D’ye know whit ye should’ve done?

Photo courtesy of John Prior

There can be no doubt that the Lanimers of 2016 was just about as good as it gets! With even the weather making a substantial and very welcome contribution and with more participants in the Procession than we have had for some time. 

A fact that itself is remarkable given that the standard maintained by our veterans is so incredibly high that potential new entrants must find the challenge somewhat daunting. But, nothing ventured and all that! Variety is the spice of life (and the raison d’etre of the Lanimer Procession) so I hope they’ll not be put off.

But for all that it wasn’t perfect, nor will it ever be I hope. Is that a terrible thing to say? Does that constitute treason in Lanark? Could my Burgess Ticket be revoked? Let me hastily explain. It should never be perfect because that would lead to complacency. It should always be improving, evolving, getting better and being more imaginative. That’s what makes it the best of British!  

Right now, we are entering the aftermath. The aftermath is that short period after the Lanimers and before the schools clock off for the holidays. The period in which Lanarkians bask in the glow of a Lanimers well celebrated; sober up; check the passports and book a fortnight on some all-inclusive foreign beach where they can rest up and recuperate from the exertions of our annual week-long tourist season. During this period the Lanimer Committee will consider and debate the constructive criticism provided so freely and helpfully by those who don’t, telling those who do, what they should have been doing in the first place.

This is the time when Lanark’s legions of seers and sages - with the benefit of hindsight and a righteous conviction that their opinion is worth dishing out - confront those who diligently ensure year on year that our “Aye Beens” will go on “Aye Being”, with the haunting question: “Do you know whit ye should hiv done?” 

In truth, it is not a question at all, just a means of getting attention before haranguing the target with a tirade of (constructive?) criticism listing all the wonderful ways in which they would have enhanced Lanimer Week.

It does have to be admitted though that although we pride ourselves in the Royal Burgh that we are world leaders in the mystical practices of “It’s Aye Been”, we are nevertheless not totally resistant to change. We may be close to it, but we are not quite in Brigadoon territory yet!

It’s just that when change does come to Lanark, it tends to come ever so slowly! Sometimes we have to wait a generation or two to allow time for the more rigid and inflexible of our local worthies to move on to a better place before change can be implemented (think Tolbooth! You’ll catch on!).

Only those of a certain vintage can truly appreciate the steady but remorseless evolution of various “Semper Eadem” over the decades! (That was the Latin Motto of Lanark in 1140 – Can you translate it?). For example, the Het Pint is no longer a frothing pint of spiced ale which, given the critical shortage of public toilet facilities these days, has to be a step in the right direction. 

Speaking of toilets, many a Sunday congregation has been bolstered in Lanark of late by the influx of pious tourists seeking some relief for their bladders as much as for their souls – God does work in mysterious ways his wonders to perform!.

The Reverend Susan Durham, in her address from the pulpit at the Kirkin’, alluded to the benefits of trying something new. She referenced a passage from the big book where the disciples were urged to Try something a little different. She used this as an example of the benefits of change and flexibility.

I couldn’t help but admire Susan’s courage, standing there in the pulpit of the town kirk and urging a Lanark congregation right at the start of Scotland’s biggest and best “It’s Aye Been” Festival, to welcome change! I was half expecting to see a couple of Cornets in white coats and carrying large syringes grab her as she alighted from the pulpit!

But Susan’s sermon did make one think. Suffice to say that the ‘one’ wasn’t me and as it was said to me in confidence at the Kirkin’ I won’t clype! The essence of his cry for change, hopefully before he passes on to the great March Ridings in the sky, was: “why do we still have to wear bowler hats at the Kirkin’?” My confidant said it was a hangover from the days when they were the best form of protection when riding (or, rather, when falling off a horse).

Said he, they are very expensive and sartorially practically obsolete, other than for undertakers (that’s John Dickman off the hook) or hiding a supply of pan drops in (that’s Lex Gibson off the hook as well) and make many of the wearers look like Jack and Victor as they hang about at the purvey secreting away tasty wee morsels in them, for later consumption.

As my confidant said, when you think about it, the sight of the cream of Lanark’s chivalry, dressed in their “Aye Been” haute couture of bowler hats, sashes and black gloves marching down the High Street to the Kirkin’ was more akin to another perambulation scheduled annually in mid-July, but which, unlike the Kirkin’ of the Cornet, has only been an “Aye Been” for a mere 326 years!



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