Huge flames leapt into the air as a Moray community celebrated the arrival of the New Year in its own unique style.
Led by the Clavie King, Dan Ralph, and hoisted aloft by the 20-strong Clavie Crew, the giant torch that forms the centrepiece of Burghead’s ancient tradition dripped fire and lit up the night sky.
Thousands of spectators looked-on as the Burning of the Clavie took place in celebration of January 11, the old Scots Hogmanay.
Brochers, as Burghead people are known, know how to celebrate properly and the night beginning with a gathering at the Clavie King’s house, where guests were greeted warmly and offered a warming tipple.
Afterwards, the procession began, with Mr Ralph leading a crew of local men carrying the Clavie – a burning 100kg barrel filled with wood and tar and mounted on a large post – through the village.
A huge crowd of people gathered from far and wide to follow the Clavie’s journey, with the crew stopping-off at various points to hand home-owners pieces of blackened staves.
An event steeped in superstition, villagers believe that receiving these staves from the vessel brings luck for the coming year and numerous pieces are sent to ex-pat Brochers around the world.
Tradition dictates that the first stave is handed to the Station Hotel before the team of men continue on their way.
The previous two years say the clavie greeted by sub-zero temperatures and fierce winds but for a change all was calm last night.
While that would be excellent news for most events, Clavie King Dan Ralph said he actually preferred a wee bit of wind.
He said: “I think it’s been too calm. I prefer it to be a bit windy so the flames only go one way. That makes it safer, but we know what we are doing.”
It was Mr Ralph’s 31st year as King and the 70th time he had been involved in the ceremony.
Each of the 20 strong Clavie Crew were Burghead born and bred, as the fiercely traditional festival is kept exactly the same each year.
After being carried around the village, the clavie was hoisted to the summit of Doorie Hill where it was hammered atop the remnants of an old Pictish Fort.
Flames were already dripping onto shoulders and arms – quickly patted down – as members of the crew doused the Clavie in additional creosote – heaving buckets full at it – to ensure it burned all night long.
Locals and tourists alike gasped as it flared and smoke billowed into the sky.
A group of Canadian students were overheard to exclaim they had never seen anything like it before.
Also among the crowd, however, were those who cannot let a year pass without witnessing the ceremony.
Retiree Cathy Robertson, 64, from Huntly, said: “It’s something I try to travel up to every year as it is one of the most fascinating things you can see.
“It’s an almost eerie sight but is a great celebration of life in the north-east.”
The event drew to a close as the clavie was felled by members of the crew who hacked it down and then head back into the village to celebrate the dawning of a new year.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead attended the event and paid tribute to the team who ensure the event continues year-after-year.
He said: “It’s always a very special experience to join thousands of locals and visitors alike at the centuries old tradition of the Burning of the Clavie.
“I pay tribute to the Clavie Crew and local community for literally keeping the flame of tradition burning down the years.”