AFTER a three-year absence, Biggar celebrated New Year with the town’s historic and traditional Hogmanay Bonfire.

The circumstances around the bonfire are well documented but a year after the authorities almost ended this long-standing tradition, the town crossed its 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 the scene was set for a traditional Biggar Hogmanay.

A dismal week of weather and a very poor forecast definitely 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.

Present among 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 former 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 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, passed in the run up to Christmas. His presence at the event ran for some 50 years and it was son Alan who took up the reins to maintain the family tradition.

Just about bang on 9.30pm, Maureen, with 2022 Cornet Michael Allen at her side, used her torch to light the fire.

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 and so the fire took some time to get going, hampered to some extent by the very unusual east wind.

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

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 cooperation 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. The following list is in no specific order and if anyone has been inadvertently missed please accept our sincere apologies!

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 - hospitality

Andrew Clark - machinery

Rab Ramsay - machinery

The Gibson family – new sign

Brian Thomson – Manitou driver par excellence

The aforementioned councillors, MSP and other guest torch bearers

Maureen Gray, family and friends – Honoraray bonfire lighter and pre-bonfire hospitality

Andrew Wilson – photography and social media posts

Volunteer marshalls

BHC Carnwath – donation of materials for torches

All those individuals who donated materials

Biggar Masonic Lodge - First Aid venue

Police Scotland

Clyde Windfarm Extension Fund

Coneworx for TTRO and road management

ABCparamedics for 1st aid

TL Dallas Insurance

And last but very importantly, the Biggar public who supported last year’s campaign; provided much support and encouragement throughout the build this year via the power of social media; 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 were previously covered by the authorities now to be accounted for by the organisers – a total this year amounting to over £7,000. The community council were successful in applying for grant funding for this year’s event from the Clyde Windfarm Extension fund. Next year’s event will most likely cost more. There is a crowdfunding page which can be accessed from the Biggar Bonfire Facebook page. Many have already contributed and it would be fantastic if others were to follow suit. The fund currently stands at £2,821 with a target of £5,000.