There are many things which bind a community together, but nothing matches Linlithgow’s own ‘Riding of the Marches’.
The tradition goes back to the 14th century when King Robert II granted the town it’s Royal Burgh status and it’s a tradition which continues to the present day.
There are not many towns in Scotland which can boast such longevity of a custom enjoyed by the whole community.
The first Tuesday after the second Thursday in June is the day where the Burgh comes to a stop, shops shut, roads are closed, people return from the world over to their township - and all to celebrate Marches Day. It’s a revered day for some, not to be missed, hence the town crier’s warning that you should only do so under penalty of a fine of ‘one hundred pounds Scots’.
Tuesday 17th, saw one of the hottest days in the area, 26 degrees, testing even the most battle-hardened veterans of the event to their limits.
Unsurprisingly, most adopted a common sense approach and ensured they were kept well hydrated during the day although I’m yet to be convinced that whisky is the best way in which to do this - even with a drop o’ water in it!
Bruce Jamieson, Past Provost from 2003-2005 told us: “It is impossible to sum up my emotions on Marches Day – they change and vary as the day unwinds. At 5-00am, as the flutes and drum come into view at the West Port, my immediate feelings are of the history of the occasion – that we are about to celebrate a centuries old tradition in which I have played a small part.
Just before 7-00am, listening to the Reed Band playing the 23rd psalm, my thoughts turn to remembrance of those with whom I have ridden who are no longer with us.
At the Breakfast in the Burgh Halls, it is all about friendships - old and renewed and of gratefulness as the grace expresses the sentiment that we are all here to experience food and fellowship.
At the Palace and at Linlithgow Bridge, it is about fraternisation – the shared enjoyment of community, humour and camaraderie.
The parade through the throngs of spectators fills me a feeling of pride and shared civic responsibility – we are all celebrating our heritage together.
Blackness is all about poignancy and sacrifice as we remember the fallen - especially in this year of the centenary of World War One and the 70th anniversary of D Day.
Blackness fills me with tradition – that folk have come here for generations to witness the age-old ceremonies – and often hear the age-old jokes!
Finally the 5-00pm procession three times round The Cross, fills me with gratitude - that I have accomplished another, exhausting day and that I am fortunate enough to live in a community such as Linlithgow. Long Live The Marches!
Hector Woodhouse, also a Past Provost said: “The Riding of Linlithgow Marches is much much more than an excuse for a party. It is the sense of history of traditions and of a deep pride in our community and the Ancient and Royal Burgh, that generates that huge emotional fellowship that is felt by every one that day. Long Live the Marches.