A delegation of 14 local people from Mid Galloway has just returned from a very successful visit to Marcoussis, the French town outside Paris which is twinned with Newton Stewart and district.
The delegation included Cllr Marion McCutcheon, chair of Wigtown Area Committee, who was representing Dumfries and Galloway Council, and eight young people from the Douglas Ewart High School who are working on the gold stage of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
The first signing of the twinning agreement between Newton Stewart and Marcoussis was concluded in November 2013 in Newton Stewart and it was agreed that it would be very fitting to have the French signing ceremony coinciding with Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in France, particularly in 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1.
On 11th November the Scottish delegation met with many local people in the town hall in Marcoussis where Cllr McCutcheon and Olivier Thomas, mayor of Marcoussis, signed the twinning documents. Everyone then paraded to the war memorial in the cemetery for the laying of wreaths, and a few short, appropriate speeches, including one by Meta Maltman, the chair of the Newton Stewart and District Twinning Association and representative of Cree Valley Community Council. Both Meta and the young Scots laid wreaths of poppies provided by Cree Valley Community Council. In beautiful autumn sunshine a large crowd of local Marcoussis residents had turned out to support the ceremony and to listen to music provided by the school choir. In France the red poppy is not the symbol of remembrance but members of the Marcoussis twinning committee and the mayor had managed to acquire red poppies which they wore as a mark of friendship.
In his speech at the war memorial, the mayor said:
“I also want at this point to express my very warm thanks to them (the Newton Stewart delegation) for being here and remind everyone how much the Scottish have been hit by the First World War …. One hundred years after the launch of this war here we are together, great-great grandchildren of Scottish and French “Poilus”, to celebrate our so brave ancestors in this terrible period. But it is also in our present capacity to meet, to share, to discover and listen to each other in Europe and beyond that we will be able to avoid yesterday’s mistakes.”
The Marcoussis association was particularly delighted to welcome such a large group of young Scots to their community and had arranged a special programme for them – a balance between participation in the general functions and visits arranged specially for them. The Newton Stewart organisers hope that it will be possible to offer reciprocal hospitality to young people from Marcoussis.
Meta Maltman said:
“It was good to see that the name of Newton Stewart has already been added to the town sign for Marcoussis. The two-way traffic between our towns is growing steadily and many host/guest pairings have already blossomed into personal friendships. Events like the Walking Festival and Wigtown Book Festival are proving an attraction for Marcoussis residents planning visits to Galloway and Wigtownshire Rugby Club is planning a trip to France early next year. We hope that as time goes by more people will want to get involved in the twinning process. There’s certainly plenty of scope for more shared activities and interests and I think that all of us who have tried will tell you that twinning is also great fun.”