IT SEEMED like the town’s annual common riding had come a day early, as hundreds of spectators jammed the town’s Market Place and other streets to witness the Olympic Torch relay come through Selkirk.
A team of eight runners, including five people from the Borders and Moscow Olympics 100m gold medallist Allan Wells, bore the Olympic flame past the cheering crowds.
The first leg of the torch run in Selkirk started in Linglie Road, before heading past Philiphaugh rugby ground, over the bridge, up Yarrow Terrace, the West Port and into the Market Place.
None of the torch bearers who ran through Selkirk were actually from the town, much to the disappointment of many gathered to watch.
And things didn’t run too smoothly either. The massed ranks of well-wishers packing the Market Place had hope to see Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Gavin Henderson welcome the iconic symbol of the Olympics onto the podium specially erected for the Common Riding Casting of the Colours.
But a last minute change of plans caused confusion, as relay officials advised the welcoming party, including provost Les Miller, that the torch bearer could not go onto the stage due to advertising issues caused by the Scotbet bookmakers’ sign in the background.
A quick reorganisation in front of Sir Walter Scott’s statue was needed before Standard Bearer Henderson welcomed torch carrier Pauline Charles, from Galashiels, to the town.
He told TheSouthern: “Being Olympic Standard Bearer was really exciting and something completely different for me. As far as I know this has never happened before on the Thursday before the common riding and it was something really special.
“It was fantastic to see a good turn out of people to witness the event also.”
And for one Galashiels 19-year-old, it was an experience she will never forget.
Borders College sports student Lisa Robertson, who has represented Scotland at both rugby and athletics, was nominated anonymously.
She started her section of the run in Linglie Road and after crossing the Ettrick Water passed the flame to Jedburgh teenager, Callum Dickson.
“It was a fantastic experience – absolutely incredible,” Lisa told us. “All my family were out in force supporting and cheering me on and the sides of the street were packed with people.”
Lisa says she had planned to walk a small section of her stretch, but the torch guardians who run alongside, had other ideas.
“The folk from the Metropolitan Police running beside me said I should start jogging a bit. My section was all uphill, but it was fine.”
After the handover of the flame, Lisa got back aboard the official shuttle bus and followed the rest of the runners to Galashiels, where her torch was decommissioned as it had run out of gas and she was allowed to leave.
“Coca-Cola was my sponsor and everyone sponsored by the company is allowed to keep their torch for free. But there’s no way I’ll be selling mine. I’ve got a special stand ordered and it will take pride of place at home.”
Among the crowds were Ettrick Terrace resident Shirley Boylan and her daughter Karina who celebrates her fifth birthday next week.
She told us: “It has been really great. Everyone was in a party mood and the atmosphere was phenomenal. It makes the Olympics that wee bit extra special and it’s a real honour that the flag has passed through Selkirk.”
Dave Valentine, from the Yarrow Valley, was at the Ettrick Bridge with his two children, to witness the occasion. Asked why, he told TheSouthern: “It’s a worldwide event. It puts Selkirk at the centre of things, even if just for quarter-of-an-hour, or half-an-hour.”
Trish Gray, from Selkirk, said she was there because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “It’s something we’re never going to see again.”
Hilary McClymont, who farms in the Yarrow Valley with her husband, had brought along her two young sons, Sam (8) and Oliver (6) to see the relay.
“The boys are mad keen on sport and, like everyone’s saying, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and something they’ll remember when they’re older.”