TWENTY-TWO years after receiving the cup as the youngest rider at Selkirk Common Riding, Gavin Henderson got the prize he really wanted on Friday.
It came when excited townsfolk turned out in force to acknowledge his appointment as the 2012 Royal Burgh Standard Bearer.
Gavin was just four years old when he rode the marches for the first time in 1990.
“Since that day, I’ve wanted, above all else, to follow in the footsteps of John Wilson, who was Royal Burgh Standard Bearer in that year,” he told The Wee Paper.
That long-held ambition became a reality for the 26-year-old Souter in the Town Hall, where, watched by proud mum and dad Dorothy and Elliot, and his older sister Tracey, he was the unanimous choice of the Selkirk Common Riding Trust, chaired by Provost Les Millar, to take over the coveted mantle on June 15.
“I’ve dreamed about this for years, but nothing can quite prepare you for the emotion of the moment,” said Gavin after being borne aloft by Ex-Standard Bearers and introduced to the cheering crowds who lined the streets during his tour of the town.
Gavin is no stranger to two of these Burleymen for he was Attendant to both Douglas Gunn and Mick Craig, who were Royal Burgh Standard Bearers in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Previous stints as an Attendant took place in 2003 for Gary Guthrie and 2004 for Colin Squance.
“Douglas and Mick were really encouraging on Friday and it helped me get through an unforgettable evening, culminating, of course, at the concert in the Victoria Halls,” said Gavin.
He told The Wee Paper “I’m not the greatest public speaker and I was quite nervous because I had so many speeches to make on Friday. But everyone was so supportive and I began to feel quite at ease, despite popping up too soon at the concert to reply to Keith Riddell, chairman of the Ex-Standard Bearers Association.
“I also had great fun visiting Joyce Wright and her kids’ singing club in the Parish Church.”
The time-served joiner who, for the past two years, has been a director of his father’s forestry contracting company, was educated at Knowepark and Selkirk High and, as a teenager, excelled in his chosen sport of motocross.
He competed across the country and won the 2002 Scottish Youth Club Motocross Championship. But a succession of serious injuries, including two arm breaks, a smashed collar bone and numerous fractures forced him into early retirement.
He said: “When I was at school, it was always a choice between rugby and motocross, but matches always clashed with meetings at the weekends, and I chose the latter.”
But last year, he was persuaded back into the rugby fold by Selkirk Stormers coach Neil Wood and, in the season just past, he proved an effective utility forward for the Second XV at Philiphaugh.
Although having no direct family connections to the common riding, Gavin, Dorothy and Tracey have ridden the marches on many occasions.
Gavin’s Attendants this year will be Martin Rodgerson, Peter Forest and two youngsters new to the role: Andrew Shaw of Shaws Farm and Chris Sanders of Kingsland Avenue.
His horse will be Hector, hired from the Kailzie Equestrian Centre near Peebles, and his Ball partner will be 21-year-old Yvonne Paterson, currently a student in the USA, and the granddaughter of Nora Hammerton who lives in the town.
Gavin’s chosen colours are purple, moss and bridal white.
“My first bike when I started motocross was a Kawasaki which is coloured green and purple and brings back many happy memories and I thought these were nicely complemented by the white,” explained Gavin.
And of the big day, he said: “After following on horseback on 17 occasions, I certainly know the route. But it’s a different matter leading the cavalcade with the Royal Burgh Standard. I will be nervous, but I still reckon I’m the luckiest man alive.”