IT will be fingers crossed in Melrose tonight, with organisers of the town’s annual festival hoping one of the main ceremonies does not have to switched indoors if the heavens open as they did on Selkirk Common Riding.
Traditionally, the Melrosian is installed and the Festival Queen crowned in the historic grounds of the ruined local abbey.
A large crowd is expected to turn out to support the young principals, but if the weather turns inclement, then the back-up plan of using the town’s parish church will swing into action.
After a good start to the year’s programme of events, festival chairman, George Bunyan, is hoping major changes do not have to be made at this late stage. “The weather’s been pretty dry so far.
“Sunday saw the kirkin’ of the Melrosian and the laying of a wreath at the war memorial, which all went well.
“Then it was the football tournament for the kids. It was a bit overcast, but otherwise went off alright,” Mr Bunyan told us.
“Monday was the turn of the Melrosian’s Rideout, for which we had 187 riders. We had thought the recent weather might see numbers down a bit, but that was a pretty good showing.
“Then Tuesday night was the turn of the fancy dress. We had some showers around 5pm, but these cleared away and we had a very successful event, with a good turnout of entries and spectators.”
Last night was due to see, hopefully, another good turnout for the community bike ride, before tonight’s ceremonies in the abbey and Saturday morning’s tour of ceremonies.
“If the weather is bad on Thursday, we can switch things to the parish church,” explained Mr Bunyan. “But it’s quite a major operation, requiring a lot of people and effort because there’s a lot to do.
“So it’ll be fingers crossed for a nice dry night, with, hopefully, plenty of sunshine so that the abbey looks its best.”
Assuming all is well weather-wise, the abbey ceremonies will get under way at 7pm tonight and will commence with the installation of this year’s Melrosian, Graeme Crawford. The Golden Jubilee Melrosian, Ian Johnstone, and Silver Jubilee Melrosian, Eddie Weatherly, will also receive presentations.
Gattonside’s Katy Wilkinson will then be crowned as Festival Queen by Mrs Ishbel Gordon, wife of this year’s guest speaker, Donald Gordon.
The Golden and Silver Jubilee Festival Queens, Margaret (Paterson) Irvine and Dr Louise (Bunyan) Johnson, will also receive presentations, although, unfortunately Mrs Irvine is unable to attend in person.
The ceremonies will then be followed by a triumphal procession through the town by the Melrosian and his supporters and the Festival Queen and her court.
Saturday’s tour of ceremonies starts with an assembly in the Market Square at 8.45am, with the procession leaving at 9am for Newstead.
It will then head for the site of the former Roman fort complex at Trimontium on the outskirts of Newstead (9.45am).
The official party will then arrive at Gattonside at 10am, before leaving for Abbotsford, which it will reach at 10.45am.
Darnick is next at 11.15am, with the ceremonies being concluded at the abbey in Melrose at noon.
This latter event will see one of the most poignant moments of any of the Borders common ridings and festivals, when the young Festival Queen lays a wreath of red blooms on the site of the burial of the heart of Scotland’s great warrior king, Robert Bruce.
There will be sports in the Gibson Park on Saturday afternoon, including the Eildon Hill Race, and then, at 7pm in the Market Square, the crowds will be entertained by pipe band music.