Smiling in the reign as Peebles celebrates

PEEBLES, UNITED KINGDOM. - 23 / June / 2012 : 'Peebles Beltane'''(Photo by  Rob Gray / digitalpic / Freelance / � 2012)'Single UK Use; No Resale; Fee payable on Publication;
PEEBLES, UNITED KINGDOM. - 23 / June / 2012 : 'Peebles Beltane'''(Photo by Rob Gray / digitalpic / Freelance / � 2012)'Single UK Use; No Resale; Fee payable on Publication;

THEY had the widest smiles in Peebles on Saturday.

Even the torrential rain when it eventually fell couldn’t wipe the delight and pleasure from the faces of Cornet Cameron Young or Beltane Queen Niamh Kinahan.

The 26-year-old banker and the Halyrude Primary School pupil were the toast of the Royal Burgh on this its red-letter day.

It wasn’t just the central figures who smiled in the rain – judging by the size of the crowd that lined the parade route, everyone in Peebles was out in support.

Cameron was following in the footsteps of his older brother, Ewen, who carried the Burgh Banner last year and Niamh was the latest in a reign of Queens dating back to Margaret Muir in 1899.

Hawick and Selkirk Common Ridings had been rain-soaked affairs and Peebles was waiting to see if the colourful Crowning on the steps of the Parish Church would suffer the same fate.

When the children trooped in procession to the steps at 9.15am, eyes looked skywards and a decision had still not finally been taken whether the Crowning would be in or out of the church.

It was only after local solicitor Fiona Fleming had proclaimed the Fair that it was agreed to stay outside.

So it was that, with the children safely gathered on the steps, the joint Peebles Silver and Peebles Ex-Servicemen’s Pipe Band led the Cornet and his entourage along the High Street to the stirring Come Ower the Hills Tae Peebles and The Galloway Hills to take their seats for the Coronation.

Crowning Lady Sheila Wright – a staunch supporter of things Peebles – was escorted in style to her position in front of the church doors.

The Beltane Landaux brought First Courtier, Queen and Maids to the ceremony.

As befits any Coronation, nothing here is rushed. It has been well orchestrated over the years with fanfares, proclamations and telegrams for the Queen.

The highlight, of course, is the Crowning – carried out with majesty and grace by Sheila Wright.

Cornet Young and his immediate supporters rode past and paid a special tribute to their Beltane Queen.

This was a coronation – in this Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee year – that none who played a part, however small it may have seemed, will forget. And the rain had stayed away – but it was coming.

The grand procession round the town was soon under way – in landaux, and in brightly decorated lorries, trucks and trailers the primary pupils of Peebles took to the streets.

There was a delay after an accident involving three cars – two from the parade – in Glensax Road. Thankfully, only a delay and no injuries.

Sweets were thrown towards the beaming youngsters – and some cheekily pelted back with considerable accuracy. This was Beltane Saturday.

Countless – well I forgot to count them – bands joined the procession, and then so too did the rain. Softly and gently at first and then with much ferocity. Officials wisely cut the procession short.

As the tour neared its end, a simple, sincere and dignified ceremony was taking place in the Quadrangle, where sits the imposing domed Peebles County War Memorial. None who witness this ceremony – no matter how often – can fail to be moved.

Cornet, Queen, Crowning Lady, Warden of Neidpath and the Beltane Chairman lay wreaths. A lone piper sounds a haunting lament before a bugler sounds the more-hopeful Reveille.

The silence and reverence inside is broken only by the laughter from the happy, if drenched, children outside – but isn’t that what those who made the supreme sacrifice would surely appreciate?

Queen Niamh told TheSouthern: “I think it went very well. It was dry for the Crowning but it was a bit cold and windy. It was good going round the town – I just kept on smiling. Chief Maid Sophie Petersen and I just kept telling jokes and I managed to get a few sweets as well.

“I hope my family, friends and the school are proud of me. The Cornet was really good all the time. He was great fun to be with. I liked going to the shows and went on some of the rides for the first time. It was great.

“The night before, when I went to bed I wasn’t worried about going to sleep so long as I was good for the morning. But I did get some sleep. I know that all the memories of the Beltane will stay with me for a long time.”

Cameron Young told us of the pride of following his brother as Cornet and admitted: “This has been the most amazing week of my life – words cannot describe it. When I received the Burgh Standard after my brother, I saw that my mum and dad were in tears.”

He added: “Queen Niamh was fabulous. She did nothing but smile, and that smile was infectious and everyone perked up.”

The next Beltane is a year away, but already the invite is out – Come Ower the Hills Tae Peebles.