Even a World War couldn’t stop town sticking to tradition

Lanark went through two world wars, still holding annual Lanimer celebrations
Lanark went through two world wars, still holding annual Lanimer celebrations

Lanarkians, being Lanarkians, weren’t going to let a little thing like a colossal world war raging get in the way of their traditions.

When Britain entered the what was then the biggest global conflict in history in August 1914, the great and the good of the Royal Burgh faced a terrible decision; whether or not to cancel The Lanimers?

That year’s celebrations had just missed the outbreak of war by a few months but, almost before the first shot was fired that autumn, thoughts were turning to what the town would - or wouldn’t do - to celebrate Lanimer Day in June 1915.

Just like after a modern-day terrorist attack, some felt that sticking to routine was the best way of showing the enemy we weren’t shaken.

However, there was also the horrible prospect of a Lanark High Street packed with thousands of children and cheering adults being victims to a sneak bombing attack by one of the Kaiser’s dreaded Zeppelins.

A compromise was decided on; yes, the Procession and the crowing of the Lanimer Queen and all the major afternoon celebrations would have to go ‘for the duration’.

Nevertheless. the Peramulation of the Marches, the annual inspection of the burgh’s boundaries, would continue,

In fact, the Gazette of the time, not adverse to some patriotic ‘spin’ on local stories during World War One, made this sound less a sacrifice to wartime needs than a triumphant return to TRUE traditions of Lanark!

The reasoning was this; the Peramulation and Riding of the Marches was a centuries-old burgh ritual which used to be carried out on what was then called Landmarch Day on a Thursday each early June.

It was only 20 years or so before the war that the `modern’ Lanimer Day, with its Procession and Queen, was created - the Marches ritual moved to the Monday before.

So, that first wartime Lanimers in 1915 saw a temporary return to the old Landmarch form of the celebrations, a much-curtailed event with the Cornets carrying the Burgh Standard to the Cross where a small band of local dignataries and spectators gathered to greet them.

The Gazette hailed this as “probably the most truly historical Lanimers held for many years.”

Our newspaper also rather dreamily speculated that, the holding of a Lanimer Day of ANY sort at a time like this’ “will have the thoughts of many Lanarkians serving in the trenches of Flanders, the North Sea and the Dardanelles spinning back to their dear old Royal Burgh.” Cynics might say that they probably had other things - like staying alive - on their minds!

Anyway, this curtailed Lanimers continued for the remainder of he war but, as it wore on, Lanarkians found ways of stealthily restoring some of the fun of the past.

By 1918 a grand bazaar and fair was held on Lanimer Day at the Raceourse (with some VERY un-PC attactions like The Lanark Minstrels) with the stated aim of raising money to send parcels of treats to the troops at the front; it is significant that the words “on Lanimer Day” were in fairly small type on the poster advertising the event - almost as if Lanark was trying to hide something!

The Provost proclaimed at that 1918 event (pictured) that he prayed that the next Lanimer Day would “be held on a day of peace, after victory had been won.” Mercifully, his prayer was answered; Lanark gave up 234 of its men to the conflict.

Little did the celebrants at the first restored Lanimer Day in 1919 realise that this return to the normal fun, games and pageantry would last only a scant 20 years before they were plunged back into a world war again.

The declaration of World War Two in September, 1939 at least meant that year’s Lanimers had gone ahead,

The curtailed Lanimers returned in 1940, an unfortunate piece of timing as it was the year Lanark was to celebrate its 800th anniversary as a Royal Burgh.

There was the consolation of a telegram of congratulation from the King - but it wasn’t REALLY any substitute for a Lanimer Queen!