“AT least it didn’t snow,” was the tongue-in-cheek summary by Provost Les Millar following one of the wettest Selkirk Common Ridings in living memory.
But, in the words of Standard Bearer Gavin Henderson, it didn’t matter.
The 27-year-old must have broken out in a cold sweat as he woke in the early hours of Friday morning to see the rain clouds decide to camp around the Royal Burgh.
But the forestry worker and his horse Cassie were on top form throughout the morning, thanks in part to the support of four members of his family who also rode the 14-mile Marches, believed to be a first for the Common Riding.
Still shivering in the Town Hall immediately after handing back the sodden Burgh flag, Gavin told TheSouthern: “I wish the weather had been a bit better but to be honest I don’t think it would have made much of a difference – I had a great day. It is something I have wanted to do since I was a bairn and I have now done it.
“Every time I have practised casting the flag the weather has been bone dry but with the wet flag I think it was three times heavier.
“The band said it is the slowest they have ever cast the flag.
“Visibility round the Marches was rubbish, you could not see your hand in front of your face at the Three Brethern.”
Gavin, who was originally due to be on board Hector before an ear injury resulted in a change of name to Vincent Van Gogh and Cassie’s promotion, had his parents Elliot and Dorothy, sister Tracey and eight-year-old niece Rachel as part of the 390-strong cavalcade.
But dad Elliot revealed the Hendersons only decided to follow Gavin following a plea from Selkirk’s chosen one in April.
He said: “It was a decision made at Ryan Crockatt’s wedding.
“I wanted to ride but Dorothy said she would prefer to watch from the sidelines.
“However, Gavin said he wanted us all there. He said ‘You can watch a video of the day but you will never get the chance to follow your son as Standard Bearer’.
“We had Gavin within our sight the whole rideout, apart from at the Three Brethern where it was so misty you could hardly see in front of you. It was a great feeling coming into The Toll.”
Mum Dorothy added: “If you had told me two weeks ago the weather would be like this, I would have been really, really upset.
“But when the day comes, I did not even notice the rain. I am really really proud of him. It is not easy in the best of conditions but on a wet, misty day with a very heavy flag, I am so proud of him, and the attendants.
“A few people have said to me that they cannot remember a Standard Bearer’s mum, dad, sister and niece ever following him round on horseback.”
The sound of the flute band at 4am kickstarted 2012’s Hail Smiling Morn.
The solemn Act of Remembrance at the War Memorial was followed by the Silver Band’s first drum, before Her Bright Smile rang out from the Exiles – a touch ironic given the utterly miserable weather.
Umbrellas were as common a sight as horses as Gavin got his hands on the Royal Burgh flag on Victoria Halls balcony at 6.45am, and made the promise of returning it unsullied and untarnished – a promise he kept with style.
He, along with attendants Martin Rodgerson, Peter Forrest, Andrew Shaw and Chris Sanders, led the procession Doon the Green to the sound of O’ a’ the Airts, and through the River Ettrick.
The riders then made their way up the steep climb to the Three Brethern.
Underfoot conditions were tough, and one horse died suddenly just metres from the summit.
The rain was at its heaviest as the crowds waited at The Toll, but the loyal spectators roared Gavin back into the town.
The drenched crowd remained out in force for the conclusion – and highlight – of the Common Riding, the Casting of the Colours.
Each Standard Bearer was forced to heave the heavy banners around the Market Place stage.
But each did their predecessors and modern-day Selkirk proud.
Gavin was followed by Standard Bearers representing the Hammermen (Darren Munro), Weavers (Graeme Bell), Fleshers (Kenneth Robertson), The Colonial Society (George Thomson), Merchant (Mark Nichol) and Stuart Lunt of the Ex-Soldiers, who then dipped his flag to lead the two-minute silence.
In what is set to be his final year as Provost, Les Millar told us: “I could not have asked for three better Standard Bearers in my term than Douglas Gunn, Michael Craig and Gavin Henderson.
“They have been completely and uttering dedicated to the task.”
Meanwhile, a 37-year-old Selkirk woman was taken to the Borders General Hospital with a serious leg injury after falling off her horse at the start of the rideout on the Back Row at around 7.10am.