ANYONE who experienced the succession of events laid on in Roussillon to celebrate the centenary of the arrival of Charles Rennie and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh in this border region of Mediterranean France would know that the Auld Alliance lives on.

There’s no better proof of the ­abiding affection and attachments between France and Scotland – or of the respect and veneration for Mackintosh himself. A week of festivities and meetings, from the valleys of the Eastern Pyrenees to the ports of the Vermillion Coast, followed and extended the Mackintosh Trail – a string of locations associated with the Mackintoshes.

Almost all of these destinations were enshrined in Mackintosh’s late watercolours, which rendered this photogenic region of green mountainsides, red earth, stark rocks, and glittering clear seas, in his own highly characteristic style.

Mackintosh said that he passed the happiest days of his life here, and he had his ashes scattered over the sea at Port-Vendres, in accordance with his wishes. Margaret, honoured for her own work, enriches the story still further.

The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Trail in Roussillon, originally inaugurated in 2005, now comprises seven towns and sites enshrined in 30 watercolours by the artist, plus three centres of ­interpretation (basically mini exhibitions) – at Amélie-les-Bains-Palalda, Bélesta and Port-Vendres. Just about every location, and other local sites, joined in the centenary celebrations, many of them staged by ­volunteers.

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I took part as the author of a sonnet celebrating Mackintosh’s time in ­Roussillon and other works about the artist (and as the designated Mackintosh clan poet) – but I definitely wasn’t alone.

Academics from Scotland, France and Catalonia convened for a one-day ­scholarly symposium on Mackintosh at the University of Perpignan – looping in the historic capital of French Catalonia, a castellated delight of paved courts and winding alleys.

Other writers inspired by Mackintosh and the region’s cultural history also joined in. And straightforward Scottish tourists who’d heard about the events joined the audiences, alongside enthusiastic and committed local supporters. Every venue I attended was full.

Memories of the Auld Alliance do ­linger on in France, and the ­romantic ­image of Scotland is strong. But in Roussillon ­especially, you can see closer affinities.

This is a border area still marked by ­centuries-old tensions between France and Spain. The celebrated French ­military architect Vauban left fortresses and fortifications in many of the sites ­involved in the centenary.

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Picturesque turrets stand silhouetted against the ­skylines of many a peak in Roussillon, sentinels watching over the border ­country. Add in the ­narrow, steep-sided valleys of the ­Eastern Pyrenees, and the parallels with the ­Scotland of Walter Scott and the Border Ballads are unmistakable.

There’s a more contemporary angle to the region’s enthusiasm for Mackintosh as well. French Catalonia shares its distinct language and culture with Spanish Catalonia just over the border, and both areas define themselves strongly through their culture, versus their respective metropolitan hegemons in Paris and Madrid.

It’s not necessarily an especially ­strident nor separatist spirit, but it’s definitely one of pride and assertiveness, where the smaller cultural and linguistic communities mark out their identities and uniqueness.

In the Scots, the Catalans – French or Spanish – recognize themselves. ­Forbidden to fly their own Catalan flag in some football matches in central Spain, Barcelona fans wave the Saltire instead. Identification with Scotland’s own ­distinct nationhood runs that deep. And Mackintosh, as a kind of cultural ambassador from Scotland to Roussillon, has become an icon of that identification.

Cultural heroes of all kinds are ­another area where the French and ­Scottish find common ground. The constant ­references to Mackintosh on buildings and ­billboards across Glasgow show how high he now stands in the national ­iconography, alongside Robert Burns and Scott.

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The French, likewise, are prone to ­venerate their artists and writers far more highly, perhaps, than the English do. In southern France, the ­Mackintoshes joined a constellation of artists, from ­Picasso and Dalí to Braque, Soutine, Dufy and Maillol, who have worked in the region and enriched its cultural ­heritage.

It’s no coincidence, but an ­added ­delight for art lovers, that the ­Musée d’Art Moderne de Céret has a ­uniquely rich ­collection of Cubist and other ­modern masterpieces, painted by ­artists who worked and lived together there. And of course, the French love a ­lonely ­cultural hero in exile, and a great ­artistic ­romance, and with Mackintosh in France, Margaret by his side, they have both.

Finally, there’s one very pleasant ­parallel in Roussillon with Scotland – the tradition of hospitality. Any visitor who has ever felt that the Parisian ­reputation for arrogance and rudeness is well-­deserved will be delighted with the warm southern welcome in Roussillon – especially if they identify themselves as ­Scottish. Personally, I can’t wait to ­follow the Mackintosh Trail back.

The Centenary Festival for Charles and Margaret Mackintosh in Roussillon was staged by the volunteer Association for C.R. Mackintosh in Roussillon, with the Université de Perpignan Via Domitia, the CRESEM Society for Research in Mediterranean Societies and Environments, the towns of Amélie-les-Bains-Palalda, Bélesta, Bouleternère, Collioure and Port-Vendres, the Department of Pyréneés-Orientales, and the Community of the Communes of the Pyrénées Catalanes.

Paul StJohn Mackintosh is a writer and poet resident in France.