Comrie Flambeaux, Hogmanay Celebration, Perthshire


Pic: Comrie (Perthshire Tourist Board)
The pretty Perthshire village of Comrie is probably best known for its award-winning blooms but it's not just in the summer months that the village is ablaze with colour as Hilary McNally has been finding out.

As the New Year bells ring out across Comrie, the picturesque village at the heart of Scotland, hundreds of people will be gathering in the square to take part in one of the country's oldest festivals.

Every Hogmanay as far back as anyone can remember the village has been home to the Flambeaux Procession, a fiery spectacular accompanied by music, fancy dress parades and general all round merry-making.

At midnight eight flambeaux or fiery torches begin the procession around the village before being ceremoniously thrown in the River Earn.

Although no-one is absolutely sure how or when the festival began and lots of different myths abound, the most widely accepted theory is that it is pagan in origin.

"There are various different theories," admitted Jim Stewart, secretary of the organising Comrie Flambeaux Society.

"As far as we are concerned the origins are pagan. It was all about driving out the evil spirits of the old year from the extremities of the village and welcoming in the New Year.

"It is a unique event. Although there are other fire festivals in Scotland there are none quite like this one."

Jim added that the preparations for the festival begin long before the festive period.

"The flambeaux are made from saplings wrapped in hessian bags, usually old tattie bags, on the first Sunday after Armistice Sunday," he explained. "They are soaked in a drum of paraffin for six weeks then removed on Hogmanay."

The evening's festivities begin with a children's fancy dress parade at 6.30pm. As the last minutes of the old year pass, villagers and visitors gather in the square until at midnight the flambeaux are lit and the procession, led by members of the local pipe band, begins.

After working its way around the village the procession returns to the square where the flambeaux, often more than six feet high, are put down while the adults' fancy dress parade is held.

Once the judging is complete the flambeaux are then picked up again and carried across the square to Dalginross Bridge where they are thrown into the river.

"It is extremely atmospheric," said Jim. "People come from all over the area to watch it. Others who have left Comrie to work elsewhere also come home for the holidays and to watch the procession.

"We have had a couple of thousand people attending but the turn out really depends on the weather. The best kind is a frost or even snow, which really adds to the spectacle. The whole thing is fantastic to watch."

Comrie is situated seven miles west of Crieff in Perthshire and is probably best known for its flowers and its status as the most earthquake prone place in Britain! The latter is due to its location on the Highland Boundary Fault line while the former is thanks to the village's success in winning the Britain in Bloom award for best large village in Britain.

For more information on Comrie and Perthshire in general visit the Perthshire Tourist Board site at



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