The seeds which grew into the Jumelage go back a long time. Andre Monrocher had studied in Edinburgh and his wife Danielle had been an “assistante” in Dunbar Grammar School. East Lothian District Council c 1990 was enthusiastic about twinning. Representatives from Dunbar attended a meeting in 1990.It was noted then that we already had a link with Martinez. The idea of a Baltic country was considered. It was noted that I was in touch with Lignieres. It was noted that if a twinning association was established, the District Council would be the signatory body but the local committees would administer the twinning. Some preliminary visits were made to Lignieres and there was enthusiasm in the Grammar school.

In February 1992 a formal letter was sent to the Mayor of Lignieres, Marcel Gourlier, suggesting setting up a formal committee. An EXPO Lignieres was held in the library in Dunbar and letters were written to clubs and societies which might be interested. Some school exchanges were made. Reciprocal visits were made in 1992/3. In September 1992 a group came from Lignieres and in May 93 a group went from Dunbar to Lignieres where a splendid reception was hosted in the chateau by Prince Henri Sixte de Bourbon Parme. I was involved with the coronation of La Rosiere [Their equivalent of our civic week queen]. Following these successful visits in September 1993 a formal twinning committee was set up.

Plans were put in hand for a formal ceremony in April 1994. The twinning ceremony was held in Dunbar Parish Church on Saturday 16th April. It was part of a busy programme. The Twinning protocol was signed by Councillor George Wanless. Mayor Marcel Gourlier, Councillor Stephen Bunyan Chairman of the Twinning committee and Julian Azerad, President of the Lignieres Jumelage. On Sunday the group visited John Home Robertson MP at Paxton and had a useful discussion there.

It should be stressed that this stage was reached after a lot of involvement by many people, local people here, [special mention should be made of Hilda Laurenson], District council members and officials and their counterparts in France. It was also part of the mood of the time, as was demonstrated by the fact that a European flag of Honour was presented to East Lothian District Council at the Dunbar Ceremony. Only three were presented in the UK in1993. A return visit was made to Lignieres between the 7th –10th October led by Councillor G Wanless and at a ceremony in the Chateau of Lignieres protocols of twinning were signed by the twelve mayors, Councillor S Bunyan, Councillor G Wanless M. J Azerad and Councillor. P Roumet.

Over the years various groups and individuals have made visits both ways. Dunbar Choral Society led by M Main, sang in Bourges Cathedral, in the presence of the archbishop, in Holy week 1995. Before the Twinning was confirmed we were already attempting to arrange a concert by Andre Pagenel the organist at Bourges Cathedral. It eventually came to pass in September 1996. He was accompanied by Pierre Dutot, trumpeter. Two concerts were held, in St Paul’s and St George’s in Edinburgh and St Mary’s in Haddington. [There was no suitable organ in Dunbar]. These concerts marked the 700th anniversary of the auld Alliance. Stenton singers have arranged various visits as has Dunbar Pipe Band.

In June 2000 M&Mme Gourlier came to Dunbar and Madame Gourlier crowned the civic week queen, Lisa Macdonald. In August 2002 a Relais came from Lignieres to Dunbar to mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the programme. Recently the committee has arranged single scholarship student visits both ways. We visited Lignieres in 2009 to celebrate 15 years of twinning and noted that one commune, Mareuil had withdrawn but that Villecelin wished to join the association. I was happy to welcome them to our twinning at a ceremony in the village when two trees were planted and we gave the commune a saltire flag. Visits were made to note the 20th anniversary. Sixteen delegates came from Lignieres including Michel Laporte who was the treasurer of the French committee when it all began.

Contact by “Skype” was made in April 2019 on the twenty fifth anniversary of the association. James Wyllie and the Dunbar committee organised a full programme for an anniversary visit to Dunbar from 24th -29th October 2019.A group of thirty five led by Solange Soulat came from France. It was good that it included Andre and Danielle Monrocher whose initial interest had brought it all about. The reception on Friday was attended by John Mc. Millan, the Provost of East Lothian  who presented the association with a picture as a memento of the occasion. Iain Gray MSP hosted the group at the Scottish Parliament. A farewell party was held in Belhaven Church Hall which demonstrated that the twinning was in good heart.

Plans were in hand for the present year but have been put on hold because of corona virus. I am sure we will go forward with them later in the year or next year. It gives me great pleasure, that this twinning association born over 25 years ago, still thrives and that several of us who helped to bring it about are still around and involved. I am particularly glad that I am in contact with M & Mme Azerad, Madame Gourlier and M & Mme Junon in Lignieres who played important roles when it all began.

Stephen Bunyan

31 07 20

* 1994 Twelve communes 1 Lignieres, 2 Chezal Benoit, 3 Saint Hilaire en Lignieres, 4 Touchay, 5 Ineuil, 6 Montlouis, 7 Saint Baudel, 8 La Celle- Conde, 9 Venesmes, 10 Saint Symphorien, 11 Ids St Roche, 12 Maureuil sur Arnon[left in 2009], 12 Villicelin [joined 2009 ]