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Guid Nychburris` History

   

Scottish communities granted Royal Burgh status by the monarch gaurded the honour jealously and with vigour. And Riding the Marches maintains the tradition of an occasion that was, in it's day, of great importance.

Dumfries has been a Royal Burgh since 1186 its charter being granted by King Robert III a move that insured the loyalty of its citizens to the Monarch.

Although far from the centre of power in Scotland, Dumfries had obvious strategic significance sitting as it does on the edge of Galloway and being the centre of control for the south west of Scotland.

With the River Nith on two sides and the Lochar Moss on another, Dumfries was a town with good natural defences. Consequently it was never completely walled. But, a careful eye still had to be kept on the clearly defined boundaries of the burgh, a task that had to be taken each year by the Provost, Baillies, Burgesses and others within the town.

Neighbouring landowners might easily try to encroach on the town boundaries, or the Marches as they were known, Moving them back 100 yards or so to their own benefit. It had to be made clear to anyone thinking of or trying to encroach that they dare not do so.

Nowadays, of course, all matters relating to land and its ownership are clearly registered, But it was clearly different in days gone by. In return for the Royal status of the town and the favour of the King, the Provost and his council, along with other worthies of the town had to be diligent in ensuring the boundaries were strictly observed.
Although steeped in history, Scotland's burghs remained the foundation of the country's system of local government for centuries. Burgh status confered on its citizens the right to elect their own town councils, run their own affairs and raise their own local taxes or rates.

In 1974 the burghs became part of larger districts and regions. Those boundaries, so jealously and vigorously guarded over so many years, lost the significance they were granted by Royal statute. Ancient titles Ancient titles like Provost and Bailie were discarded or retained only for ceremonial purposes. Robes and chains often found their way into museums as a reminder of the past.

Dumfries remains a centre of local government for a much bigger area than just the town itself. But its people, the Doonhamers still retain a pride in their town and distinctive identity. This is never more so than during the week long Guid Nychburris Festival and its highlight the Riding of the Marches which takes place on the third Saturday in June each year.

The ceremony on Guid Nychburris Day, follows a route and sequence of events laid down in the mists of time. Formal proceedings start at 7.30am with the gathering of upto 250 horses waiting for the courier to arrive and anounce that the Pursuivant is on his way, and at 8.00am leave the Midsteeple and ride out to meet the Pursuivant. They then proceed to Ride the Marches and Stob and Nog (mark the boundary with posts and flags) before returning to the Midsteeple at 12.15pm to meet the Provost and then the Charter is proclaimed to the towns people of Dumfries. This is then followed by the crowning of the Queen of the South.