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Guid Nychburris and beyond

The Stove’s focus is growing towards Guid Nychburris Day, and our upcoming events to co-incide with Dumfries’ annual Riding of the Marches Day. This will be our third year presenting work as part of the annual festivities, and with each year our fascination with the history behind it grows. 

Lochmabengate Port – we’d like to know a bit more about the gates and customs arising from the Guid Nychburris route, any suggestions?

 Guid Nychburris Day has been held near annually since 1932, but it’s origins lie further back when King Robert III granted Royal Burgh status to the town in 1186. But where has the festival we see today grown from? From where and when have each of the customs, important figures been added to the event? 

Although there are other March Riding traditions across the border and beyond, each having grown it’s own unique customs and traditions – and we’ve been thinking slightly further afield at the origins of tradition in community based and led festivals: 

From the ancient and obscure, such as Ottery St Mary’s Flaming Tar Barrels tradition: part of their annual carnival on the 5th November. “The exact origins are unknown but probably started after the gunpowder plot of 1605. Various alternative reasons suggested for burning barrels have included fumigation of cottages and as a warning of the approach of the Spanish armada.” 

To the more modern adaptations – take the Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival (coincidentally this week) for example, which only started up in 1988 but harks back to the celtic Beltane festival that traditionally took place at this time of year. At what point do these events go from being a bit of fun to a ‘venerable tradition’? 

A shortlist of some of the curatorial team’s favourite festivals: 

The Baby Jumping Festival 
Or, “El Colacho” dates back to 1620 and is a Spanish ritual involving men dressed as the devil in red and yellow jumpsuits paired with modern running shoes, jumping over babies born in the previous twelve months; thought to bless the newborn children and remove original sin, preparing them for a life on God’s true path. 

Burning Man 
Which needs little introduction, but sees the creation of a temporary community for a week each year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. “The Burning Man organization (Black Rock City LLC) creates the infrastructure of Black Rock City, wherein attendees (or “participants”) dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, leaving no trace.” 

Up Helly Aa 
Although first appearances may suggest a harking back to ancient Viking celebrations, Up Helly Aa is actually a relatively modern – having grown out of wild Christmas holiday celebrations. The current form, including guizing and torchlit procession was first introduced in the around 1870.  

The Hindu festival celebrating the end of Winter and the arriving Spring – sees social rules and expectations relaxed in India, “Social barriers are broken as people of all ages, genders, castes, and wealth gather together and celebrate the festival. In fact, it is said that one can get away with almost any kind of behavior on the day of Holi by saying “bura na mano holi hai,” or, “don’t mind, it is Holi.”

Palnackie Flounder Tramping Championships 
Naturally, we couldn’t miss out the more local eccentric festivals. Palnackie’s Flounder Tramping Festival has been missing from the calander the past few years, but rumour has it is due to make a comeback this year. It was the brainchild of villager John Kirk, who on a sunny summer afternoon in 1973, offered a bottle of whisky to the person who could catch the biggest flounder. 

And so back to Guid Nychburris. As we delve into the history of the town’s Charter and Seal, the importance of the flag and the many gates and keys along the route as well as the roles played out by the Cornet, Lass and entourage – all the pieces that add to the sense of tradition and occasion – get in touch with us!

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