The ‘Borderers Return’ saw 100 people on foot and horse carry the Borders Flodden 1513-2013 banner 130 miles through nine Border towns from Thursday to Sunday last week, to remember the few who returned from Flodden field, and the 10,000 Scots slaughtered, 500 years ago.
Many hundreds more gathered to see the 1513 Club’s commemorative flag colour-bussed, and hear a proclamation in each community before it continued its journey, borne first by Kelso Laddie Calum Thomson, and a cavalcade of ex-principals, riding from Branxholm’s Flodden Memorial onto Scottish soil, then on to Kelso, led by the Kelso Pipe Band across the old bridge, to cheers and ringing bells in Kelso Square.
The loss of life still resonated within Provost John Bassett – who saw conflict in the Coldstream Guards and the KOSB – at the moving ceremony.
“That’s all you think of, who’s gone before,” he said.
Kelso Laddie Thomson handed the flag to Jethart Callant Gary Ramsay, who, with his three henchmen, rode to Jedburgh and marched up the High Street to the Abbey, where, he said, “the emotion sunk in when they played Flowers o’ the Forest: it sounded breathtaking.”
A hundred dined under the flag at The Pheasant, where Gary spoke of how “happy and lucky” he felt: “You get the feeling carrying the flag into town the first time, but no other Callant can say they’ve done it on Flodden’s 500th anniversary.”
On Friday, Hawick Cornet Christopher Ritson and eight horsemen rode the banner from Southdean to Hawick, and processed up the High Street to Towerknowe and St Mary’s Kirk, where it was handed to Provost Stuart Marshall.
“The Rev Michael Scoular’s choice of words made it a very thought-provoking moment,” he said. “Our townsfolk can be proud that such a great tribute has been paid. It was a weekend that will be remembered for a very long time to come.”
Early Saturday morning, six of Selkirk’s ex-Royal Burgh standard bearers rode the flag to a Victoria Hall ceremony in front of Fletcher’s statue – for a time Scotland’s only Flodden monument.
“Flodden and Fletcher are so important to Selkirk, and the story has been passed down by word of mouth for 500 years,” he said. “The history is good for the town: it gives it a community spirit, something to identify with.”
In a spirit of Border unity, hundreds watched Gala Braw Lad Daniel Whitehead carry in the flag to Bank St Gardens, alongside Braw Lass Lucy Black and their attendants.
Chairman of Braw Lads’ Gathering David Houston, Peebles Beltane chairman Alastair Dodds and his Innerleithen counterpart Keith Belleville – who, beside Braw Lads’ Gathering president Andrew Johnston, regaled the crowd of how their respective communities were hit hard, losing so many men in the Flodden bloodbath.
Mr Houston said: “The days of this inter-town rivalry, especially today, are finished. We’re all in this together. Gala has quite a tie-up with Flodden, and we’ll see if we can add it into our Braw Lads’ Week.”
The flag passed to Melrosian Sam Thomson before wreaths were laid at the War Memorial by the officials of the four towns.
Langlee Community Choir, conducted by Chris Achenbach, provided haunting renditions of My Borderland, The Lilting, and A Man’s a Man.
Melrose welcomed the Melrosian and his supporters, who were presented with a special badge to mark the occasion by Elaine Marjoribanks, wife of the Melrose Festival chairman James. Pupils from Melrose Primary School then performed a dance before the town’s community council chairman Willie Windram gave a speech on the battle. The flag was then handed to Lauder Cornet Cameron McNeill and his attendants for the 10-mile ride to Lauder Town Hall, where Ian Fallas, chairman of the Lauder Common Riding Committee, read the proclamation, before the banner was then taken to Lauder Public Hall for a concert. Lauder Lady Busser Isabel MacRae added the Lauder colours just before local and visiting musicians entertained the audience, and James Bell, chairman of the 1513 Club, gave the vote of thanks before handing a printed scroll containing the formal proclamation to Mr Fallas.
On Sunday, riders from Lauder and Duns met on the Southern Upland Way to convey the flag to Duns Market Square, and, finally, Coldstreamers carried it back via Swinton, where they rang the Flodden bell, to Coldstream for a poignant ceremony on the Tweed Green, and the 50th anniversary Coldstreamer, Raymond Brydon (1963), was given the honour of riding the banner, on horseback, through the town.
After Sunday’s ceremony where the River Tweed and the Cheviot hills formed the perfect backdrop, an emotional 1513 chairman James Bell, said: “The passion and pride in every town has been overwhelming. It has involved all age groups – from the 50th anniversary Coldstreamer to a nine-year-old girl who played at the Lauder concert.
“I have to thank everyone that was involved.”