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Pilgrims flock to Scottish town to honour medieval Queen

Archbishop Leo Cushley holding the relics during the service (Paul McSherry)

More than 1,000 people have taken part in a pilgrimage to honour St Margaret, the 11th-century Queen of Scots.

Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews and Edinburgh carried aloft the saint’s relics through the streets of Dunfermline on Sunday accompanied by a school pipe band.

The St Margaret pilgrimage dates back to the 13th century but this year was the first time it had been held since 1974.

“I was really gobsmacked by the turnout,” Archbishop Cushley said. “Beforehand, I was hoping that we’d have enough pilgrims to comfortably fill the church so I could not believe it as I stood in the town’s Pittencrieff Park and could see pilgrims all the way up the High Street and beyond to honour St Margaret by their presence. It was very moving. I was thrilled – absolutely delighted.”

St Margaret became Queen of Scots in 1070. She was renowned for her good influence on her husband, King Malcolm III, but also for her piety and her charitable work for the sick and poor while raising eight children of her own. She was declared patroness of Scotland in 1673. She is also the patron saint of mothers.

The roots of the pilgrimage date back to June 1250 when the relics of St Margaret (1045-93) were translated to a new shrine in Dunfermline Abbey following her canonisation that year by Pope Innocent IV. An annual summer pilgrimage to Dunfermline soon emerged and continued until the late 16th century. It was then revived in 1899 and continued again until 1974.