History of Lanark's Lord Cornets

The Lord Cornet plays a very important role in the Lanimer celebrations and has done for many years.

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A boundaries map dating from 1632, the same year in which King Charles signed a charter describing in precise detail the boundaries of the Royal Burgh. Inset: Lord Cornets from yesteryear.
A boundaries map dating from 1632, the same year in which King Charles signed a charter describing in precise detail the boundaries of the Royal Burgh. Inset: Lord Cornets from yesteryear.

The first authoritative book written about Lanimer Day by Thomas Reid in 1914 devotes many pages to explaining the role of the Lord Cornet. This book was so popular that an improved edition was printed in 1921.

In 1488, there is mention in the Burgh Records of walking the Baukis (the Marches), the first reference to the lands being inspected, but there is no talk of Cornets or riding the marches.

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Reid’s book mentions the first reference to the riding of the landemuirs/marches by Thomas Gray on August 19,1570. It was a tumultuous year in Scottish history, with the wars between Catholics and Protestants in full swing.

Defences were erected in Lanark, known as Ports/Gateways. The only one that remains is Wide Close which is a unique survivor of the town's ancient defences and the bloody wars between the supporters of Mary Queen of Scots and her Protestant half brother the Regent Moray.

We do not know if any fighting took place in Lanark but Boghall Castle near Biggar was attacked by the forces of the Regent Moray.

In the cavalry in the old days a Cornet was a junior officer who carried the ensign or flag of the troop of horse. This explains why the Lord Cornet is entrusted with the Burgh Standard, which he must return a year later – unsullied and unstained.

The Cornets were part of a group of men whose duty it was to defend the town. They held regular meetings on the castle mound at the bottom of the Castlegate, called a Wappinshaw – the old Scots for a display of weapons.

According to Burgh Records they were poorly equipped, best described as the 16th century equivalent of Dad’s Army, but their successors gained military experience in the Thirty Years War and British Civil War.

There are references to inspecting the boundary stones in “Riding Oor Merches” in 1566 and 1592. The documents refer to an inspection by the Cornets, along with the council and community, on foot.

On February 20,1632, King Charles signed a charter detailing the Burgh’s boundaries. This document still exists and is in safe custody.