Russell ready to take on role of Melrosian

Festival chairman Michael Crawford presents Melrosian Elect Russell Mackay with his  tie.
Festival chairman Michael Crawford presents Melrosian Elect Russell Mackay with his tie.

Farmer Russell Mackay has been annouced as Melrosian elect for 2017.

The 21-year-old will take on the role as Melrose’s main man for the summer, and he was introduced at the Ex-Melrosians’ Association’s annual Burns Supper at the Greenyards on Saturday evening.

Top table guests, from left, Rory Murray, Ian Crawford, Donald Crawford, Bryn Thom, Struan Hutchison, Claire Nairn and Ian Oliver.

Top table guests, from left, Rory Murray, Ian Crawford, Donald Crawford, Bryn Thom, Struan Hutchison, Claire Nairn and Ian Oliver.

He was congratulated by festival chairman Michael Crawford, and he wished him well for the coming months and presented him with his official festival tie.

A keen follower of the festival since his school days at Melrose Grammar, Russell was in the court in 2007, but he admits that he never dreamt that two decades on, he would be taking on the duty of being Melrosian.

“I was a herald in the court and have been following the festival since I was at school, but in all honesty, I probably didn’t ever think I would be Melrosian 20 years later, but I am glad the opportunity is here to do it now.”

Born and raised in the town and a former Earlston High School pupil, Russell recently returned to the Borders following three years studying environmental geography at Stirling University.

Melrosian-Elect for 2017, Russell Mackay.

Melrosian-Elect for 2017, Russell Mackay.

He played rugby for Melrose Rugby Club growing up and is currently a member of Melrose Golf Club.

He now works full-time at Thornielaw Farm near St Boswells, but he should have no problems with securing time off work as the farm is owned by his stepdad Eric Marshall and mum Karen.

His dad Richie Mackay and stepmum Jane will also be supporting him, alongside his twin brother Cameron, elder sister Lauren and younger sister Lexie.

“They are all delighted,” he said. “They have all been very supportive and happy for me and are looking forward to the summer to come.”

Piper Donald Swanson, Fraser Anderson and Michael Crawford.

Piper Donald Swanson, Fraser Anderson and Michael Crawford.

Delighted at the prospect of representing the town across its own festival and those of the other surrounding towns this summer, Russell will be relying on his left and right- hand men Donald Crawford and Struan Hutchison.

Russell added: “I have been good friends with both of them for a long time, so it’s great that I have got them as left and right-hand men to support me.”

“My sister Lexie also rides, so she is planning to follow on horseback for some of the other common riding rideouts.

“It’s good to have her support, although she has been taking the mick out of me learning.”

Despite having followed the festival intently for most of his life, Russell is yet to follow on horseback and has begun an intense routine of riding lessons over the last few weeks and says he is looking forward to following as many rides as possible across the other festivals.

He added: “I am looking forward to the summer now and getting on with it.”

“We had a good night on Saturday, and it’s great to have it all out in the open now.”

His first official duty will be the picking night, to be held on Friday, May 5.

The Burns supper was chaired by Bryn Thom, with Michael Crawford addressing the haggis and Ian Crawford providing the immortal memory.

The toast to Melrose town and trade was delivered by Rory Murray and Ian Oliver gave the reply.

Last year’s Melrosian, Struan Hutchison, gave the toast to the lasses, replied to by Claire Nairn.

The vote of thanks was given by Donald Crawford.

Donald Swanson piped in the haggis, carried by Fraser Anderson, and Drew Scott entertained with songs.