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Old Lanimers



THE following account of the incidents attending the celebration of Lanimer Day about the year 1828 has been preserved in Mr William Davidson’s ” History of Lanark ” :-

” It is observed [he says] on the day following the last Wednesday of May, old style. The morning is ushered in by boys assembling in crowds and patrolling the streets. Their first care is to get ready the clerk and treasurer of the burgh, whose presence cannot be dispensed with. Having obtained this the procession moves off to the sound of drum, fife and bagpipes. At one of the marches where the Mouss separates the burgh lands from those of Lockhart of Lee, a pit-stone is pointed out standing in the middle of a gentle pool. This is the ducking hole. Those who for the first time have enrolled themselves under the banners of the procession must wade in and grope for the stone, during which act they are tumbled over and immersed. There is no distinction of rank, were the greatest potentate to appear he would share the fate of the most humble plebeian. As soon as the novices are immersed, the whole then move off to Jerviswood and Cleghorn and cut down not small twigs, but stately boughs of birch, with which they return and march through the streets in regular procession to the sound of music. The proprietors of these lands have at different times attempted to prevent the destroying of their trees, but in vain. The number of men and boys in the procession is generally about four hundred. The effect is peculiarly grand and has all the appearance of a moving forest. The procession over, the most celebrated vocalists of the cavalcade form themselves into a circle at the cross, and sing the national song of Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled. This part of the ob­servance is of modern introduction, and owes its origin to the erection [in 1820 by Robert Forrest of the statue of the great Scottish patriot and hero in the east front of the church. After the song they proceed to the court of the Clydesdale Inn, where they are supplied with hot rolls, which are thrown among the crowd from the windows of the inn, and in the scramble for which there is often much of the ludicrous.

” In the early part of the day the Council and Seat of Deacons assemble at the house of the Cornet or Standard-bearer, where they are most copiously regaled. They then proceed with the standard to the house of the person who is appointed keeper for the following year. It is kept by the burgesses and trades alternately. Report says this standard was taken in time of war by Admiral Lockhart Ross of the Tartar and by him presented to the burgh. The rude hand of time has now re­duced it to a rag, but the relic is held in high veneration. About eleven o’clock the arrival of stout and clumsy farm horses snoovin’ along, and the sleek roadster from the ranks of the yeomanry, with the hurry­ing to and fro of the cobbler, the tailor, the weaver, and the prude shop-man, bearing saddles, bridles and other caparisonments which had not seen the sun for a ‘ towmont,’ announce that active preparations are making for Riding the Land-marches.’ This is performed by the magistrates, council and deacons of Crafts, accompanied by their re­spective craftsmen, along with a promiscuous multitude of all ages, sizes, and humours—for a’ maun ride the Lan’imers.’ A select number is appointed from each corporation to escort their deacon, and a small fine imposed upon the disobedient ; but this is for the most part unnecessary, because, if a horse can be procured, the men are generally willing.

” At noon the ringing of bells and the appearance of the town-drummer  on horseback with his spirit-stirring tantara are the signal for mount­ing. Scenes such as would outhorsemanshi/ the famous Gilpin himself now offer themselves to view ; a knight of the thimble, mounts and dismounts by the off-side ; and when seated, what distortions, what writhings to and fro, what grimaces, what paralytic quiverings ! his left hand entwined in the mane, and his heels saluting beneath the animal’s belly as if in pain to get across. In his plight he hies to the abode of his deacon, while a son of the shuttle is carried away in a con­trary direction by his rustic charger, unused to feats of broils and bustle,’ which he gladly resigns to a more dexterous equestrian after having landed safe on terra firma.’ Preliminaries being now arranged and the deacons mounted, the trades are treated to a stirrup glass,’ after which they proceed to the Provost, magistrates and standard-bearer. The procession then moves off from the Cross, by the West Port, headed by magistrates and councillors, and followed by the differ­ent crafts, according to their precedence. The rest of the group bring up the rear pele mele ‘ and in this way they proceed up the back Vennel, until having cleared the town they scamper away at a round pace according to the abilities of the different burthen-bearers,’ and now instead of one a hundred seem bound for Brentford’ ; hats and human beings in thick succession bestrew the ground displaying in petty miniature the inglorious flight from Quatre Bras when the gallant Bliicher sounded the onset. Deacon D.’s nag has just been loosened from the dung cart, as his motley sides betoken ; but withal he is an animal of breeding and more than once does homage on his knees to steeds of nobler lineage who spurn him as they pass. This ill-timed reverence, however, not unfrequently subjects the gentleman to the eastern custom of prostration.’ The survivors having finished their rounds, it becomes a matter of keen contest who first shall reach the race ground, where a heat is run for a pair of silver spurs by such horses only as have been previously carted. A small sum of money, however, is given in lieu of the spurs. The equestrians now return to the burgh at the entrance to which they are met by music and reconducted to the Cross where, after having made the round of the church, witnesses make oath that the march stones are in the same situation as formerly, which deposition is afterwards transmitted to the Crown.

” The Provost and magistrates are now relieved from further attendance and are escorted home. Each corporation conveys its deacon to his own house.

” In the evening the magistrates and Council dine in the County Hall with as many of the burgesses and neighbouring gentlemen as choose to attend and pay for their dinner.

” The deacons and craftsmen also dine apart and endeavour to keep up the harmony of the evening by visiting alternately. Some of the trades also perambulate the streets to the sound of music with their colours and other insignia of their order.

” By the more juvenile portion of the people the evening is concluded with a ball.”

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