© Rutherglen Heritage Society
Researched by Bill MacLennan
Above, the 2019 Landemer Queen in procession, accompanied by her Knight Champion and Maids of Honour..
Many towns with a long and distinguished past mark this by holding regular historic ceremonies. In Rutherglen, its status as a Royal Burgh was marked each year on Landemer Day, by organising a ‘Redding of the Marches’. This involved an inspection of the boundary stones around the town. This was essential to financing the burgh since all property within its boundaries was liable for taxation. Records indicate that the event has been celebrated for over three hundred years.
In his History of Rutherglen and East Kilbride (1793), Rev. David Ure observed the ceremony as it was celebrated in the late 18th century. Magistrates and council officials 'assemble at the Cross, from which they proceed in martial order, with drums beating’ walking the sixteen miles or so around the Royalty Boundary stones, 'to see if any encroachments had been made on them.'
Following the procession was the Master of Works and his men, responsible for repairing and replacing stones. Many hedges, dykes, ditches and areas of marshland or heavily covered with scrub had to negotiated. Most participants must have been exhausted by the end of the day. Before they rested, they were expected to take part in a mock fight, defending the boundaries by attacking their fellows armed with brushes, 'fighting, seemingly
Extract from Rambles Round Glasgow, Hugh MacDonald, 1856
'The riding of the marches, once an annual ceremony in
every Scottish burgh, continued to be celebrated in
Rutherglen until 1832, when it was discontinued. We
understand, however, that it has since been at least
partially revived.' 1
1. See Ure Hist. Rutherg. 92-94. It is now held once in three years, but without the mock-batle which Ure humourously describes.
with great fury till their weapons fail them' according to Ure. Once honour was satisfied, they got together with their fellow citizens in a feast at which much alcohol was consumed.
In 1903, the Rutherglen Reformer described the ‘Redding’ held that year on Landemer Day by the new provost. There were still over 300 stones dating from 1576 to the late 19th century and the sixteen mile course still incorporated many obstacles. It was noted that, by then, a limited number of enthusiasts participated in the ceremony and that most Ruglonians took little interest in it.
The celebration was subsequently discontinued, but in 1919 it was decided to revive Landemer Day, changing its focus to the celebration of the Landemer Queen. The day started with a procession of floats on lorries and horse drawn carts along Main Street. These were decorated to celebrate a wide range of themes. Many children participated, dressed as historic and modern characters. The event then repaired to Overtoun Park where the Landemer Queen was crowned. Participants then had an opportunity to visit a large number of stalls set up by local businesses and voluntary organisations. The revived festival came to a premature end in 1926, coincidentally the 800th. anniversary of Rutherglen being awarded the status of Royal Burgh.
Memories of the event generated a great deal of nostalgia and it was revived again in 1974. The locals gave it an enthusiastic welcome. It followed the same pattern as the earlier festival but one difference was that there was a series of events leading up to the day itself. These included a fun run, a schools painting competition and a singing group entertaining older people in local care homes.
In this audio clip, Irene Laird describes her memories of and involvement in Landemer Day over the years, and reflects on the changes in the format of the celebrations that she has seen .
Above, still images from cine film taken of Landemer Day 1974. Rutherglen's big day returns after a 48 year absence.
Landemer Day still has a wide following. The focus remains on the coronation of the Landemer Queen who arrives in a vintage car supported by her Maids of Honour. All are selected from girls attending local senior secondary schools and the Queen is escorted to her throne by her Knight Champion, recently a cadet from the Air Training Corps. The coronation is followed by music provided by singers and popular bands. In the background as always, is a large number of stalls in Main Street, promoting many local causes and selling goods appropriate to the event. It is still attended by a large crowd from all ages. and engenders a great deal of nostalgia and fun.
See also our blog section for reports with photos on recent Landemer Days
Background map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
© 2019 by Rutherglen Heritage Society.