An­cient tra­di­tion

An an­cient tra­di­tion car­ries on

Strathearn Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Hun­dreds will gather in and around Melville Square in Com­rie at Hog­manay to await the bells and the Com­rie flam­beaux pro­ces­sion. The flam­beaux are over­seen by the Com­rie Flam­beaux Com­mit­tee who be­gin prepar­ing them well in ad­vance of De­cem­ber 31.

Lo­cally-sourced birch poles, se­lected for their straight­ness, are wrapped in layer upon layer of hes­sian sacks, tied firmly in place with wire. These are then soaked in flammable liq­uid un­til De­cem­ber 31. Car­ry­ing a flam­beaux is a sig­nif­i­cant test of fit­ness for the bear­ers, who usu­ally hand down the ba­ton through the gen­er­a­tions.

The tra­di­tion is so an­cient, no-one can pin­point when it started.

Folk­lorist and au­thor­ity on Scot­tish cul­ture Mar­garet Ben­nett told the Her­ald: “The flam­beaux is one of sev­eral Scot­tish fire fes­ti­vals, which are al­ways at the dark­est time of the year. I think that it’s a par­al­lel to the an­cient fes­ti­vals - I tend to re­sist the word Pa­gan - it’s more or less pre-Chris­tian. The pol­icy of the early church was to in­vest a new sig­nif­i­cance to old and an­cient fes­ti­vals be­cause peo­ple get up­set

when you re­move their fes­ti­vals. And one of the things they did as a rit­ual at the dark­est time of the year was to wel­come the re­turn­ing light

light­ing a huge fire, and from that large com­mu­nity fire they would take burn­ing torches and walk the bound­aries of their com­mu­nity, sym­bol­is­ing pu­rifi­ca­tion.”

Mar­garet can’t pin down when the flam­beaux would have started but says such fes­ti­vals can date back to the fourth cen­tury. Celtic fes­ti­vals also went along sim­i­lar lines - they were a time for a fresh start and pu­rifi­ca­tion. Mar­garet added: “Walk­ing the bound­aries of the com­mu­nity in this way with fire is em­bed­ded in tra­di­tion over cen­turies.”

“Flam­beaux also re­flect the idea, which peo­ple took quite se­ri­ously, of think­ing ahead to next year and do­ing the best with it, so they would pre­pare for it. It wasn’t some­thing you just did that night and stuck up a huge burn­ing log. Prepa­ra­tion is very spe­cific to the flam­beaux.”

And in­deed the Com­rie flam­beaux are made in Novem­ber - nowa­days on the Sun­day fol­low­ing Re­mem­brance Day.

Mar­garet says their is also men­tion of the Com­rie flam­beaux in a Scots Magazine (the old­est magazine in the world still in pub­li­ca­tion) of the 1770s, which de­scribes the cer­e­mony car­ried out in the Shaky Vil­lage. And this was around the time that Com­rie was de­vel­op­ing into a vil­lage, rather than just a meet­ing place sur­rounded by small set­tle­ments. As to the name “flam­beaux”, this more than likely comes into the spectrum of bor­rowed words from other lan­guages.

Team­work The 2017 Flam­beaux ty­ers

Fi­nal check David Robert­son

Chair­man Hamish Reid

Prepa­ra­tion James Ste­wart

Two man

Wind up The sacks are kept firmly in place with wire

jobMuir Hunter and Craig Gillies

Next gen­er­a­tion Wil­lie Sin­clair with Ge­orge Ben­nie and Kieran Fer­gu­son

Flammable Kyle Fen­wick and Ge­orge Ben­nie fill the bar­rells

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