He’s still floating after 40 years

Mitchell Johnston Beltane Festival fancy dress veteran.
Mitchell Johnston Beltane Festival fancy dress veteran.
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MITCHELL Johnston was just eight when he first took part in the spectacular fancy dress parade at the Beltane Festival in Peebles.

Like many other youngsters, Mitchell grew out of the Friday night extravaganza after leaving school at 15 and starting work as an apprentice engineer at the town’s March Street Mills.

Mitchell Johnston Beltane Festival fancy dress veteran.

Mitchell Johnston Beltane Festival fancy dress veteran.

“After that, me and my pals got into cars and boats, and never really thought about entering a float until the QE2 was launched in the late sixties,” he recalled.

“We thought we’d give it a go, using a naval theme, and won first prize.”

That award-winning effort re-ignited proud Peeblean Mitchell’s passion for the Beltane and he has entered a float in every subsequent festival, culminating on Friday when his Star Wars effort was again judged the best in the parade.

And, as at many Beltanes, Mitchell, his friends and family proudly took their place in Saturday’s Grand Procession.

Mitchell Johnston Beltane Festival fancy dress veteran.

Mitchell Johnston Beltane Festival fancy dress veteran.

“It’s hard to believe it’s 60 years since it all began for me and over 40 years since I organised my first float,” reflected Mitchell who is now retired, having plied his engineering skills in the merchant marine and, latterly, on heavy agricultural vehicles.

“It takes us weeks to organise a good float and one I particularly remember was when we had a Viking galley complete with smoke belching from its nostrils.

“The Beltane unites young and old and the fancy dress parade gives us all the chance to be kids again.

“The cheers of the crowds make all the hard work worthwhile. It’s a real team effort and I’ve been grateful over many years to Graeme Irvine Plant Hire for lending us a vehicle.

Mitchell Johnston Beltane Festival fancy dress veteran.

Mitchell Johnston Beltane Festival fancy dress veteran.

“The hardest thing is coming up with original ideas, but with younger pals and family on board, I reckon I’ve a few years left.”