businessman Robert Keiller gave the keynote address at the Redeswire Stane in the mist on Saturday.
A cavalcade of 45 horses and riders, supporters in cars and cyclists made the journey through the damp day to hear the award-winning Jedburgh man.
Speaking at the historic stone fulfilled a lifelong ambition, said Mr Keiller. And he talked of being Jethart: “When people ask me where’s Jethart, I simply point at my heart and say Jethart’s here.”
He went on: “As the song says: ‘Everywhere I go I always take the Jethart with me’ – it’s that spirit of camaraderie, the willingness to reach out and make new friends, the humanity that leads you to treat every fellow human being with respect – that for me is Jethart.”
He recalled Redeswire days as a boy, holding horses, and in later years helping his grandfather Jock Wilson transport beer: “The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when I remember the Herald’s horn and the strains of the Toon Band as they led the riders back into the square on Redeswire night.
“The backbone of the world we know today started here in these hills. Our forebears who struggled to secure land and livestock became the migrants who fought in the frontiers of 18th-century Ulster and then became the Scots-Irish who migrated to America. Those fighting Scots-Irish ultimately played the key part in establishing American independence, its constitution and over one third of all presidents.
“The roots of the modern western world and everything that comes with it – democracy, freedom from slavery, freedom of speech, civil and human rights – can be traced back to the people who lived, fought and died on this very hillside many centuries ago. It is some legacy.
“Redeswire commemorates a skirmish here 437 years ago when a band of Jethart men just like Callant Iain Chisholm and his henchmen rode to the rescue of their embattled colleagues with the famous cry of ‘Jethart’s here’. But the meaning for me is much deeper than that.
“Redeswire is not about repelling the English knaves – England has long since become our economic and cultural partner. Redeswire is not designed for tourists, although I welcome any tourists here today. And it’s not a simple re-enactment of a historic event.
“It is the glue that holds our culture together and makes Jethart what it is, the cement that binds us, not just a town but a community. It’s a living affirmation of who we are. By being here, especially on a wet foggy day like today, you are showing that you are a living, breathing part of that vibrant community we call Jethart.”
Tuesday’s gymkhana, usually held at Lanton after the rideout to the hamlet, was cancelled because of the weather.
Saturday’s ride to Southdean attracted a cavalcade of 67, slightly up on previous years, and the Crailing and Nisbet rideout last Thursday broke records with 141 horses and riders.
Festival convener Jim Tunnah praised the efforts of the rides committee and Herald Gary Armstrong in particular.
“Our Herald has a tremendous amount of extra work: he’s been out checking the rideouts in the mornings before the evening rides. Gary and the rides committee have really put 200 per cent effort into it. We’ve not been able to cross the river but they’ve come up with other routes so far.”
As TheSouthern went to press, the forecast for tonight’s Investiture was cloudy but dry and for tomorrow’s Festival Day, cloudy with rain in the late afternoon.