Auld Neidpath, grim and grey wi’ years,
Looks doon wi’ war-scarred face,
And sentinels oor Royal toun,
Wi’ majesty and grace
And it was on the steps to the doorway of this much-loved Peebles icon that the Secretary of State for Scotland last night acquired a new title.
Michael Moore, the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, and at one time Peebles, became Warden of Neidpath.
He was invested with his scarlet, v-shaped collarette of office by March Riding and Beltane Queen Festival chairman Alastair Dodds.
In his Warden’s Address, the MP reflected that while constituency boundary changes meant that he no longer represented Peebles at Westminster, it was his regular and proud boast that he was first MP to have represented all four of the Border counties at Westminster. He still felt at home in Peebles, he said.
Mr Moore was referring to the time between 1997 and 2005 when he represented Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, and from 2005 when he became the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.
If those gathered for the ceremony expected to hear from the Scottish Secretary on independence and the referendum, they were disappointed – or perhaps not.
He would only say: “There will soon be a big decision to take about our future as a country. The great debate is under way – but that is not for tonight.”
Mr Moore reflected on what he described as the daunting prospect of succeeding David Steel as MP, of his time living in Peeblesshire and of his duties as Scottish Secretary.
He said in the 15 years since he had first elected as MP, Peebles had seen many changes.
He commented: “Global economic pressures have left their mark on the textile trade. New businesses have developed on the south of the river at Cavalry Park. More people are travelling further afield to earn their way in the world.We do not have to look too far to see the changes and the challenges. When the Peebles marches were being ridden and the Beltane celebrated in the late 19th century, China was a closed country and the United States an up and coming rival to British industrial power.
“A few generations later and China is now the world’s economic powerhouse and the USA has some new rivals.
“Add in the economic uncertainties we see across Europe and it can all seem a bit daunting.”
And he said Peebles faced its own challenges. He went on: “Some important and difficult decisions lie ahead about the future of the town: about its development as a tourist destination, about the commercial viability of the High Street – one of the most attractive in Scotland – and about the citing and development of a second crossing over the Tweed.
“But, in my view, the capacity of Peebleans, both Gutterbluids and Stooriefits alike, to face up to these challenges is not in doubt. The strength and vitality of this community is clear and never more obvious than in this week-long festival.”
Cornet Cameron Young made a suitable reply before returning to the saddle for the rest of the evening’s rideout and the subsequent dancing and celebrations.