The Burry Man has a special place in Scottish tradition and folklore. Every August, for centuries, the Burry Man has walked the streets of South Queensferry, Scotland, a village near Edinburgh. The residents believe he will bring luck to the town if they give him whisky and money.
The Burry Man walks, 1937
"On the day preceding the Queensferry Fair, the Burry Man 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 Burry Man 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." -- W. W. Fyffe, 1865, from The Ferry Fair
There are many theories about how he got started, what the ceremony means, why it continues. Basically, though, he walks, collecting whisky and money... because he's collecting whisky and money. The fact that he carries on a tradition thousands of years old (which he does); that he is a symbol of rebirth, regeneration and fertility that predates just about all contemporary religions (which it is); that he is covered in burrs from head to foot — ankle, actually — for long cold and sometimes wet hours perhaps to epitomize a "scapegoat" or "resurrection" mythology, and is uncomfortable at best and in great pain at worst (which he most definitely is); is secondary to the fact that he simply is.
We chose to name our center after him to honor this ancient tradition, and the generations of townsfolk who have kept it alive. Burry Man Day is the second Friday in August. Our thanks to Andrew Taylor, John Nicol, Alan Reid, James "Kitter" Magan, John "Jacko" Hart, Sam Corson, Arne Fredricksen, Judith McPhillips (the Wee Burry Man, 1948) and all the other stout men, robust lads and charming lassies who have taken on the mantle of the Burry Man.