The Burryman outside the Hawes Inn
The Burryman outside the Hawes Inn

We refer to the annual procession of the BURRYMAN , got up on the day preceding the annual fair amongst the boys of Queensferry, and traced back to time immemorial, to the distraction of anti quarian research, although and object of which are lost in antiquity, and long ago foiled the antiquarian research of Sir Walter Scott. Tradition at present connects the custom with the erection of Queensferry into a Royal Burgh, which did not take place till the time of Charles I, and even points to the previous constitution as a Burgh of Regality, alleged to have originated under Malcolm Canmore, in which case the representations of the Burgh by the “BURRYMAN” would amount to a whimsical pun. The custom in question can be traced back to the last Battle of Falkirk; for an old person of eighty now living, whose deceased mother was aged thirteen at the date of the Battle (1746) states that the observance has remained unaltered from then till now. On the day preceding the Queensferry Fair, the BURRYMAN who requires to be either a stout man or robust lad, as weakly persons, like the man in complete steel who annually sacrifices his life to the Lord Mayors Show in London, have been known to faint under the heat and fatigue of the dressing, is indued in his flannels; face, arms, and legs, body all being covered, so as nearly to resemble a man in chain amour, from the adhesion of the burrs; and the head, as well as the tops of the staves grasped with extended arms, being beautifully dressed with flowers; whilst the victim, thus accoutered, is led from door to door by two attendants who likewise assist in holding up his arms by grasping the staves. At every door in succession, a shout is raised, and the inhabitants, severally come forth, bestow there kindly greetings and donatives of money on the BURRYMAN who in this way collects, we believe, considerable sums of money to be eventually divided and spent at the Fair by the youth associated in this exploit.

Extract from Book by W W Fyffe.