James IV was Whithorn best medieval tourist

James IV loved to visit Whithorn
James IV loved to visit Whithorn

THE Royal Burgh of Whithorn has exciting plans for 2013 to commemorate the death of King James IV - the town’s most faithful Royal pilgrim.

Julia Muir Watt from Whithorn Business Association said: “Whithorn and District Business Association have been working with Whithorn Primary, Parent Council and Douglas Ewart High School, as well as youth workers and community groups, to propose a series of events during 2013, which is the anniversary of James IV’s death on the field at Flodden, and with a finale in 2014.

“This is to involve various age groups - challenging young people at the schools to get involved in understanding their heritage and also to cross generational divides and involve adult community groups in celebrating Whithorn’s medieval history.

“We have called it “All Roads Lead to Whithorn”, because of Whithorn’s being the prime destination for pilgrims in medieval Scotland, and because James IV was Whithorn’s most faithful pilgrim.

“The project would begin early in 2013 in schools and in community sessions, led, if we are successful in obtaining funding, by Urbancroft, creative consultants: young people would be challenged to think about journeys and roads, in the context of the historic background of Whithorn’s centrality to the network of pilgrimage routes crossing medieval Scotland.

Several short films would be made of the community and school sessions which would be phase 1 of this complext of events, and which would then be used by us to apply for further funding, with the aim of a grand community performance, re-enacting aspects of the great pilgrimages undertaken by James IV to Whithorn, when he brought a retinue of fiddlers, musicians, jugglers and a baggage train, giving alms to the poor en route.

“James IV left tangible evidence of his patronage of Whithorn, in the form of the magnificent sculpture of the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland over the Pend, sculpted c.1500.

“This shows his close alliance with the Prior, who was one of the power brokers of medieval Scotland. Indeed, the Prior of Whithorn was one of only three magnates who supplied the oxen for the cannon at Flodden (records show the 16 oxen and drivers from Whithorn being paid for by the Royal Treasurer).

“These of course became mired in the mud on the battlefield and disaster ensued. Nonetheless, during his life, James added colour, entertainment and piety during his visits to Whithorn and these events seek to commemorate that legacy.

“We have funding applications out to fund the first stage, which will act as a community consultation in action, involving people while also exploring the way in which the community wishes to be involved and how it will shape the final events. 2014 is the year of Homecoming, so it is quite appropriate for a finale to take place then, particularly with the theme of travel, roads and arrival, which run throughout this project.

“It would be exciting to think that a range of groups could come together to celebrate Whithorn’s unique and nationally important heritage, and create an event that would be repeatable each year.”