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South Lanarkshire
Biggar


Population 2098. Figures taken from 2001 Census.

Biggar could be called South Lanarkshire's gateway to the Borders, as it lies on the A72 Clyde Valley Tourist Route, nestling among rolling hills with spectacular views of Tinto Hill, the highest hill in South Lanarkshire.

The village's wide main street gives away its mediaeval past as a market town and it was the first village in South Lanarkshire to benefit from investment in a high quality streetscape, enhancing its picturesque and atmospheric atmosphere. Biggar's shops include an award-winning grocer, a famous ice cream and chocolate shop and a good mix of book, toy and craft shops, bakeries and florists.

One of Biggar's best known traditions is its Hogmanay bonfire. Preparations start in December and on New Year's Eve, following a torch-lit procession through the town, the fire is lit outside the Corn Exchange. It's thought the tradition dates back to the mid-winter fires of the Druids. The Biggar Little Festival takes place in October and is a celebration of arts from in and around the area. A number of events take place in the town's show field, including the agricultural show and the vintage car rally. The Biggar Gala Day takes place in June.

The housing in Biggar ranges from beautiful red sandstone cottages, rural cottages and council properties to family villas and new builds. The village has a number of 'A' listed buildings including St Mary's Church, Brownsbank Cottage and Biggar Gasworks.

There are 10 primary schools in the Biggar area, although most of these are rural. Biggar High will be completely refurbished as part of South Lanarkshire Council's multi-million pound schools modernisation programme.

For days out of town, Biggar is hard to beat with no fewer than five excellent museums to visit - all maintained by the Biggar Museum Trust - and a puppet theatre set in a miniature Victorian music hall. Indeed, Biggar probably has the highest number of museums per head of population than any other Scottish village. If you prefer outdoor pursuits Biggar Public Park and Golf Course are situated on the edge of the village.

Biggar is served by the Lanark and Carluke Advertiser, the Lanark Gazette and the Lanarkshire Extra.

History

Biggar began life as an Iron Age settlement atop Bizzyberry Hill. Its position at the crossroads of the Clyde Valley and the Tweed Valley made it an important trade centre. The name Biggar is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon "bige" meaning bend and the village lies close to a right angle bend in the River Clyde.

After the Norman Conquest in the 12th century, King David gave Biggar and its surrounding land to Baldwin, a Fleming leader, in return for military support. The remains of their castle can still be seen overlooking the Burn Braes. The Flemings continued to rule the town and supported Robert the Bruce in his fight for the Scottish crown. When Bruce murdered his enemy Comyn at Dumfries, Robert Fleming cut off his head and held it aloft, shouting "let the deed shaw" which was taken for the motto on the family crest.

In 1451 Biggar was made a free Burgh of Barony, allowing it to have a weekly market, fairs and the powers of jurisdiction. By the 1700s Biggar was a town of handloom weavers, shoemakers, tailors and blacksmiths and also a depot for lead from the Leadhills mines on its way to Leith.

The worst parts of the Industrial Revolution bypassed Biggar but unfortunately mass-produced goods forced many handloom weavers to look for other work.

The arrival of the railway in 1874 brought tourists and Biggar built on this, attracting day trippers from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Many of the sandstone villas at either end of the town were built as holiday homes for the jute and tobacco barons of the big cities.

In the 1950s the world famous Biggar engineering firm Cuthbertson built the Albion Cuthbertson Water Buffalo, a tractor designed to work in boggy ground and they later invented pipe laying machinery and snow ploughs. The founder JA Cuthbertson is commemorated in a plaque set in an ornamental snowplough.

The poet Hugh MacDiarmid moved to Brownsbank Cottage in Biggar in 1951, where he lived with his wife Valda, until their deaths in 1978 and 1989. Brownsbank Cottage is now a museum and a base for a writer-in-residence.

In 1962 Biggar residents Robert Kerr (12) and his father Robert (45) made medical history when Robert senior donated one of his kidneys to his son, the first father to son donation in the country.


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