THE Riding of the Marches ensures Linlithgow’s boundaries are secure year after year but it is the people of the town that bring the ancient traditions to life.
So, as the borders are marked out from east to west, town worthies and honoured guests display their wit and wisdom at each stop along the way. Breakfast in the Burgh Halls, minus some scrambled eggs for a few(!), involved a witty Grace from Rev. Tom Riddell of St Michael’s Parish Church and a welcome from new Provost, Jack Adair, relieving West Lothian Provost Tom Kerr of his duties for the day.
Jack praised the undying enthusiasm of the townspeople for the Marches which he said truly belonged to them.
He gave a history of the ancient tradition, followed by recent events including the stone bridge at the Brig and the 1964 “wigwam without its cover” steeple at St Michael’s Parish Church.
Thom Pollock replied to the Provost calling the Marches “the greatest piece of street theatre the town ever sees”, rivalling the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
He finished with a comical synopsis of the day - a ‘Karaoke Roke’ - put to the tune of the ‘Roke and the Wee Pickle Tow’, for which he received a standing ovation.
At the Brig, David ‘Steedsy’ Stevenson took to the stairs to give the history of his mixed parentage from Bo’ness and the Brig, and praise the new Provost after extensive research into his name - Adair meaning ‘bright and intelligent’, Jack meaning ‘not very’.
He was followed by the irrepressible Deacon Barbara Braithwaite “respected, loved, and feared” by the Deacon’s Court, who recalled Steedsy when she used to bounce him on her knee, although it was not a habit she was repeating any time soon.
Bailie Jim Carlin addressed the fraternities referring to the second Deacon’s Night as the “greatest river pageant north of the Thames”, and told tales of David Bennie’s mischief at Linlithgow Academy.
In reply, the Dyers’ David Bennie recalled adventures with girlfriend Julie, and as his sons have joined the fraternity, he told the crowd to “go forth and multiply!”
In Blackness, at Baron Bailie Bobby Fleming’s reception at Low Valley House, Blackness Milk was shared as Deacon Francie Meenan addressed Bobby, too small to be cast as a hobbit in Lord of the Rings, but in with a chance of passing as a gnome at Rouken Glen Garden Centre.
Calling Bobby a bit of a ‘Dancing Queen’, a huge curly wig transformed him into Frida from Abba.
The Baron Bailie gave Bo’ness the usual ribbing, and pledged to keep the Blackness boundaries secure in his eighth year of office.
At the ruins of the covenanting kirk on Castle Hill, the court was fenced and the Baron Bailie installed by the Provost, given that no pillage or destruction had been wreaked over the past year.
Back at Low Valley House, first lady Junior Bailie Liz Park said the Grace and guest Frank Clement spoke of the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow.
Frank, who competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, drew on his love of athletics and his adopted town after living here for 30 years.
His history with Jack Adair dates back to the Bellahouston Harriers, and he praised the sporting prowess of Linlithgow Athletics Club which will again run the Linlithgow 10K this year.
Deacon Malcolm Sneddon thanked all the day’s speakers, adding some wit of his own, pushing for the infamous Blackness hedge to be considered a world heritage site and questioning Provost Tom Kerr on how he’d manage to secure yet another term in office.
In reply, football fav- ourite Jimmy Crease went over his history with the Rose and detailing his history as one of a 14-strong family where Securicor delivered the family allowance.
Praising the talents of Les Donaldson and Davie Roy, he ended his repartee with a welcomed cheer of ‘Long Live the Rose!’