Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back in the saddle after 63 years … Riding returns to Edinburgh

Back in the saddle after 63 years … Riding returns to Edinburgh

Published Date: 07 September 2009
THE clatter of hooves on cobbles filled the streets of Edinburgh yesterday as an ancient tradition that dates back to the 16th century was revived after an absence of more than 60 years.
At a stately pace, 250 elegant mounts and their smartly dressed riders took part in a procession up the Royal Mile for the city's Riding of the Marches.

The event had not taken place since 1946, when the tradition was resurrected to mark the end of the Second World War and just 70 horses took part.

From 1579 to 1718 it was an annual ceremony to mark the town boundaries and ensure no-one was encroaching on the common land. People could be fined for non-attendance.

Yesterday, thousands of onlookers watched the riders progress through the city from the Braid Hills, up the Royal Mile and down to the Grassmarket.

Such was the popularity among budding participants that the number of riders had to be capped.

Wendy Dixon, who brought her horse Tripper from Berwick-upon-Tweed for the event, said: "Riding up the Royal Mile was something you could only dream of doing before. It was a privilege to fly the flag for Berwick, a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

However, Ian Douglas, who led the ride on his grey horse Monarch, hopes the Riding of the Marches will be repeated.

He said: "I like to think it can be carried on on an annual basis. It was absolutely fantastic, a great experience. You could really sense the history.

"The 1946 ride was a bit of a one-off, but it had been held before that from 1579 to 1718."

He bore the Edinburgh banner and presented a traditional scroll to Lord Provost of the city, George Grubb. It was his suggestion to revive the tradition after being inspired by reading about previous ride-outs and council leaders thought the year of Homecoming would be suitable.

Steve McGill, first officer of the event, took part on his grey Mannie.

He said: "We were really fortunate with the weather.

"Although we had to reroute a little around Swanston as a lot of water earlier in the week had affected some of the tracks we were going to use."

And he revealed the choice of three grey mounts to lead the procession was no coincidence.

He said: "The research we did showed the leader in 1946 had a grey and we liked the idea of repeating that tradition."

At the Grassmarket, the procession delighted passengers on an open-topped tourist bus as riders inched over to let the double-decker past.

Dave Cruickshank, from Edinburgh said: "It's great if it brings the tourists to Edinburgh. My wee boy is over the moon with all the horses."

And shop worker Alex Randall was delighted to see hundreds of horses passing the door instead of the usual traffic. She offered a unique suggestion to the city's congestion problems.

She said, with tongue firmly in cheek: "It's nice to see horses. I think we should get rid of cars and have horses instead."

I would have loved to see this. I think I would have wept!


1 comment:

Canadian Book Lady said...

Me, too! What a great tradition to revive. I agree with her, thinking the world would be a better place if we "get rid of cars and have horses instead." Well, at least in fair weather... :o)

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I grew up in Chautauqua County, NY. I graduated from Edinboro University of Pennyslvania in 1981 with a BFA in Jewelry and Metalworking. I have been married 31 years. I currently run a small business with my husband. We both enjoy the outdoors and animals a great deal and live on a tiny farm in Western, NY.