A Linlithgow group spent the Easter weekend on the continent, cementing the town’s twinning link which is now 30 years old.
And next year, residents of Guyancourt will descend on Linlithgow for the 30th anniversary celebrations here in Scotland.
Among the number who travelled to the French twin town this year was Ian Donaldson, the first ever chairman of the twinning association who has recently returned to the group.
Ian was instrumental in forming the twinning association, following a Linlithgow Rugby Club trip to see the France v Scotland match in 1987.
While France won the match 28-22, the Scottish visitors came home with a far better result.
Ian explained: “We visited Guyancourt when we were there and I think the town’s twinning association thought it was a done deal!
“So when we came back, we decided we would either have to make it happen or kill the idea.”
A formal request had been made to Linlithgow Community Council so the association was formed at its behest, assisted by local legendary councillors Jimmy McGinley and Jim Clark.
Indeed, Jimmy McGinley made such an impression during the early years that, after his death in July 1997, the youth club in Guyancourt was named after him.
In 1988, a party from Linlithgow took the long bus ride to Guyancourt where the official twinning charter was signed by Ian.
The following year, a party from Guyancourt came to Linlithgow for the first time and a similar charter was signed here, in the town’s Rose Garden.
The 30th anniversary of that event will be celebrated next year. Sadly, the association may not be able to replicate all the guests who turned up in July 1989.
Ian explained: “It just so happened, by sheer chance, that the Queen was visiting Linlithgow that weekend.
“So we had the Royal visit on the Saturday morning, a big reception at Hopetoun House that night and the charter signing in the Rose Garden on the Sunday.
“It was an amazing start to our twinning.
“I doubt we’ll manage to arrange for the Queen to visit for the 30th anniversary but we might be able to get Mary Queen of Scots along!”
Preparations for next year are still at the very early stages – watch this space for more details.
As for this year, even more friendships were forged, with 37 people making the trip to Guyancourt, including several members of the town’s Ramblers Association.
Last year, the ramblers hosted members of the Guyancourt Walking Group and they travelled to France this year to cement those friendships.
From the outset, the twinning association wanted to ensure the partnership was unique in that visitors stay with host families.
And that still remains the case today.
Ian said: “In some areas, twinning was seen as a junket, with councillors being hosted in hotels.
“Right from day one, we avoided that by staying with host families and integrating into the lifestyle.
“There was a lot of sign language at first but, as the years have gone on, people have learned each other’s languages.
“The twinning association remains open to everyone in the town, whether they speak French or not. There is no membership fee – if you want to take part you can.”
Those who took part this Easter were certainly shown a good time.
The Scots were welcomed by the Mayor of Guyancourt, Marie-Christine LeTarnec, and then introduced to their host families.
For some, it was their first contact with a French host family but, for others, it was renewing old friendships going back many years.
Ian said: “My wife Amy and I stayed with the family we’ve known since the very beginning – Jean Claude and Marie Claire Martin.
“They have become firm friends and we are in touch with them regularly.
“We all had a fantastic weekend – there’s such an aura of friendship and the entertainment laid on is terrific. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the weekend.”
Looking forward to next year, Ian hopes more locals will sign up to show the French visitors a good time.
He added: “We’d love to hear from anyone who wants to take part in the 30th celebrations next year.
“The association is open to anyone in the Linlithgow area who wants to take part.”
For more details, visit https://linlithgowtwinning.wordpress.com.
Taste of the French weekend
On Friday evening, the Scots visitors spent time with their host families.
On Saturday morning, they were split into two groups – one, including a number of Ramblers from Linlithgow, going into Paris for a guided ramble through 18km of covered passages in Old Paris, the other journeying to the Forest of Fountainbleu to discover a charming artist village, Milly-la-Forêt, and a visit to a glass factory.
The main event of the weekend took place on Saturday evening when everyone came together in a large hall for dinner and a musical show with songs and dances in three acts.
Compiled and presented by Guyancourt Twinning Association and friends, the spectacular show was warmly received by the visitors.
And Auld Lang Syne brought down the curtain on what had been a wonderful day.
Sunday was mostly spent with host families doing a wide variety of activities – the Palace of Versailles, for example, being only a stone’s throw from Guyancourt.
Guyancourt Walking Group took some of the Scots for a stroll in the afternoon in the local vallée de Chevreuse.
The twinning committees of the two towns met briefly to discuss future visits.
A formal invitation was extended to Guyancourt to visit Linlithgow in Easter 2019 to celebrate 30 years since the twinning charter was signed in Linlithgow’s Rose Garden in July 1989 by Ian Donaldson and his then French counterpart Roland Nadaus.
On the final night, a musical evening was staged with an impromptu mix of French and Scottish songs and dances.
The Scots left Guyancourt early on Monday morning, flying back to Edinburgh from Orly after yet another very successful town twinning visit.