Biggar Bonfire returns with Maureen Gray doing the honours

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
After a three year absence, Biggar celebrated New Year with the town’s historic and very traditional Hogmanay Bonfire.

A year after the authorities almost ended the ancient tradition, folk in the town crossed their fingers that, with the bonfire built, inspections by SGN and the Fire Service would prove positive and so allow the fire to take place.

These final hurdles crossed off, the scene was set for a traditional Biggar Hogmanay.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A dismal week of weather and a very poor forecast had an impact on the crowd, but there was still a busy High Street with locals and visitors alike delighted to follow the torch lit procession led by Biggar Pipe Band as it made its way from Station Road to the Corn Exchange.

It may have taken a wee while to spark up, but the fire was soon roaring. (Pic: Rikki Duncan)It may have taken a wee while to spark up, but the fire was soon roaring. (Pic: Rikki Duncan)
It may have taken a wee while to spark up, but the fire was soon roaring. (Pic: Rikki Duncan)

Present amongst the torch bearers were many of those who have supported the bonfire, including Councillors Alex Allison and Ian McAllan, MSP Mairi McAllan, former councillor Eric Holford and past Community Council Chair Lesley Craise.

Also present were 2022 Fleming Queen Kelsie Brotherstone, event advisor Colin Murphy, Callum O’Donnell, son of Biggar Cornets founding father Tommy, Biggar Cornets and of course Honorary Bonfire Lighter Maureen Gray who has been ‘in post’ since December 2021.

There was a tinge of sadness as the Voice of Biggar Hogmanay, Peter Rae, who provided the musical entertainment at the event, passed in the run up to Christmas.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

His presence at the event ran for some 50 years and it was his son Alan who took up the reins to maintain the family tradition.

Maureen Gray had the honour of lighting the bonfire.Maureen Gray had the honour of lighting the bonfire.
Maureen Gray had the honour of lighting the bonfire.

Just about bang on 9.30pm, Maureen, with 2022 Cornet Michael Allan at her side, used her torch to light the fire, this act giving her obvious delight.

The authorities had limited the size of the fire to 5mx5m square and a 3m height which tested the construction capabilities of those tasked with the build. Materials were also limited due to the size of the fire and the particular conditions imposed by SFRS which demanded only specific types of wood.

As a result, the fire took some time to get going, hampered to some extent by the very unusual east wind.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It soon took hold, however, and provided its usual magnificent sight – albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

Cornets led the way to the bonfire. (Pic: Nigel Pacey)Cornets led the way to the bonfire. (Pic: Nigel Pacey)
Cornets led the way to the bonfire. (Pic: Nigel Pacey)

The crowd appreciated the efforts made although there was clearly widespread disappointment that the fire was so much smaller than in previous years.

The event passed off successfully and smoothly with positive comments from the on duty police and those guests who carried torches.

An event on this scale depends on the co-operation of the community and it is only fitting to record thanks to the following groups, businesses and individuals who all contributed to this community event. It is in no specific order and if anyone has been inadvertently missed please accept our sincere apologies!

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Biggar Pipe Band for leading the procession; Biggar Cornets Club members for the bonfire build and organisation; Biggar Community Council, joint organisers and assitance with funding; Biggar Theatre Workshop for power and display space; Biggar Community Toilets open until late; J J MCCann machinery; Elphinstone Hotel, event control and hospitality; Hartree Hotel for equipment; Aroma for hospitality; Andrew Clark machinery; Rab Ramsay machinery; The Gibson family for the new sign; Brian Thomson, Manitou driver par excellence; aforementioned Councillors, MSP and other guest torch bearers; Maureen Gray, family and friends – Honoraray Bonfire lighter and pre-bonfire hospitality; Andrew Wilson for photography and social media posts; volunteer marshalls; BHC Carnwath – donation of materials for torches; all the individuals who donated materials for the fire; Biggar Masonic Lodge for its First Aid venue; Police Scotland; Clyde Windfarm Extension Fund; Coneworx for TTRO and road management; ABCparamedics for first aid and TL Dallas Insurance.

Cornet keeps tradition alive.Cornet keeps tradition alive.
Cornet keeps tradition alive.

Lastly, but very importantly, a huge thank you goes to the Biggar public who supported last year’s campaign and provided much support and encouragement throughout the build this year via the power of social media.

They also provided dozens (if not hundreds) of fantastic photos, came out on a miserable night to witness the event and contributed willingly to the blanket collection on the night.

Event funding is an issue and is now a costly business with traffic management, Insurance and First Aid, all of which was previously covered by the authorities now to be accounted for by the organisers – a total this year amounting to over £7,000.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Community Council was successful in applying for grant funding for the 2022 event from the Clyde Windfarm Extension fund.

However, next year’s event will most likely cost more. There is a crowd-funding page which can be accessed via the Biggar Bonfire Facebook page.

Many have already contributed and it would be fantastic if others now follow suit. At time of writing the fund stands at £2821 with a £5000 target.