Burgess Tickets: The Magnificent Seven

The fifth annual award of Burgess Tickets, to a few of the very many who have made an outstanding contribution to our small, but highly treasured community, took place a bit later than normal this year, in Greyfriars Church on Wednesday 1 November.

I say the fifth but, in truth, it was really the 840th! It should have been the 877th, but there was a small glitch when, in 1975, the newly elected Clydesdale District Council, who were eagerly at that time handing over all responsibility for the management and continuity of many unique and idiosyncratic Lanark “Its Aye Been” traditions to the newly formed RBLCC, mysteriously dropped the ball in 1975 and let that one slip quietly away unnoticed.

The title of Burgess has its origins in “Burghers”, as in citizens, denizens, voters of the Royal Burgh and perhaps the then CDC felt there was no longer a need or desire for such a tradition since, in their considered opinion, the Royal Burgh of Lanark no longer existed.

Oops! Kind of got that one wrong, didn’t they!

The Royal Burgh of Lanark didn’t go anywhere and has continued along on its merry way with its many traditions upheld by a wide variety of organisations and volunteers until, in 2013, in concord with the current local authority South Lanarkshire Council, the tradition of awarding Burgess Tickets was reinstated after a mere glitch in Lanark terms of 37 years. Our Royal Burgh and its traditions remain intact but coincidentally, Clydesdale District Council is now little more than a fading memory!

This year’s ceremony was conducted in the newly refurbished and quite splendid Greyfriars Church, now equipped to serve as a community facility for such purposes, as well as a place of worship and was packed to capacity for our fifth, going on 840th Burgess Ticket Awards.

Everyone attending on the evening were right royally entertained by the very talented group of Lanark Grammar School pupils who form the school choir. Welcome as they were, we hadn’t asked them to be there, they just turned up! In fact, after the news reached them on the Lanark grapevine (faster than broadband and then some) that the Head of the Creative and Aesthetic Faculty at LGS Julie Brown, just happened to be one of our 2017 Burgess Elect, it would have taken an experienced SAS Armed Response Unit to prevent them from paying tribute to their teacher and, lacking such firepower and given that the choir heavily outnumbered the community council anyway (and had considerably more energy and talent), they were allowed to spring what was obviously a delightful surprise for both Julie and everybody else attending.

For the first time since these awards recommenced, all seven of the awards in 2017 were presented to ladies of the Burgh and the first of these was Marianne Bond. The first time I met Marianne was on the day when I called on her to advise her that she had been selected by the panel to receive the award (this is done to confirm acceptance of the award and – no! – nobody thus far has ever done so). Having read Marianne’s Burgess “CV” I realised why I had never met her before, she is a secret! “My name is Bond, Marianne Bond” is well-named! She is one of the legions of kindly and hard-working people who beaver quietly helping others whenever and wherever they can.

Molly Cumming, I did know of course, like, who doesn’t? Molly has spent most of her life (post-Lanark) working and living in Glasgow although can invariably be found within the Marches during a certain week in June. As she said a few heartfelt words to those present after receiving her award, Molly very ably stressed her love of all things Lanark, using a classic example of the aphorism “You can take the lassie out of Lanark, but you canny take the Lanark …”

Lynne Leslie on the other hand, described by her sponsor as one of Lanark’s “foot soldiers” is, at one and the same time, both identical to, and the antithesis of, Molly Cumming! Identical because Lynne is a living breathing human Duracell bunny, bouncing all over Lanark for this that or the other good cause or organisation, especially the Lanimer Committee.  The antithesis because she came to Lanark from some place on the “t’other side of Hadrian’s Wall”, settled in Lanark with her husband and family and morphed quietly (OK! Perhaps not always quietly) into a class “A” Lanarkian (and has a Burgess Ticket to prove it!).

It is very unusual for a serving Councillor to even be nominated for a Burgess Ticket and even rarer to be nominated simply for their efforts as a Councillor but then, Catherine McClymont is a very rare and special councillor. When approached by organisations, causes and people in need Catherine is colour blind! As her proposer (who sports a Burgess Ticket and an OBE of her own) says of her She works incredibly hard for us all”. That simple statement epitomises Catherine, Catherine McClymont does exactly what it says on the tin!

I have known and been nagged by Jane Pillans for many a year! It is not easy to compere the Lanimer Reception without the aid of someone such as Jane, someone who will (quickly, loudly and often) in four-syllable words (she’s not that clever, but you get my meaning?) which silver trophy should be given to which golden entry while the compere is tongue-tied and suffering from atrial-fibrillation, but Jane coped magnificently. On November 1st, Jane also became the third member of her family to be appointed a Burgess, something to do with Lanark and DNA I suppose. Poor old Harry!  

I have known Anne Elizabeth Thomson for many a year too, at various activities and events at taking place at Stanmore, as a dedicated supporter of Lanark & District Pipe Band, and as a long-standing member of Lanark Lanimer Committee. But, for reasons that I have never been able to fathom, I did not ever know who she really was! By that I mean that for all those years I consistently addressed her as Elizabeth Anne Thomson and only discovered – or rather, finally only allowed myself to be corrected – when I asked her what name she wanted on her Burgess Ticket, that she had in fact been christened Anne Elizabeth Thomson (“You say tomato, I say bruschetta …)


Frank Gunning shares his views on various local issues in his Let's Be Frank column.