YOUNG people attending Melrose Festival’s installation and crowning ceremonies on Thursday night, were urged to “seize the day”.
Switched to the town’s Parish Church due to the wet weather that had threatened all week, the event still attracted a large crowd.
What made the night, and indeed this year’s festival, extra special was the fact that some 30 or so former festival queens had returned to help mark the 75th anniversary of the crowning of the very first festival queen, Hilda Ross, in 1937.
Guest orator for the evening was Donald Gordon, former depute director of education with the then Borders Regional Council and founder and secretary of the Trimontium Trust.
Mr Gordon wanted to illustrate to local youngsters that, if they determined to work hard and do well for themselves, they can achieve great things.
The example he took was that of locally-born Victorian archaeologist James Curle, who carried out the first major excavation of the Roman fort site of Trimontium at Newstead.
James did not get the chance to go to university as his brother Alexander did, instead following into the family law firm.
But Mr Gordon explained how the young man educated himself to such an extent that eventually he was the person to whom academics and scholars from across Britain and Europe would write to, asking for his expert opinion on Roman artefacts.
After James published his book on the excavations of Trimontium, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Aberdeen University.
Mr Gordon said it was the inspiring story of a boy who did what he could, on his own, to make up for what he was missing and suddenly found himself in the right place at the right time.
“He had taught himself and he produced a book about his finds that would put Newstead and Melrose, unbelievably maybe, but firmly on the international archaeological map,” added Mr Gordon.
As for James’ brother, Alexander, he became director of the biggest museum in Edinburgh, excavated at Jarlshof in Shetland and found the Traprain Law Treasure – 53lbs of Roman silver – in East Lothian in 1919.
“There can’t be many small towns which have produced two such famous archaeologists and from the same family,” said Mr Gordon.
“James and his brother didn’t do what they did to receive the thanks of their fellow citizens. They did it because they took their chance. They had pride in themselves and in their heritage, and when the opportunity came – particularly for stay-at-home James – they set to and made the most of it.
“Tonight, what’s important is not just the people of the past; it’s our young people – the people of the future.
“The Olympic Torch passed through the Borders – a torch this time of enthusiasm – an enthusiasm that makes the Borders festivals, and particularly this week the Melrose Festival, a gathering together of the things of the past for the benefit of the people of the future.
“Mr Chairman, the moral of my story of the boy is ‘Carpe Diem’ – seize the day, take your opportunity, make the most of your opportunity whenever it comes, wherever you find it.”
Earlier in the evening’s proceedings, joint chairman Mac Brown installed Melrosian Graeme Crawford with his sash of office.
Melrosian Crawford said he had been “thrilled and excited” to represent his home town at Selkirk and Hawick common ridings.
“But nothing compares with leading the rideout into Melrose’s Market Square on Monday night,” he said, before congratulating Festival Queen Katy Wilkinson and the members of her court.
Mr Brown’s wife, Trudi, then presented last year’s Left-Hand Man, Melrosian of 2009 Clark Eaton-Turner, with his Melrosian’s rosette.
Mrs Brown also presented Golden Jubilee Melrosian Ian Johnston with a pair of silver cufflinks, and Silver Jubilee Melrosian Eddie Weatherly with his medal.
Mr Gordon’s wife, Ishbel then crowned Queen Katy. A bouquet of flowers was presented to the Silver Jubilee Festival Queen, Louise Johnson (nee Bunyan).