Record numbers of followers supported Jethart Callant Jack Fraser throughout the sun-drenched festival this summer.
A new record total of 1,068 riders followed the young figurehead on rides to Morebattle, Southdean, Crailing and Nisbet, Redeswire, on the Queen’s ride and to Lanton and Ancrum.
Festival Day itself attracted a cavalcade of 274, following Jack and his Henchmen to Ferniehirst Castle last Friday.
The sun beamed down on happy crowds throughout the day after the morning haze cleared. Supporters lined the street from early morning, eagerly awaiting the spectacle. Then the strains of Jedforest Instrumental Band was heard as the musicians made their way up High Street to Abbey Place to applause, marking the start of Festival Day.
Sounding his horn, Herald Allan Learmonth then rode into view, with Jedburgh Royal British Legion Pipe Band playing behind him and the crowd cheered again.
Finally, Callant Fraser, flanked by his Right and Left-Hand Men, Garry Ramsay and Iain Chisholm, rode in and townsfolk once again gave a rousing welcome.
The young principal dismounted before striding to the platform with the Jethart Flag on which Provost Richard Gordon’s wife, Pamela, pinned the traditional rosette.
Silence fell as Callant Fraser remounted; anticipation grew as the young leader took a few moments to prepare.
He then held the flag aloft and roared out the mighty battle cry: “Jethart’s Here!”
Music and wild cheering followed, and supporters sang Jethart’s Here as the cavalcade made off towards Ferniehirst Castle, stronghold of the Kerr family.
Arriving at Ferniehirst, the Callant and other principals were piped down to the castle, where, in 1575, the men of Jethart joined the Kerr family to break an English siege.
Friday’s meeting was of a more peaceful nature, however, as Jedburgh Grammar School pupil Abigail Stephenson, 14, gave the recitation of Walter Laidlaw’s Reprisal and Lord Lothian’s nephew, Jamie Kerr, welcomed riders on behalf of the family.
The London-based 24-year-old, who works in the policy unit of the Institute of Directors, spoke of the link between Jedburgh and Ferniehirst, which has been strong for 700 years.
The Edinburgh University graduate talked of his luck in being able to bring friends to Ferniehirst and his gratitude at having the opportunity to develop his links with the castle and town.
Referring to September’s referendum, he said: “This year everyone north of the border is being asked to look very carefully at themselves and make an important decision about their identity.
“Being able to take part in this festival and make a connection with Jedburgh – that means such a great deal to my family and is one of the strongest expressions of identity that I could hope for.”
Callant Fraser thanked the Kerr family and led supporters in a rousing rendition of a verse of Jethart’s Here.
He then rode on with his henchmen to the Capon Tree where Callant’s Club president Ivor Hughes pinned a sprig of the ancient Jed Forest oak onto Callant Fraser’s sash.
The cavalcade rode on, returning to the Royal Burgh, where riders crossed Jed Water, sparkling in the midday sun.
Callant Fraser laid a wreath at the town’s war memorial before returning to the Abbey Place platform where he was presented with the Callant’s Cup.
Speaking to The Southern afterwards, Callant Fraser said: “It’s gone too fast. I have loved every minute of it and hopefully I have done the town proud.
“We’ve had fabulous weather all summer, culminating with today. It’s been excellent, I couldn’t have asked for better.”
He said the new record number of followers is due to festival organisers and volunteers.
He added: “That’s not down to me, the credit goes to our marshalls and Herald and committee. Our rides are superb; we have the best rides in the Borders.”
Asked what his festival highlights were, Jack said: “The whole thing. Redeswire was my favourite ride.
“The whole festival week was brilliant and the two ceremonial days, Thursday and Friday: it’s difficult to pick one thing, there were so many good points.
“I wasn’t nervous about shouting out ‘Jethart’s Here’ until I came round the corner and saw the crowd. (As the crowds waited to hear him) it was so silent, you could hear a pin drop, all eyes are on you.
“Being Callant is something I didn’t think I would get the opportunity to do. It’s been brilliant from the first minute to the end.”
Increased numbers of riders took part in seven of the festival’s eight ride-outs. A cavalcade of 84 rode to Morebattle last month; 95 to Southdean, Crailing attracted 148, Redeswire saw 93 form the cavalcade, 161 took part in the Queen’s Ride, 52 in the Lanton rideout and 161 joined the cavalcade to ride to Ancrum.