HISTORY was made in Peebles on Friday night when Cameron Young was announced as the 2012 Cornet, writes Andrew Keddie.
For when the 25-year-old is officially installed to lead the riding of the marches at the town’s Beltane Festival in June, he will take over the reins from his brother Ewan, four years his senior, with whom he shares a house. “It’s certainly the first time a Cornet has taken over from a brother in consecutive years at the Beltane and I suspect that is true of all the other common ridings and local festivals in the Borders,” said a delighted Cameron.
And he admitted when the announcement was made in the Burgh Hall that his selection had come as a major surprise, telling Beltane committee chairman Alistair Dodds: “When you came to the door, I assumed it was for Ewan who will, of course, be Right-Hand Man this year. I said ‘I’ll go and get my brother’ and when you said it was me you wanted to talk to, I nearly fainted.
“It really is a dream come true for me. I have always wanted to be Cornet and it’s a massive honour. Having Ewan by my side will be the icing on the cake.”
The former Eddleston Primary and Peebles High pupil, who works as motor finance broker with the Bank of Ireland, is the son of Gwen and Derek Young of Clement Gunn Square. A keen sportsman, he played rugby at junior level and last season was goalie with Tweeddale Rovers.
Cameron says it was an “easy choice” selecting his Lass, 20-year-old Rae Brown, who also has a strong Beltane connection. Her dad Alan and late mum Susan were official supporters during the early 1970s – in the days when the roles of Left and Right-Hand Man were preludes to Cornetship.
Former Halyrude and Peebles High pupil Rae has been a mounted follower of the festival since she was seven and currently works as a groom and instructress at the Kailzie Equestrian Centre. She is also doing a childcare course at Borders College as part of her training to be a teacher of deaf children.
Cameron and Rae renewed their friendship last year when, with Ewan being appointed Cornet, Cameron felt he required to brush up on his riding skills. “I’d not been on a horse since I was 13 and badly needed some practice,” said Cameron. “She did a great job and it’s fitting that my riding teacher is now my Lass.”
Rae has her own place in Beltane legend, winning the coveted George Irvine Trophy for young riders at the 2008 races.
Sheila Wright, who will be this year’s Crowning Lady, is, by any standards, a stalwart of the Beltane, having been responsible for the content and distribution of the revenue-earning festival programme for more than 20 years.
Sheila, whose husband Douglas is a former community council chairman, is Peebles born and bred. After leaving school, she trained as a machinist and has put these skills to good use over many years, creating and maintaining street bunting, banners and flags for the festival.
“I’ve been a backroom girl for so many years and never thought for a minute about one day being Crowning Lady,” she told TheSouthern. “The day Alistair Dodds and [Beltane joint secretary] Alan Beveridge came to tell me the news, I was recovering from a fall and had a sore back and a badly swollen ankle. They said they wanted to talk to me about the flags before dropping the bombshell that they wanted me as Crowning Lady.
“It was such a lovely shock, I forgot all about the pain.”
This year’s Warden of Neidpath will be Scottish Secretary Michael Moore. The Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk told TheSouthern: “I feel extremely honoured. Here in the Borders we are renowned for our festivals, rideouts and common ridings and, as a local MP, I always enjoy taking part in the festivities.
“Peebles is just outside my constituency now, but I have very fond memories of attending the Beltane for many years after I was first elected in 1997. It makes me very aware of how much a privilege it is to be selected as a principal in the town’s festival and to follow in the footsteps of so many distinguished previous Wardens.”
Last, but certainly not least, the Reverend Nancy Norman will the Warden of the Cross Kirk, officiating at the open-air service, which is the traditional curtain-raiser of the festival, for the third time.
But this year has extra significance for American-born Mrs Norman who is retiring in September after 24 years as kirk minister at Lyne and Manor. “The Beltane is such a wonderful celebration of community and fellowship which brings all ages together and this is a very special honour for me,” she told us.