’Twas a knight to remember at Traquair

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THE grounds of Traquair House, near Innerleithen, were ringing to the sound of steel upon steel at the weekend as they were transported in time to the days of yore.

The annual Medieval Fayre is becoming a favourite event for tourists and locals alike, with several re-enactor groups, living history exhibits and individual performers doing their thing.

Traquair Medieval Fayre. Brian Evans of The Northmen.

Traquair Medieval Fayre. Brian Evans of The Northmen.

In the historic house’s walled garden groups such as Gaita and Cornucopia helped to enchant the many visitors with their special brands of medieval music, backed up by a dancing lady donkey, a maid on stilts and a jester called Mr Cake.

And if you think that sounds a little random, wait until you hear him speak.

He told TheSouthern: “It’s brilliant here. I have been trying to get here for 15 years and now I’ve finally made it.

“I think it may have been because I was thrown out of jester school, but so was Salvador Dali and look at him now.”

Also in the garden, the Knights of Monymusk showed how a knight of the time would get dressed in the morning, as well as how they fought. They also gave youngsters the chance to beat seven bells out of them and that’s not an offer they were likely to pass up. And Ettrick Forest Archers members gave visitors the opportunity to shoot a longbow, very much a weapon of the period. So popular this proved, there was barely a rest over the two days – even when it was tipping down with rain.

Indeed, Saturday was a trying day for most of the groups. With intermittent downpours threatening to rust the chainmail of even the bravest of knights, the beer tent, which was selling the estate’s own Fayre Ale, was a popular shelter spot.

Sunday, however, was well named, with only the odd shower between long bouts of warm summer weather.

Children were having a grand time in the helmet and sword-making workshop and puppet display, and enjoying the opportunity to stroke the selection of birds of prey before watching a falconry display. Heckling the antics of Mr Cake was also a highlight for the youngsters, as was the grim revelations of the executioner.

For adults, there was the chance to get their palms and cards read and become engrossed in the living history workshops, learning how wood was carved, metal was forged and candles were sculpted.

A foot soldiers’ tournament was held to find the best fighter among the commoners ahead of King James III’s visit to Traquair with his son, soon to be King James IV.

This event was won by a young scrapper who went by the unlikely name of Mike, who told us: “Traquair is a fantastic venue with great scenery. The weather has behaved itself very well (today), and it was a good fight.

“I have to say, though, the best man definitely won.”

One of the main highlights, however, was the equestrian display by local troupe Les Amis D’Onno, who are based in Lanton, near Jedburgh. They stunned the crowd with amazing feats, including jousting, quintine and jumping the lance as the knights vied for the fair maiden in bouts of bravery and combat.

Jake Martin, whose party trick is to ride two heavy horses at once by standing with a foot on each saddle, got most of the boos as the baddie.

“We usually let the audience decide who to boo,” he said, but admitted: “it is usually me, though.”

Hauling a fair maiden off her pony may have gone some way to ensuring this, but at least he got his come-uppance near the end.

By 5pm, it was time for the groups to pack up ready for the journey home, and for some visitors to reflect on their new-found interest in our country’s history, for others to tell their friends about this wonderful show.