from the high vantage point of Morning Hill on the evening of his installation, Peebles Cornet Ewen Young looked out on a vista of 185 riders, there to support him in his task of leading the riding of the marches at this year’s Beltane Festival.
“That was one of the defining moments of what has been, without a shadow of a doubt, the best week of my life,” he reflected
“I had loved the Beltane for as long as I could remember, but nothing could quite prepare me for the sight of all those riders and the thought they were there to support me.
“It was a humbling, yet exhilarating experience on a par with when I rode for the first time into High Street carrying the Burgh Standard before the ride-out. People have told me I had a permanent smile throughout the week, but I was close to tears when the crowds erupted in cheers at that moment.”
Ewen’s joy was tinged with relief – he revealed that, as a first-time equestrian follower, he had been unshipped by his mount just three weeks before his big day while out for a hack and had sustained broken ribs.
“The injury has kept me from attending some of the other Borders common ridings and I was naturally panicking I would struggle at the Beltane.
“But every ex-Cornet will tell you of the superb support system at the festival and that, coupled with adrenalin, meant the pain took a back seat and I enjoyed every single second of it.”
After being installed by Beltane chairman, Ex-Cornet Alistair Dodds on a podium outside the Parish Church, Ewen, 28, told townsfolk: “The church steps have seen many good men installed as Cornet and I am proud my name has been added to that list. It is a great pleasure to carry our Burgh Standard: a symbol of our town’s great history and heritage.”
Ewen acknowledged the support of his parents. Gwen and Derek. and his Lass. Laura Cox. who pinned his ribbons on the flag. When Beltane Saturday drew to a close a proud Cornet heaped further praise on Laura. “What a terrific partner to have! I could not have wished for a better Lass,” he said.
Although rain threatened on Wednesday, it remained fair for the historic ride, revived in 1897 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
At Neidpath Castle, Mr Dodds installed John Campbell of Glenrath Farms as Warden of Neidpath. As reported, Mr Campbell used his address to call for the Borders railway project to be scrapped and flagged up the need for the roles of Scotland’s 32 local authorities to be absorbed by the Scottish Government.
Mr Campbell also praised Mr Dodds and his committee. “The success of the Beltane only continues and flourishes because of commitment, dedication and enthusiasm of people who generously give their time and effort freely and in so many ways to make it a memorable week for everyone.
“I’d like to highlight one section of the committee – the ladies who spend time creating and making constumes for the ever-growing number of children in our primary schools. It is appropriate that one of these hard-working individuals is our Crowning Lady Margaret Abbot.”
For the spectators, a memorable event of Beltane Wednesday is the fording of the River Tweed at Hay Lodge Park and last week proved no exception; a description which also applies to the annual scramble up the north side of the golf course for the horse races, including the prestigious Beltane Bell.
The elements continued to smile on Ewen, Laura and their supporters as they brought the curtain down on a special day by dancing the reel in High Street. The moment the dancing stopped, the rains came. “I was so lucky with the weather on the two big days,” said Ewen, after rain forced the Cross Kirk Service last Sunday to be held indoors at the Parish Church and caused the cancellation of Tuesday’s children’s sports.