Sorry, we're having problems with our video player at the moment, but are working to fix it as soon as we can
Waiting for Video...
Cameron McNeill endured a sleepless Friday night and a Monday morning spent grafting in torrential rain – not exactly a memorable two days.
But sandwiched between them was a Saturday that more than made up for the tiredness and the drenching.
The 23-year-old landscape gardener became the 90th Lauder Cornet, a role he was destined for all his life, following on from father Crawford 29 years earlier.
That he kept his composure and his smile throughout Saturday morning in front of huge crowds and a cavalcade of 343 is testament to the man.
Reflecting on Monday, Cameron told The Southern: “I am back to reality today, working away in the rain. I am a bit down now, but it has been a fantastic week.
“To carry the flag was probably the highlight for me, in front of the huge crowds. Lauder is a really popular festival now and we get huge backing from other towns in the Borders.
“I didn’t really get much sleep the night before. I ended up getting up at 4.30am, but it was worth it.”
The sight of yellow and blue bunting is the traditional indication that Common Riding Day is upon Lauder, but the smell of bacon also wafted across the town as residents lined their stomachs on a blustery but dry morning.
It was 8am when Cameron emerged from the crowds to accept the Burgh Standard and the “very high responsibility” that goes with it, from chairman Ian Fallas.
And so, he led his mounted followers around the Royal Burgh’s common land, the largest of its kind in Scotland. Up over the golf course they went, Right Hand Man Gregor Ker (last year’s Cornet) and Left Hand Man Iain Dick (2011 Cornet) tucked just behind Cameron, before the climb up to the Waterin’ Stane, and Lauder’s most westerly point.
A total of 49 ex-Cornets gathered behind Cameron and joined him at the Stane for a rendition of Jeannie’s Black e’e and Bonnie Lauderdale – the latter fittingly sung ‘Mid the splendour and the beauty o’ the bonnie woods and glens’.
Then came the charge up to the Burgess Cairn before the winding road back into town to the War Memorial service conducted by Reverend John Riddell before Abigail Anderson presented Cornet McNeill a simple wreath that means so much.
And then, as the Town Hall clock ticked past midday, Cameron handed back the flag to hugs from Gregor and Iain as the trio shared tears.
Afterwards, Cameron paid tribute to both, as well as his Lass Helen Middlemiss, who was unable to ride due to a broken pelvis sustained at the Braw Lads’ Gathering in June. In a show of solidarity, Sally Middlemiss and Anneka Ker – the 2012 and 2011 Lasses’ respectively – chose to accompany Helen among the crowds.
Cameron added: “Gregor and Iain are both friends of mine and I have supported both of them when they were Cornets, as well as 2010 Cornet Fraser Middlemiss, who is another friend.
It was great to be able to rely on both of them and I hope another friend can become Cornet next year.
“What happened to Helen at Galashiels was a bit of a disaster, but she has shown great courage to come back and take part in all the Common Riding events.
“The other girls decided they would not ride as well, and were given the chance to get dressed up in their best dresses and hats and be chauffered around as they do in Hawick. I think they did well.”
Last but not least, Cameron praised his own horse Claude – “He was perfect. It doesn’t get better than riding round the Common Riding on your own horse as Cornet”.