A 204-strong mounted cavalcade followed Melrosian-Elect Donald Crawford on the annual rideout on Monday as this year’s festival got under way.
The week-long programme of events officially kicked off a day earlier, when, on Sunday, the Kirkin’ of the Melrosian ceremony was held in the town’s parish church; a wreath laying ceremony was held at the local war memorial and five-a-side football took place in the Gibson Park.
Monday night’s rideout, in which riders actually got to ford the River Tweed this year thanks to low water levels, was followed on Tuesday night by a well-attended fancy dress parade and then last night by the community bike ride and family barbecue.
Festival chairman James Marjoribanks told The Southern the week was going well: “The rideout was a fantastic night and it was great to see the Melrosian-Elect lead the cavalcade across the river, as high water levels last year meant it couldn’t happen.
“A river crossing always makes the rideout a bit special and we had one of the biggest turnouts of riders for many years with the number of horses counted at 204.”
The rideout passed without serious mishap, although there were several fallers. Among them was the eventual winner of the youngest rider not on a lead rein cup category, six-year-old Kirsty Lothian.
Mr Marjoribanks explained: “She fell off into the water during the crossing, but was absolutely fine. Her mum whisked her home afterwards to get out of the wet clothes and she reappeared to be presented with the youngest rider award wearing her pyjamas and dressing gown!”
The oldest rider award went to George Bain, while smartest junior rider under 12 was Archie Young and the best turned out rider and mount went to this year’s Galashiels Braw Lass, Abbie Frankland.
After the rideout, the Melrosian-Elect was presented with a hunting crop as a special memento of the event.
Donald will officially be installed as the Melrosian for 2015 at tonight’s ceremonies in the grounds of Melrose Abbey (Parish Church if wet), a popular highlight of the festival week which will also see the crowning of this year’s Melrose Festival Queen, Robyn Mackay.