WAKING up with a hangover and scratches all over your body may not sound like the sign of a responsible day out – but for one South Queensferry man it’s all part and parcel of keeping his hometown safe for another year.
Andrew Taylor, 32, has now taken the iconic and mysterious role of The Burryman for the second year running.
This involves parading for nine hours around the streets of his hometown in a head-to-ankle suit made from approximately 11,000 thistle burrs.
The origins and meaning of the tradition are lost in the mists of time, but most residents agree that The Burryman’s parade is a celebration of man’s connection with the natural world.
The character, who makes his way through the town every year on the second Friday in August, is also thought to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck to the locals – many of whom are only too happy to provide him with a wee dram or two to help him on his way.
But Andrew, who works as a road sweeper for Edinburgh council when he’s not warding off evil, claimed the “five or six” drams he’d had by noon yesterday – which he could only drink through a straw due to the constraints of the costume – did not affect his parading ability.
He said: “I’m fine right now, if a wee bit warm!
“I have clothing and a balaclava on underneath this to protect me from the burrs, so it gets quite hot. It’s really an honour to take on this role.
“Being from South Queensferry I’ve been brought up with it and I absolutely loved doing it last year.” And if he does get tired along the route he will be helped to stay upright by his attendants Andrew Findlater and Duncan Thompson, who support him on his seven-mile trek in the heavy burr suit.
Policeman Duncan, 30, said: “It is a very tiring job and the suit does get heavier as the day goes on, probably because of all the sweat.
“Thankfully, as Andrew will have to be cut out of the suit at the end of the day, they make a brand new one every year.”
Though the tradition is though to date back much further, the first recorded Burryman was believed to have been in 1687.
It is said that if The Burryman were to stop parading, bad luck would befall the town.
But local SNP councillor Norman Work feels confident there’s no danger of that happening any time soon.
He said: “It’s a very popular event here and one which I’m sure will continue for a very long time.
“I think you’d be hard- pressed to find anything else like it, it’s really very unique.
“We believe his suit is made of burrs – which must be collected locally – because the evil sticks to them.”
The burrs are meshed together to make a kind of natural velcro, which is then wrapped around Andrew in the morning to make the iconic suit. He also wears a bowler hat covered in flowers, which is given to someone in the local community after the parade. Being gifted the hat is thought to be a great honour.
Moira and David Clarke, who are from Yorkshire, came down to see The Burryman after hearing about the unusual tradition while visiting Edinburgh for the Fringe.
Moira said: “We had a look at videos of previous parades on YouTube and decided we just had to see it for ourselves. We’re very impressed.”
Heritage bid could put strain on infrastructure
More visitors could soon be flocking to the towns of North and South Queensferry, if plans to have the Forth Rail Bridge officially named as a World Heritage Site come to fruition.
The first crossing at the site was established in the 11th century, but the iconic structure now connecting the two sides of the Firth was completed in the year 1890, with the road bridge following in 1964.
However, concerns have been raised by communities on either side of the crossing over the extra strain on local infrastructure which would result from the bid being successful.
Queensferry and District Community Council secretary Terry Airlie said: “They have been talking about the number of projected visitors in five to ten years’ time, and South Queensferry struggles at the moment.”