The countdown has started to the day that all Lauder and the surrounding countryside waits for – the ancient, annual Common Riding.
Leading the Royal and Ancient Burgh’s commemorations and celebrations this year is Cornet Cameron McNeil – a 23-year-old landscape gardener who was carried shoulder high when his appointment was confirmed in May.
Since then he has represented his home town at Hawick and Selkirk Common Ridings, Melrose Festival, Peebles Beltane, the Braw Lads’ Gathering, Jethart Calllant’s Festival and Kelso Civic Week.
Common Riding chairman, ex-Cornet Ian Fallas commented: “Cameron has done very well. He has been a great representative of Lauder across the Borders.”
Sadly his Lass Helen Middlemiss won’t be in the saddle beside him when carries the burgh standard on Saturday August 3. She suffered a bad fall while following the Braw Lad and Braw Lass at Galashiels, breaking her pelvis.
Ian commented: “Her pelvis was broken in three places and she has undergone a number of operations. She is out of hospital but is on crutches and managed to attend the Kelso Civic Week Ball in a wheelchair.
“She remains as Cornet’s Lass but obviously won’t be riding. In fact none of the front three girl will be riding this year, but will be there in support.”
Both the cornet and his lass have common riding connections spanning 60 years. Cameron’s dad Crawford was cornet in 1984.
Helen’s grandfather, father, brother and a cousin have all been cornet, while she follows her grandmother, sister and a cousin as cornet’s lass.
Cornet McNeill will be supported by Right and Left-Hand Men, Gregor Ker and Iain Dick, respectively.
The history of riding the common lands of Lauder are lost in the mists of time. But the checking of the burgh lands and their boundaries was at one time essential to ensure they were not being encroached upon by neighbouring landowners. The end of this threat saw the check fall away only to be revived as a ceremonial occasion to commemorate the coronation of King George V in 1911. The position of Cornet’s Lass was introduced in 1931.
The common riding now spans a week. Cornet McNeil will be kirked on Sunday. Monday sees the apprentices’ ride and the ex-cornet’s dinner. At the function, the toast to the ex-cornets will be proposed by former Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Elliot Fraser, while the toast to the Royal and Ancient Burgh of Lauder will be in the hands of ex-cornet Michael Middlemiss, whose father Bill is this year’s golden jubilee cornet. There is a reception for returned exiles on Tuesday followed by a night of fun on Wednesday at the ever-popular fancy dress parade.
Thursday sees a show for children and the preliminary ride led by the Cornet. This year’s Nicht Afore the Morn concert on Friday moves from the hall to the new primary school.
Chairman Ian commented: “This concert has become so popular with so many people wanting to attend, that it has outgrown the hall. It will be compered by Rory McLeod and during the event, Cameron will be presented with the Cornet’s Cup.
Saturday begin’s with the Cornet’s March from the Lauderdale Hotel to the steps of the Town Hall where Cameron receives the burgh flag. After riding round the town it is off to the Waterin’ Stane (arriving around 9.40am) and then off across the heather to the Burgess Cairn and back to the town for a poignant service at the War Memorial. Back at the Town Hall the flag is bussed and the day gives way to music and joviality, concluding with the ball which this year returns to a marquee in the park.
l Silver jubilee cornet is David Wilkinson; Golden jubilee cornet is Bill Middlemiss whose lass was his wife Elma, while the diamond jubilee cornet is his brother Dave who married the Braw Lass of that year, Margaret Finlay.