2018 off to a flyer!

The first meeting of the Royal Burgh of Lanark Community Council got off to a flying start (perhaps a crying start would be more appropriate) at our first meeting of 2018 on Monday 29th January.  We are very fortunate in Lanark in that all three of the elected South Lanarkshire Council Councillors representing Lanark are diligent in their attendance at these meetings.

This is of critical importance to both the RBLCC and SLC in that it allows the RBLCC to fulfil its primary purpose, enshrined in our constitution since 1977. That is, to act as a liaison between the community of Lanark and our local authority in far away urban and urbane Almadastan.

But when it is said like that - and it was them wot said it because it is in their constitution - it does seem to suggest that our locally elected members are superfluous. Nothing could be further from the truth! Each of our elected SLC members are Associate Members of our Community Council (this applies in all SLC Community Councils), and in the RBLCC we are indeed fortunate that our local SLC Councillors are assiduous in their attendance.

Having a wide experience of other community councils in Clydesdale - and indeed all over Scotland - I can assure you that this is not always the case, especially in the vast barren wastes of Clydesdale. (If you think I jest, have a butchers at any map issued by the Glasgow and Clyde Valley Tourist Board).

Whether it be ‘rights of way’, traffic congestion, listed and listing buildings, transport issues, clairty closes, litter, dog mess, the girnin’ dug or any of a thousand other niggles and issues brought to the attention of the RBLCC, they are discussed at length, argued about, solutions debated, and the identity of the appropriate SLC mandarin is established.

The secretary will then be advised to command this heid-honcho of Department X to appear before the RBLCC at its next monthly meeting to explain his or her failure to satisfy the needs of our community, with just a hint of potential banishment to the antipodes and blood-red skull and crossbones stamped below the secretary’s signature, to hint at things to come if they dare fail to attend.

Usually, when the various issues are raised again at the next meeting, our diligent associate members can advise that it has been passed to the appropriate department and is currently being attended to, it was sorted last week, it will be fixed on Tuesday or it is a Scottish Government responsibility and SLC have passed it on.

On a more positive note, the meeting also discussed the more immediate items on our annual list of ‘It’s Aye Been’. The first of these is that annual stramash when a vast horde of our future leading citizens are carefully inducted into the Lanark concept of maintaining old traditions (and inventing new ones) at Whuppity Scoorie. The event itself has ‘Aye Been’, although nobody seems to know for sure quite why, but that has never stopped Lanarkians from upholding their tradition. It does however, allow everybody concerned to choose whatever origin for Whuppity Scoorie that tickles their fancy.

While the children run around St. Nicholas Church three times, like dervishes, the parents discuss the various origins, each able to choose the one they like best. This itself is the origin of that most confusing of all Lanark’s simple pleasures in that nobody ever agrees about anything that anybody else says about anything and explains that phenomenon, peculiar to Lanark, that if you were to poll 50 people in Lanark on any issue, you will be given about 80 different answers!

Held on the 1st March for whatever reason, the Whuppity Scoorie is generally considered to herald the arrival of Spring, and is usually cold, wet and miserable. Perhaps that’s why the children are encouraged to run around the kirk three times, to heat themselves up?

The first peal of the town bell on March 1st at 6pm also heralds what is the oldest by far and the most recent of our ‘Aye Been’ traditions, that first chime of the town bell opening the window of opportunity for Lanarkians to nominate some worthy recipient for a Burgess Ticket. This tradition survived from 1140 until 1977, at which time our town council ‘disappeared’ and replaced with a new local authority covering an area the size of Belgium.

Most of our various traditions and ‘Aye Beens’ of the Royal Burgh had been passed – by the new Clydesdale District Council (CDC) – to the RBLCC to look after, because the CDC were much too big and grand to be bothered with such trivial Lanark indulgences. But with the single exception of the awarding of Burgess Tickets.

Pleas by the RBLCC to reinstate this ancient tradition with various subsequent ‘local’ authorities were summarily rejected until 2013 when the RBLCC and a more amenable South Lanarkshire Council agreed to recommence the Burgess Awards.

The restored tradition of appointing Burgess to the RBL has, since 2013, added 44 new Burgess to the Royal Burgh’s hall of fame, ensuring that the tradition is both formally re-established and has been firmly welcomed by both the community and those who now proudly revel in the title of “Burgess of the Royal Burgh of Lanark”.

The earlier ‘local’ authorities (the ‘Town Council’ lasted for 837 years, how many since and how many more before they inevitably re-invent the wheel?) who rejected the pleas of the Community Council were fortunate indeed that it was the ever courteous RBLCC who were asking, rather than them facing the gleaming bayonets of the Lanimer Committee 1st Regiment of Foot – or even scarier – Lanark’s answer to the Dark Web, the Cornet’s Club SAS!

Whatever, tradition is now very much up and running and nomination forms, to enable the submission of prospective 2018 Burgess, will be readily available in the refurbished Tolbooth and we look forward to receiving your proposals.

But please bear in mind, the window for nominations closes at midnight on Lanimer Saturday, as many of our best and brightest wend their way – with some difficulty – home from the Cornet’s Ball.


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