After almost 250 years a “Regality Cross” once again stands prominently in Grantown’s historic Square. This Cross, with its own remarkable story, is a significant pointer to the town’s history and to a unique 18th century event. It is also a tangible legacy of Grantown’s 250th anniversary celebrations. In a 1694 charter (Old) Grantown was created a Burgh of Regality and a market cross erected. In June 1766 the cross was ceremonially taken to the one-year old New Grantown and set up in the market place. What later became of that cross is a mystery. As part of the Sestercentennial celebrations the provision of a new cross was proposed. The cost of sourcing new stone, however, proved to be prohibitive, with a quote of £18,000 for the granite base alone, ironically from China. Fortunately, research uncovered, in a nearby churchyard, the disused elements of a former war memorial. Permission was granted to use its stone column for the new cross in Grantown. Money was raised, plans drawn and submitted, a contract agreed and – then, at the last moment – the builders went into liquidation. Another local firm generously stepped in to help and the cross was, in the pouring rain, duly unveiled with pipe band, senior members of the Clan Grant and an appropriately costumed crowd. The 250th anniversary celebrations of the foundation of Grantown and the building of the first house in June 1765 lasted for nine days and hosted over 100 events. It involved the town’s schools, churches, societies and most local organisations, hundreds of volunteers and a great many long days for the lead organiser. It brought together the community in a spectacular, satisfying and unexpected way. Events centred on the seven themes of food, music, trade, environment, heritage, sport and travel each linked closely to the story of Grantown’s origins, development and strengths. There were exhibitions, tours, demonstrations, stalls galore and a huge number of activities for all ages. Perhaps it can be summed up in brief by extracts from an article in the Grantown Times. “Didn’t we all have the most fabulous birthday celebrations here in beautiful Grantown! From face painting to partying the night away up at Castle Grant the town came out in force and visitors and locals alike enjoyed a week long celebration. As ever, this couldn’t have happened without what seemed like thousands of volunteers …….. “The legacy continues and there are already plans for considering some kind of celebration each year…… “Did the celebrations make you think ‘wow what a great place to live in’? Well why not get involved yourself ……” The Regality Cross now stands as a tribute to those who created and took part in such a hugely successful and co-operative celebration and as an inspiration for the future.
Firstly, this is a fine example of recycling a historic artefact. The stone for the main part of the Regality Cross was part of the Advie 1919 War Memorial, knocked down several times by heavy traffic and totally rebuilt on a new site. The original stones were left untended in a local graveyard. Both Advie and Grantown Community Councils gave wholehearted approval for the use of the materials for the new Grantown Cross. Nevertheless £11,000 still had to be raised for the new structure and this was successfully done through voluntary effort. The difficulties overcome in setting up the new cross were considerable, not least, cost and the last minute bankruptcy of the contracted building firm. Secondly the Cross tells the unique story of the original Grantown Cross, its carriage from Old Grantown by its residents and the meeting with, and transfer to, the feuers of the new town. In 2015 this was impressively re-enacted by a symbolic walk from the site of Old Grantown to the Square in Grantown-on-Spey [New Grantown], with clansmen, pipers, costumed characters and was no less remarkable because of the weather which dampened everything but the enthusiasm of the many participants. It did of course involve temporary road closures and a full traffic management plan. The unveiling was carried out by the Earl of Seafield, direct descendant of the town’s founder, accompanied by a flag party including Sir James Grant, Lord Strathspey, Sir Patrick Grant of Dalvey, Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk and Michael Grant of Grant. Thirdly, the unveiling marked the start of the main “sestercentennial” festival. It acted as a symbol for the whole event. The final act of the week was the cutting of a specially made birthday cake and a presentation, below the Cross, by the Mayor of Grantown’s twin town in France. The celebrations were remarkable because of their scale and range and because this was a true community effort: a significant challenge set against the original chorus of, “it cant be done”. The massive volunteer-led project eventually brought everyone together fostering local pride and community spirit. It generated national interest, through television and newspaper coverage, social media and youtube clips with tens of thousands of hits. The funding started with a loan of £2,000. It created a most memorable week for locals and visitors alike. It benefited the local economy. It even left a final surplus of £3000 which was gifted to the Grantown Community Centre to aid its development. Thus like the Regality Cross itself the legacy endures. Finally the Grantown Regality Cross symbolised both the story and strength of this town and its community and the legacy which the whole festival has left. This is a key element of putting Grantown “back on the map” and securing greater economic security for a small town that has just seen three of its major businesses close.