Is this Scotland’s strangest Hogmanay tradition?

Just another Hogmanay in Newburgh - last year's Apprentice, Connor McGoey (Pic: Dave Scott)
Just another Hogmanay in Newburgh - last year's Apprentice, Connor McGoey (Pic: Dave Scott)

There are some pretty odd New Year traditions in Scotland, but they don’t come much odder than the procession taking place this Hogmanay in Newburgh, Fife.

Organised by the aptly-named Oddfellows, the event is the only one of its kind in Scotland, and perhaps not for those of a nervous disposition.

Basically, it involves members of the Caledonian Lodge of Oddfellows dressing up in the creepiest costumes and masks they can find and parading down Newburgh High Street by torchlight scaring the living daylights out of innocent bystanders.

The parade is led by the newest Lodge member, known as ‘The Apprentice’, who sits on a horse backwards and without a saddle.

And this year the most recent recruit is Tom Wright, who has travelled all the way from Australia for the privilege.

“Tom was visiting an uncle in Newburgh, came along to our meeting and joined there and then,” explained Grand Lodgemaster Graham Kirk.

“He’ll be riding a huge Clydesdale – back to front of course – and will be accompanied by the Tullis Russell Silver Band, with all the office-bearers behind him.

“It will be quite a spectacle and we hope as many people as possible will turn out and join in.

“Newburgh is the only place in Scotland – if not the world – where you can see an Oddfellow parade first-hand.”

There’s also a serious side to the scary shenanigans, with the Oddfellows collecting money as they go to distribute to local good causes such as Age Concern and Newburgh’s annual Old Folks’ Treat.

The Oddfellows is a fraternity of Lodges that has its roots in the early 18th century, although its origins are hazy. Some theorise that it was formed by people who carried out unusual or miscellaneous trades – odd fellows – as the larger trades had guilds or syndicates to represent them. Newburgh’s Caledonian Lodge is the last remaining Oddfellows lodge in Scotland.

The first torchlight procession in the town was held in 1885 and, far from falling by the wayside, it continues to go from strength to strength.

The hardy participants don’t allow a little thing like bad weather to put them off, and this year they’ll be braving the predicted rain with their usual gusto.

“We’ve held the parade in snow, storms and just about every other weather condition,” said Graham.

“The only time it was affected was when the band was snowed in and couldn’t get to Newburgh.”

The parade gets under way at 7pm on Hogmanay at the town clock. and the road will be closed to traffic for about an hour.