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Riding of the Marches returns in 2021

Date: 15 September 2021

Riding of the Marches 2021

After the disappointment of cancelled events in 2020 due to the pandemic, many turned out at the Kirk Green on Sunday 12 September to witness the return of the historic and ceremonial Riding of the Marches.

Councillor Gwenda Shearer welcomed back those on horseback and the crowds who had gathered to watch the annual custom.

This year’s standard bearer was stalwart Bill Spence who led the riders around the old boundary of the town to mark the 35th anniversary of the revival of the custom.

Councillor Shearer said: “Thirty-five years ago in 1986 the then Convener of Orkney Islands Council – Edwin Eunson – welcomed nearly one hundred horses onto Broad Street for the inaugural resumption of the Riding the Marches. Today, for the thirty fifth time since 1986, we again gather to re-enact this old Kirkwall tradition.

“Five hundred and thirty-five years ago, in 1486, King James III granted Kirkwall Royal Burgh status.  It is worth remembering that this was only 18 years since King James had received possession of Orkney in pawn for a still unpaid wedding dowry due from his cash strapped father-in-law Christian the First of Denmark in 1468.  James was obviously already treating the islands as if he owned them outright and he gave Kirkwallians freedom to manage their own affairs and entrusted to them for safe keeping and preservation our beautiful St Magnus Cathedral - by then almost 350 years old - and very extensive Burgh lands.

“These lands stretched from Carness in one direction to Wideford Hill in the other.  The old ceremony of Riding the Marches was really a tour of inspection by Kirkwall Town Council – on horseback – to make sure no one was interfering with the Burgh’s property.  Most of these Burgh lands were sold off more than one hundred and fifty years ago but today the riders will again visit some of them, skirt past some and view many others of these ancient properties that are an ongoing reminder of our Norse heritage and have existed for well over 1000 years.

“It’s great to have the real thing again this year after last year’s Covid-related cancellation (although a couple of intrepid socially distanced riders did, I believe, make the journey and keep the tradition alive).  The show must go on!

“It also, of course, makes us reflect on the fact that our town and our islands can be subject to invasions of many kinds and as we check the boundaries today we should still be mindful of those invaders that we cannot see.  That virus that we would like to declare ourselves free from, but maybe next year!”

Councillor Shearer thanked all for taking part and assisting in the event, from the land owners, the organisers, the Police, Kirkwall City Pipe Band, RAYNET, Paul and Linda Halford of the Emergency Care Group, Alan Tait the Farrier, the Pony Club, the Riding Club, the Driving Club and Orkney Islands Council staff, Lizzie Linklater for providing and driving the handsome carriage through the streets with care and style and, not forgetting, all the horses and ponies.

  • Summary:

    After the disappointment of cancelled events in 2020 due to the pandemic, many turned out at the Kirk Green on Sunday 12 September to witness the return of the historic and ceremonial Riding of the Marches.

    Councillor Gwenda Shearer welcomed back those on horseback and the crowds who had gathered to watch the annual custom.

  • Category:
    • Events
    • Leisure and Culture

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535

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Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS