FRIDAY bucked weather forecasters’ gloomy predictions and dawned bright and clear for Jedburgh’s Festival Day.
The sun shone on the Royal Burgh as Ryan Miller led the town in its stirring annual celebrations.
Anticipation grew as crowds gathered in Abbey Place: old friends caught up, children played and families stood side by side as dignitaries took to the ceremonial platform. Jedforest Instrumental Band advanced up High Street and on to Abbey Place. Then Herald Gary Armstrong rode into view to cheering, followed by Jedburgh Royal British Legion Pipe Band.
More applause and cheering greeted the young man of the moment, Ryan Miller as he approached flanked by his Right and Left Hand Men, Grant Davidson and Murray Yourston.
Callant Miller dismounted and approached the platform where Provost Harvey Oliver’s wife Helen tied a rosette to the Jethart Flag.
A hush fell as Ryan remounted and stepped forward holding the flag aloft. He gathered himself for a few moments before roaring out the fearsome battle cry: “Jethart’s Here!”
Supporters cheered and sang Jethart’s Here before applauding the cavalcade of more than 280 as they departed for Ferniehirst Castle, where, in 1575, the men of Jethart joined with owners, the Kerr family, to break an English siege.
Festival enthusiasts walked, cycled and drove to the Kerr stronghold, and with Lord Lothian awaited the arrival of the mounted supporters led by Ryan, the fourth Miller to be Callant, following in the footsteps of his grandfather George (1954), great uncle Jim (1963) and father Donald (1979).
Piper Graeme Kinghorn led the principals to the castle where supporters gathered to hear Lord Lothian folowing 14-year-old Holly Mackay’s excellent recitation of The Reprisal.
The laird said: “Looking at these walls, I have said before ‘If only these stones could speak, what a tale they would tell…’ It would be a tale of immense courage when, in the face of vastly superior forces, the Kerrs and the brave folk of Jethart stood shoulder to shoulder to defend the homeland which we hold dear. It would be a tale of determination that whatever the cost we would never give up that in which we believed and which we held dear. It would be above all a tale of a town and family which, while not always living in total harmony, knew that their destinies were inextricably linked and were content to join together in the cause of freedom from occupation and oppression.
“The fight for freedom must always be at the heart of our humanity. It is not our freedom today that I think of, but the freedom of the peoples of the Middle East, of the people of Burma and of all peoples whose lands are occupied by invaders and seek only their basic rights of self-determination.”
The cavalcade departed for Lintalee and on to the ancient Capon Tree where President of the Callants Club Graham Hamilton pinned a spring of the old Jed Forest oak on the lapel of Callant Miller.
Back in Jedburgh, riders followed Ryan over the Jed Water and the pipe band led the cavalcade to the War Memorial where Callant Miller laid a wreath and dipped the flag after a minute’s silence.
More cheering greeted Ryan as he led followers back to Abbey Place and returned the flag to Provost Oliver and festival convener Jim Tunnah’s wife Carol presented Ryan with the Callant’s Cup.
Ryan said highlights for him were first shouting “Jethart’s Here” at Redeswire, sports journalist Jill Douglas giving the address there and of course, Friday, the whole day, but especially roaring out that famous battle cry in Abbey Place.
He told us: “We were extremely lucky with the weather. Apart from the first rideout to Morebattle every time we went out on the horses the sun seemed to shine! The crowds and the support was fantastic. On the Southdean ride my Henchmen said it would be a fantastic moment when I went into the Square and saw the amount of people there and it was. On Friday it was even better: when I came through the Square and looked up Abbey Place and at the ramparts, the crowd was just unbelievable. I knew so many faces and they were all there on Friday to hear me shout ‘Jethart’s Here!’, it was a fantastic feeling and one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
More than 900 riders followed the Callant during the festival – the largest since records began about 20 years ago.
The Callant beamed: “I’m delighted, it’s partly to do with the weather and partly to do with the rideouts which are fantastic and that’s down to the Herald Gary, who does a great job, and the local landlords giving us their fields.”
Callant Miller’s investiture was on Thursday when his Henchmen were presented with their Jethart Axes. Later Jubilee Principals, Tommy Spence celebrating his 25th anniversary and Callant Richard Nagle his 50th, were presented with a tankard and a walking stick respectively by Ex-Callants Club president Eric Wright.
Earlier in the festival a cavalcade numbering 130 completed the Queens Ride, more than 70 followed Ryan to Lanton, about 130 rode to Ancrum with a similar number riding to Crailing when ex-Callant Adam Lees took a tumble breaking his wrist.
And the last word goes to grandfather George: “I was so proud of him.”