A thousand years from today when horses are rare and exotic as Bengal tigers Kirkcudbright’s reenactment of the Riding of the Marches ceremony will be beamed into homes as a holographic image. Our descendants will enjoy realistic computer generated images of horses and riders.
For now we get the real thing. Every year, real riders on real horses, ride round the boundaries of the Burgh of Kirkcudbright, in reenactment of the originating 15th century event.
In 1455 King James II of Scotland decreed Kirkcudbright a Royal Burgh. A messenger from the king, the pursuivant, was despatched to Kirkcudbright carrying the necessary legal instruments, that is, the Charter and Seal. From Kirkcudbright, the Cornet, a cavalry officer of the day, was sent to meet the pursuivant. These two rode together round the boundaries then continued into the town centre where they had a drink or two and joined the historic celebration — a banquet, a night of song and story telling, dancing, love making and quarreling
Last night 150 horses and riders took part in the event. The cornet and his lass, and the pursuivant, all clad in formal riding habit and silk sashes, led the way. They were followed by previous holders of these offices and by anyone else with a horse who wished to take part in the ceremonial ride.
If you are imagining a solemn event, stop. The horses cantered, the riders whooped and hollered, the crowds cheered, and at the refreshment stops along the way, that is, the pubs, whatever it was the servers brought, the riders chugged down. I think this may be called the stirrup cup — where the riders imbibe without dismounting.
The boundaries scrutinized, nothing untoward noted, no invasions, no evidence of witchcraft, no broken dykes, the riders were received into the town proper by local dignitaries all bedecked in the fine clothing and regalia of the Scottish courts and guilds. Historic documents went from hand to hand, oaths were sworn, standards raised and with three cheers the ceremonies were done.
Riders, horses, onlookers, visitors, town folk dignitaries, dogs, children, mingled amiably in the large square and surrounding parks. In the interests of conviviality public drinking is encouraged in Kirkcudbright. No one was kicked by a horse. The horses proved they were not holographic images by leaving piles of aromatic steaming dung and by spouting cataracts of golden piss than ran and trickled, criss-crossing the square. Drinking, story-telling, singing and all the other stuff that makes for a memorable celebration continued late into the warm summer night.