KILSYTH'S TWIN TOWN IN FRANCE, MEULAN

KEEPING THE AULD ALLIANCE ALIVE

For more than three decades Kilsyth Town Twinning Association has been upholding a link with the French town of Meulan near Paris. Margot Macmillan, a former chairman of the association looks back over the association's life and gives her views on town-twinning.

Town-twinning is seen as a way of developing understanding between peoples of the world, whatever their race, language or political system.

How does this relationship work? What have we achieved? And what of the future?

Undoubtedly the highlight and heartbeat of the alliance is the annual weekend visit. Every two years participants travel from KILSYTH to MEULAN to spend a long weekend there. Every other year the visit is reciprocated, the French coming to Kilsyth.

Families act as hosts in their own homes, often forming long-lasting friendships with their guests.

Town-twinners do not have to be linguists and no one has yet been at a loss to communicate. The ready-to-be-friendly smile and the ridiculous miming sometimes required seem to say it all! It is a rather unusual experience, but enriching.

Over the years, while staying in Meulan, we have taken part with our hosts in many and varied activities - sailing along the Seine, roaming around Rouen, Paris, Giverny. Visits can range from the splendours of Versailles one day to the dizzying sights of Euro Disney the next!

A church service has been conducted by Kilsythians in Meulan, we have fielded unforgettable football teams there, golf exchange visits regularly occur and we have marched proudly through the streets led by Kilsyth Thistle Pipe Band.

We have a talented singer who entertains with folk songs in both English and French, we have taken part in a poetry competition and our Scottish Country Dance Team has given a demonstration of The Lancers in return for which some of our Gallic friends danced the Can-Can while others gave a superb display of classical ballet.

When the Meulanais come to Kilsyth we return hospitality in the Scottish manner which as well as the de rigeur whisky-tasting has included Burns suppers and Hallowe'en dooking: but no matter whether in France or Scotland we and they always always merge and mingle easily into one group - camaraderie is much in evidence.

To minimize costs and allow maximum participation, the association organises fundraising events throughout the year, such as ceilidhs, whist drives and barge cruises. All of this we find highly enjoyable, perhaps because we are such a motley crew with a wide age-range which is always a good recipe for harmony in a group of people.

North Lanarkshire Council are always most helpful to the association, both in financial terms and in terms of encouragement and we are extremely grateful to them.

And what is done specifically in the interest of young people?

In the early days, in the late sixties, two language students sponsored jointly by Kilsyth Town Council and the association each spent a month in Meulan. More recently organised parties of older school pupils have been involved in annual exchange visits.

For several years the association succeeded in establishing and maintaining after-school French language classes for children of primary school age, taught by a teacher whose native language is French and she introduced the language to the children through singing-games and everyday situations. The children returned home to teach their wee brothers and sisters, we hoped!

Some years ago we arranged for a French-speaking theatrical company to give a public performance ( following their appearance at the Edinburgh Festival) of Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard in a local hall in Kilsyth. This was presented in simple French and use was made of mime and melodrama. The children in the audience were enthusiastic in their response to the pieces which were really quite gruesome and only the adults were alarmed by their blood curdling screams.

In Kilsyth can be found many symbolic reminders of the links between the towns. For example in 1986, to celebrate United Nations Year of Peace, Burngreen was dedicated as a Peace Garden and the reception rooms in Colzium House were named 'The Meulan Suite'.

In 1989, to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Kilsyth/Meulan Pact, a special tree was planted in the wooded area above the Curling Pond. In Meulan one of the town squares has been named Place Kilsyth

In planning for the future, we have great expectations of the introduction of many more citizens to their counterparts in Meulan who may share similar interests. Wider involvement of the community of each town with the other could perhaps even lead to workplace exchanges, commercial links, tourism .........

High-flown ideas these may be, but they are ideals not impossible to attain, given that a very solid foundation of friendship has already been laid and is constantly being strengthened.

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