outgoing Provost Norman Cummings as Linlithgow’s favourite son. As always, wife Val was the butt of many jokes, one being that the secret of their long marriage was that neither wanted custody of the boys. Visitors including Evelyn Kidd of the Gala Day committee were not spared the lashings of Bobby’s tongue, delivered with perfect timing and dead pan expression. In his ‘Ode to Wee Norm’ he talked of the top man who may be going, but would never be forgotten.

Norman’s reply was one of relief as he thought he may have come off worse, and he was followed by tastin’ bailie Jim Carlin who thanked the guests of the day, and finally newcomer principal Janice MacNeill of Donaldson’s School who praised the town for its friendliness, and begged forgiveness for mixing up the Marches and Lanimers. Deacon Andy Kowalczyk thanked everyone taking part in the day, as well as a thanks on behalf of his wife as his speech required him to stay sober till that point.

It was an emotional finale at the Cross Well with Norman and his bailies aware that this was to be the last time he would head the procession. In his final speech Norman thanked all those who had made his time so special, and the crowd joined Deacon of the Dyers David Bennie in a heartfelt ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ – a fitting ending for a man who fit the bill perfectly. It was a tearful Norman who was heard shouting out the immoral lines, “Safe in Safe out Long Live Linlithgow and Long Live the Marches!”