The sun shone, and Melrose Parish Church was full to bursting for the service of thanksgiving to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on Tuesday.
Representing the Queen was her daughter, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal.
Around 600 guests, drawn from across the Borders, attended the service, which was conducted by the Reverend Alistair Bennett, minister of Bowden and Melrose Parish Church, and Chaplain to The Queen in Scotland.
The sermon was given by the Very Reverend David Arnott, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, with the first lesson read by Michael Moore MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, and the gospel reading by Right Reverend John Armes, Bishop of Edinburgh.
Prayers of thanksgiving were led by local youngsters Alex Burrell, head girl at Galashiels Academy, Catriona Rolland, head girl, Hawick High School, Lewis Davie, head boy Eyemouth High and Grace Gilbert, head girl, Earlston High.
The choir, composed of choirsters from throughout the region, was conducted by James Letham. The organ was played by Mrs Molly Pringle, accompanied by three trumpet players from the Jedforest Instrumental band.
Following the service, some 200 guests were invited to a reception held in a marquee in the town’s Gibson Park.
En route, Princess Anne, took time to chat to youngsters from the local primary schools, with Melrose Grammar School pupil sCallum Henderson delighting the Princess Royal when he presented her with a posie of flowers.
Scottish Borders Council convenor Graham Garvie opened the lunch with a few words of welcome. He said: “On behalf of the people of the Borders, I thank you for being with us today and extend to you the warmest of Border welcomes.
“We appreciate very much your presence at this important occasion to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the outstanding service which Her Majesty has given to our country over so many years. Please extend to her majesty, from the people of the Borders, our loyal greetings and our grateful thanks for all the good she has done for us and throughout the world. And please express to her also, our very best wishes to continue her reign for many years to come.”
As well as paying tribute to the Queen, however, the event celebrated the achievements of many of the guests, not least blacksmith John Falla, and Elizabeth Brown from Ayton, who were both presented with the British Empire Medal.
Speaking to Mr Falla, who owns The Smiddy in Bonchester Bridge, after the presentation, he said he was very proud to have received the award.
“I’m very proud, it means a lot. This wasn’t just for me, but also for my father and grandfather who both put a lot of work into the business. They laid the foundation for the business today.”
Elizabeth Brown said she was “absolutely delighted” to have received the award, adding the princess has shown a keen interest in her charity work.
“The ACWW (Associated Country Women of the World)is the only charity the WRI is affiliated with, and I helped raise £5,000 for a project in Lagos, Sierra Leone. Princess Anne asked if I had been out there, but I haven’t, although I have a great friend who spent many years out there.
“I think my involvement is hereditary. My parents were very involved in the community and always attending community events to help people. I think having come through the war did that to you. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Rural, I joined when I came to Berwickshire in 1961. I’ve taken advantage of the projects the Rural has been involved with and travelled all over the world, making great friends.”
Princess Anne then spent time chatting to guests, including those involved with the Girl Guide and Scout movements, charities – including Janice Hunt from Bowden, who has been on the committee of the Borders branch of Save The Children for 35 year – and many who had contributed so much to their communities.
One young athlete who spoke to the Princess was sailor Callum Airlie, who was one of seven to light the Olympic cauldron.
He couldn’t keep the smile off his face. He said: “I was a bit worried about what we would talk about, but we chatted naturall about Olympic sailing and the alteration to the windsurfing classes.”