No matter the Brexit outcome, Linlithgow will forever be linked to Europe.
In July 1989, a special charter was signed in the town’s Rose Garden, twinning Linlithgow with Guyancourt in France.
And this Eater, those ties first forged 30 years ago will again be celebrated.
Some 70 visitors from Guyancourt, and four from its other twin town, Pegnitz in Germany, will celebrate three decades of friendship.
Among those joining the celebrations is the town’s first ever association chairman Ian Donaldson.
He is hosting two of the German visitors and is very much looking forward to the anniversary visit.
Sadly, though, there may be one guest who they can’t coax back.
Ian said: “In 1989, the first French visitors came to Linlithgow while the Queen was also visiting.
“She stopped and spoke to some of the French children, which made quite a splash in the French newspapers.
“I don’t think the Queen will be coming this year but we’re looking forward to a great weekend, nonetheless.
“No matter what happens with Brexit, our links with Guyancourt will continue.
“Far too many friendships have been forged over the years to allow Brexit to get in the way of that!”
A packed programme has been lined up for the visitors this Easter weekend.
There will be a welcome reception in the Rose Club on Friday, April 19, after which visitors will join their hosts for an evening meal in their new temporary ‘homes’.
Saturday, April 20, will include a visit to the Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre and a performance of the Auld Alliance by Quern at Linlithgow Palace.
Ian said: “The performance will be in French and the mayor of Guyancourt, Marie-Christine Letarnec, will be joining the group for a one-off performance, serving as narrator.
“Quern has been involved in our twinning for many years but this is certain to be a unique event!”
Later that night, hosts and guests will celebrate the 30th anniversary with a dinner and ceilidh at the Beancross restaurant.
Ian said: “Provost Tom Kerr will be leading the Scottish delegation while Marie will lead the French.
“We’re certain it will be a fantastic celebration.”
On Sunday, April 21, host families will entertain their French guests before an evening of entertainment at the Masonic Hall.
Following a whirlwind weekend, the visitors will leave to return home on the morning of Monday, April 22.
Ian said: “It’s always been a short, concentrated visit and everyone is usually pretty tired by the end of it.
“But some of our hosts have been friends with our visitors all those years so it’s a great chance to catch up.”
While some things have changed for the better, visitors now fly rather than taking a coach, the ethos of the twinning association has never changed.
Ian explained: “The cornerstone of our twinning has always been that visitors are hosted in local homes.
“You don’t truly get to know each other or find out what it’s like to live in a country if you stay in a hotel.
“So from the very start, visitors have been hosted in local homes.
“There were language barriers at first but we all muddled through.
“And the number of friendships that have developed between hosts and visitors is incredible.”
Almost all of the 74-strong delegation this Easter have already been accommodated.
However, there are two parties who still need to find a host family.
There is a family of four with two boys, aged 15 and 12, and a single lady who enjoys dancing, cycling and visiting historical monuments.
Ian is now hoping readers will come forward to host the visitors.
He added: “We actually had a host for the single lady but, unfortunately, there was a bereavement in the family so the host was unable to accommodate her.
“We’re always looking for new families to join us so this would be an ideal opportunity.”
If you can help, contact the association via its website at linlithgowtwinning.wordpress.com.
* Linlithgow Rugby Club, which helped create the link with Guyancourt, visited the French town last week.
As well as watching the French national team beat Scotland 27-10 on Saturday, club members also held their own match.
Sadly, the result was the same – with Linlithgow Rugby Club losing to their Guyancourt counterparts!
Rugby helped secure our twin
During last year’s visit to Guyancourt, a formal invitation was extended to the town to visit Linlithgow in Easter 2019.
The visitors will celebrate 30 years since the twinning charter was signed in Linlithgow’s Rose Garden in July 1989 by the town’s first association chairman Ian Donaldson and his then French counterpart Roland Nadaus.
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. Luckily, we were able to take it forward.”
A formal twinning request was made to Linlithgow Community Council so the association was formed at its behest, assisted by legendary local 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 now be celebrated in the town this Easter.