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View from The Cross Issue 41

As we begin to settle down to wonderful season of autumn, Lanark is poised to celebrate the town’s 875th Anniversary of becoming a Burgh in 1140.

King David I was keen to promote a new local authority scheme back then on favoured towns to elevate them to Burgh status and give them a chance to take charge of their own affairs. Oh happy days!

The town was given certain responsibilities and duties and one of which was the annual boundary inspection which Lanark has carried out ever since, uninterrupted despite wars with the English, the Germans, the Cold War and many other events too long to mention.

This milestone is being commemorated with a special Ride Out involving Border Principles and their supporters. The date is Saturday 26th September and will be a very impressive sight.

Riders with their town’s flags will support the Lord Cornets Club in inspecting two reinstated March Stones, discovered by Lord Cornet Gordon Gray and recreated by Historic Scotland. These are in the fields to the south of Hyndford Road, between the Beeches and the tyre garage.

It is great to see yet another initiative to celebrate our past, and congratulations to all those involved.

Twenty-five years ago the celebrations for the 850th Anniversary were on a much grander scale. Plans to celebrate the 800th Anniversary in 1940 were halted as we were at War and 50 years on it was suggested we should stage the celebrations in 1990. The initiative came from the Community Council. I think it could have been Leslie Reid who suggested it and it was William Eagle Hall who was elected the convenor of the subcommittee to organise it.

What began as a series of wide and varied ideas was pruned to a week in September 1990 packed with ideas to cater for everyone in the town. The scale was very ambitious, but the public rallied behind it and Lanark responded in the way it always does! They put on a wonderful show for a whole week. Just look at what was organised!

On Sunday a special service of Thanksgiving to the Burgh over the years was held. Local organisations processed to the Parish Church in a magnificent Parade!
That night the Memorial Hall staged the famous Golden Fiddle Orchestra, hosted by Robbie Shepherd and featuring Mary Sandeman as soprano, at that time famous for her reaching the charts with “Japanese Boy”.

There was an exhibition of Lanark’s history staged by Thelma Aitken and the Lanark Antiquarian Society. There was no Museum at that time!

Coalburn Silver Band held a concert on the Wednesday and there was a Songs of Praise at the ruins of the church where Wallace was married.

Parties included a mediaeval banquet in New Lanark and a grand ball on the Friday with not one; but two bands!

The big day was the Saturday. The King’s Own Scottish Borderers marched through the town to head up a fun day in the park involving the army. Behind them came a huge number of riders with flags set for a special Ride Out!

Much more was to come. The public were invited to join in creating a torch light procession from the old Market down to Castlebank. This set off after the KOSBs performed a Beating of the Retreat!

I remember the Procession being a great success and people being herded into Castlebank Park for some fireworks. This was an understatement. When the show started people had never seen the likes of it in the town. After half an hour it was over but no one wanted to go home! Everyone was on a high! People will remember that night for a long, long time!

Sunday was the last day and was billed as a police and services tattoo.
Strathclyde Police Band played, the Mounted Branch gave a musical ride and we had police dogs, fire engines, traffic cars and ambulances. The kids loved it!

To finish the day, and the week, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performed a Concert, yet again to cater for all tastes. It too was sold out! A fabulous end to a fabulous week!

There are bits that still carry on. The Millennium Dinner in 2000 was a kind of hangover from the success of the 850th celebrations. If the Community Council could celebrate 850 years well, then surely 2000 could follow!

The Burgh Dinner continues early in the New Year, and proves to be as popular as ever. Catering for couples, the standard of speakers is always exceptionally high. This year rumour has it that the main speaker will be Alasdair Hutton, our former MSP and now the commentator for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Also appearing will be one of Scotland’s top after dinner speakers; James Lavery!

Why don’t we get behind the Community Council and support this Dinner and make it a cause for celebrating our 875th birthday? We have much to be proud of! 

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I was delighted to see that Lanark in Bloom were recognised for their sterling work in trying to brighten up the Burgh with floral decorations in various locations throughout the Town.

Sadly my comments about the poor upkeep of floral areas by the Council fell on deaf ears! The grass continues to grow around the “Welcome to Lanark” sign as you enter the town from the West.

Across the road the lay by has planted tubs on top of a cobbled reservation. The weeds growing on the cobbles detract from the work of the floral decorations! It is a bit like having a great shop window display, but leaving the window itself dirty!

Perhaps the South Lanarkshire response to the complaint was a photo in the Gazette proudly sowing Council workers supporting Lanark in Bloom at the other end of the town at the Racecourse! Good work by them, but instead of posing for photos, there are plenty of other bits that need your attention!

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My final plea is to the Community Council to get back to organising more projects for the town.

The 850th celebrations showed what they could do! They set up The Tolbooth and the pink book. They had an annual town walk that kept alive the rights of way and their annual garden competition was keenly followed by many in the town.

As a Council it still does a great deal to keep alive the traditions of the Royal Burgh, but it has slowly passed much of what it did to other groups who have gradually dropped them after a few attempts. It must remember it is the link between the Burgh and the Council. That is one of its main jobs.

In the early 1990s an attempt to kill this was organised by our local Councillors. They did everything they could to undermine the Community Council they considered as a threat to their ambitious plans they wanted to impose on the Burgh.

The Town Centre Forum was created in liaison with the Guildry of Lanark to take the real decisions on the way forward. The Forum members were invited while the Community Council members were elected by the public.

The Town Centre Forum has gone, we have a white elephant of a High Street and a retail park to thank them for; and someone has to pick up the pieces.

The hammering of the Community Council has never been officially exposed, but it did exist and it did a lot of harm. The Community Council is still there to fight the corner of the Burgh, and it must grow and regain its original stature.

I have every faith it will do so and prove that honesty will surmount politics.

Only time will tell!