South Queensferry’s Burryman welcomes rain

Seven-year-old Charlie Cleg gives the Burryman - Andrew Taylor - a drink. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Seven-year-old Charlie Cleg gives the Burryman - Andrew Taylor - a drink. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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ONE very famous resident could be the only person in the UK that is relieved the rain is here – the Burryman, clad head to toe in burrs as he did his traditional tour of South Queensferry yesterday.

Sipping whisky through a straw he welcomed the wind and rain, admitting some might like it hot but a man in a heavy suit made of burrs certainly doesn’t.

The annual ritual is said to bring good luck, though this wasn’t the case last year when one of the burrs became lodged in the Burryman’s eye and he had to endure four hours in A&E.

Andrew Taylor, who has taken on the prickly mantle for the fourth year running, enjoyed a more comfortable journey during his walk round the village this time, thanks to the cooling showers.

But despite the rain, Mr Taylor still had to endure ten hours inside a sweltering costume which is so confining he is unable to walk or talk in any comfort.

David Steel, chairman of the Ferry Fair Festival, said: “It’s an arduous task. He can’t bend his knees and has to walk with stiff legs and his arms are outstretched so he has to have a couple of helpers. The costume is very hot.

“It’s very physically demanding and it is quite a serious commitment.”

The tradition dictates that the Burryman is treated to drams of whisky as he tours South Queensferry. However, the drink only serves to make him a little hotter under his floral collar.

“The only way he can take his dram is if someone holds the glass for him and he takes it through a straw,” Mr Steel said.

“But it was raining and that is better for him than blazing heat and sunshine. So he will be the only one who was finding the rain a relief.”

The Burryman is supposed to collect 11,000 burrs as well as any ferns and flowers which are used to decorate his costume and the two flower-covered staves that he rests his hands on.

They are then meshed together into about 25 flat panels, like natural Velcro, which can be wrapped around his body on the morning of the ceremony – a painstaking process taking about half an hour.

He dresses in several layers of clothing to protect himself from the hooks of the burrs, while a balaclava, also covered in burrs, leaves only small eye and mouth holes.

The Burryman is chosen by the family of his predecessor and the Ferry Fair Festival Committee after putting his name forward. But before he is formally offered the role, both the family and the committee must assure themselves that the person taking it on is “capable” and “committed”.

The Ferry Fair Festival – with which the Burryman is closely linked – kicked off last Sunday, with the Alan Meldrum community rowing challenge, five-a-side football, children’s races and a family fun day keeping everyone busy throughout the week.

Today the Queen’s Procession leaves Queensferry High School and will proceed along Station Road for a tour of the burgh, led by the town crier, the Queen-elect and her court, bands and floats.