Riding of the marches
The term Riding of the Marches has been used to describe the inspection of the boundaries of the town of Annan since it was created a Royal Burgh more than 600 years ago. However Riding was more likely to have originally come from the Scottish verb to ‘rede’, which means to clear or put in order and Marches to have come from the word ‘mearc’ from the Anglo-Saxon meaning boundary. So in olden days when they ‘rede of the mearcs’ they were fixing a boundary around the town. Today, in early July more than one hundred horsemen and horsewomen, led by the Cornet and his Lass Ride the Marches to ensure that the landmarks, cairns and other features have not been removed or tampered with since the previous check.
Although it may seem that the horses are having a breather at each stop, the stops do all have a tradition attached to them. The ‘Hole in the Hedge’ at Landheads marks the ancient site of Willie Cron’s smithy. Two stories abound here – some claim a boy was pushed through the window to look out for marauders but others suggest in times of whipping posts the hedge marked the spot where the local boys were punished. Each year a local boy is sent through the hole in the hedge to check the boundary and still receives a ‘skelp’ (smack) on his rear end. The town’s Snuff Box is also passed around here too. It was presented to Annan Town Council by Brigadier General Dirom of Mount Annan.
The Beltedstane, a granite boulder near Creca and the Cairn of Creca, where fairies are supposed to have danced, are other stops on the route. On the Solway shore, if the tide allows, they ride around the Altar Stane found in the sand before heading to horse chases on the Everholm. All the way round The Standard is displayed on the boundaries to help put marauders to flight and it is hoped that the day will prove to be “Safe Oot! Safe In”
As well as the Rideout, there were sports and competitions at the sports field and a grand parade through the town with decorated floats, music and other entertainments and a spectacular closing ceremony with pipes and drums on the High Street.
The Riding of the Marches has only ever been cancelled 4 times – 1952 and 2001 because of outbreaks of foot and mouth and 2020 and 2021 because of Covid19. Everyone is looking forward to making 2022 a year to remember.