Rugby hero Doddie praises Melrosian and queen

2016 Melrose Festival.
Doddie Weir

2016 Melrose Festival. Doddie Weir

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There can be few more idyllic setting for a common riding or festival ceremony than the sunlit grounds of Melrose Abbey.

And so it was on Thursday night when this year’s Melrose Festival staged its crowning and installation ceremonies.

The ruins of the once-mighty abbey were bathed in welcome summer sunshine for the events.

A total of 29 ex-Melrosians were on parade for the ceremonies, the first of which was the installation of the 2016 Melrosian, Struan Hutchison, by festival chairman Michael Crawford, with the presentation of his official sash.

Melrosian Hutchison said it was with “enormous pride” that he stood on the stage.

“I remember sitting on the same spot as a boy where these youngsters are tonight thinking how special it must be to be Melrosian,” he added, before pledging to carry out his duties for the rest of the week to the best of his ability.

The chairman’s wife, Debbie Crawford, presented both the silver jubilee Melrosian Max Robbie and golden jubilee Melrosian James Boyd with their medals.

Diamond jubilee Melrosian George Bunyan, who also received a gift from Mrs Crawford, told the crowd: “Little did I know when I first stood here back in 1956 as Melrosian that I’d be back again 60 years later.

“The festival has always been a very important part of my life,” said Mr Bunyan, a past chairman and current honorary president of the event.

“This is quite an historic situation as this week sees the 80th anniversary of the festival, the 50 th anniversary of the first Melrosian’s rideout and the first time all six jubilee principals have been able to all attend together.”

Festival queen Nicole Ferguson was crowned by Kathy Weir, wife of guest speaker Doddie Weir, the former Scotland and Melrose rugby player.

Nicole was accompanied by attendants Molly Neville and Felicity Walls, courtiers Euan Bond and Joe Foulkes, heralds Callum Ferrando and Fraser Rout, and train-bearers Isla Gillespie and Belle Douglas.

Silver jubilee queen Abigail Armstrong (now Lucas), golden jubilee queen Evelyn Mathison (now Oliver) and diamond jubilee festival queen Sara Graham (now Lowrie) all received bouquets.

Doddie recounted stories from his rugby-playing days and also reminded those present of how wonderful Melrose is as a place to live and grow up in.

“What a great town surrounds us here,” said the 45-year-old.

“This is a very proud year for Struan, and I offer him and Nicole my congratulations.

“They have been so well behaved and dedicated to making this a wonderful experience. They are all a credit to their friends and families.

“Melrose is a beautiful town, steeped in history, with its abbey, the Greenyards, book festival and its warm and generous locals, and nowhere will you get a setting in the world so beautiful as this. Long may this tradition continue.”

The choir of Melrose Primary School and St Boswells Concert Band supplied the musical background for the ceremonies.