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Cheers and tears at the end of an emotional morning

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There was no rosy sunshine and the hills were indeed grey – but there was plenty of sparkle and smiles, and pride and passion.

Of course there was. This was Lauder Common Riding in all its glory.

And Cornet Craig Connell proved to all that he was indeed the Pride o’ Lauderdale.

Not that anyone felt he had to prove it. All summer this local sheep farmer has been a great ambassador for his Royal and Ancient Burgh.

His commitment to what being Lauder Cornet 2014 meant was evident in the emotion that flowed once duty was done and the blue burgh banner returned.

There was no embarrassment when the tears flowed as he acknowledged the 315 riders who had joined him through the heather and the hills to check the burgh marches.

And there was a hug and cuddle and a proud embrace from an equally emotional Cornet’s Lass Louise Wilson.

His Right and Left-handmen Cameron McNeill and Gregor Ker knew what he was going through – they have been there.

He had the solid support of the 49 ex-cornets who joined him in saddle and on foot for toasts, cheers and banter.

Amongst them there were three for whom this year was something special – Diamond Jubilee Cornet Jim Middlemiss, Golden Cornet David Waldie and celebrating silver, Ronald Wilkinson.

Ron was in the saddle, while Jim and David gave their support in a more sedate manner, but were to the fore for the 7am Cornets’ Walk and at the Waterin’ Stane.

There was an always-present threat of rain from early on Saturday, but that was never going to prevent the people of Lauder, of Lauderdale and the wider Borders coming out in droves.

And they came early. Long before Selkirk Silver Band led the cornets on their 7am walk from the Lauderdale Hotel, this proud burgh was buzzing. The emotion built early. It built and built and remained all day. In truth, it had been building since Craig’s appointment in the spring.

Bunting and flags fluttered; flashes were handed out and bacon rolls – and some liquid refreshments – seemed to be a compulsory accessory this common riding morn.

The chairman, Cornet 2011 Ian Fallas, ably steered the day in his own ably calm style.

Pat Brotherston sashed Craig and handed him the burgh banner and Ian entrusted him to fulfil his duties.

Round the burgh the cavalcade rode, led by Selkirk’s able musicians, before a challenging gallop up the golf course. Sadly, one rider suffered an injury in a fall.

On then to the common land and to the Waterin’ Stane – that cherished spot high in the hills between Lauder and Stow.

Large crowds watched the riders emerge from the mist. There was song and toasts and thoughts of absent friends.

And then it was to saddle for that gallop up to the Burgess Cairn – the only surviving one of many that marked the burgh lands. As tradition demands, the cornet placed a stone on the cairn – just to make sure it does survive.

And then back for a service of remembrance and hope at the War Memorial, led by the Reverend John Shields.

A silence and the haunting notes of The Liltin’ before that upbeat dance along the street to the steps of the Toll House where it had all began.

All was well, reported the cornet; the flag bussed by Pat Brotherston; a medal for the Golden Jubilee Cornet and cheers all round.

And then those tears of emotion and that very special hug. Lauder had again done itself and the Borders proud.

 

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