‘You build your life through the games. Our festivals keep the Borders together’

PERHAPS the most poignant comment about why St Ronan’s Border Games and Cleikum Ceremonies are so important to Innerleithen came from event treasurer Norman Scott, writes Mark Entwistle.

He was speaking after Friday night’s Cleikum Ceremonies in the town’s Memorial Hall, where he was honoured for 50 years’ service as a member of the Games Week committee.

Mr Scott said the Games were a vital part of Innerleithen community life: “You build your life through the Games. What keeps the Borders together are our Borders festivals.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Games president and chairman Alan Patterson who, in his fifth and final year in office, paid tribute to Mr Scott and presented him with a framed certificate, to sustained applause.

Speaking afterwards to TheSouthern, Mr Patterson said: “There’s been huge change in the Borders in recent years. The textiles industry died in lots of places and towns could’ve gone to the dogs.

“But Borders ones haven’t, and I think a lot has to do with because our festivals, and the sense of community around those, makes a big difference. They have a galvansing effect on the whole community.”

That level of pride and passion was clearly visible on the faces of the principals at Friday evening’s proceedings.

After the legend of St Ronan was recounted, Mr Patterson installed Dux Boy of the school, Joe Giegerich, as Patron Saint.

Dux Girl of the year, Bryony Patterson, was then installed by the Principal Guest, Catherine Maxwell Stuart.

Following this, the Lady Busser, Naomi Symonds, bussed the crozier and staves, ably assisted by the Dux Girl.

Ms Maxwell Stuart then gave an excellent address before presenting the duxes with their medals and books.

After the narrator recalled the town’s history and the origins of St Ronan’s Border Games, the hall was filled to the refrain of Raise High the Banner, as outgoing Standard Bearer, Steven Notman, entered, holding aloft the banner for the last time.

With his voice cracking with emotion, it was clear how much it had meant to him to have been Standard Bearer for 2011.

Returning the blue banner to the president, Steven told him: “My year in office as a standard bearer has been a very eventful and enjoyable one.

“Kirstie [Standard Bearer’s Lass Kirstie Evans] and I have been a guest at many Border festivals and enjoyed each one immensely. In each town we received a warm welcome and made many new friends.

“I hope some of the hospitality shown to us can be repaid to our guests here this evening. I would like to thank my supporters and their Lasses for all their advice, my family for all their help and Kirstie for accompanying me and helping to make this year so successful.

“Finally, I give my best wishes to my successor Aaron and his Lass Narelle for a happy and rewarding year in office.”

Mr Patterson then installed electrician Aaron Somerville, 25. as the 2012 Standard Bearer. His father, Paul, was Standard Bearer in 1979.

The Banner was then bussed by Aaron’s Lass, Narelle Allan, who was presented with a Cleikum brooch.

After the audience left the Memorial Hall, there was a service at the nearby war memorial in memory of the fallen, led by the newly installed Standard Bearer and Rev Jim Benton-Evans of St Andrew’s Church, with music by St Ronan’s Silver Band.

The monks paid their respects at the memorial, set in the unique replica of Leithen Valley, before Standard Bearer Somerville laid the blue and white wreath.

The ceremony at St Ronan’s Wells followed, when the president then invited the Standard Bearer to drink from its waters.

“You will remember this day as long as you live and in doing so you will come to appreciate the value of tradition,” Mr Patterson told him.

“I now ask you to drink of this water from the Well of St Ronan. May it give you health, spiritual and physical, as it has done to others down the ages.”

After this, there was the torchlight procession to Innerleithen Parish Church, for the Masonic Ceremony, before a replica of the Runic Cross.

During the ceremony, the legend of St Ronan was told and the Dux Boy, representing the Patron Saint, liberated two doves.

Speaking at St Ronan’s Wells, Aaron told TheSouthern it had been the best week of his life: “Everything went according to plan and the bad weather stayed off, which was a bonus.

“It was pretty intimidating in the hall seeing all those people as you’re walking out and about to get introduced to your town.

“But it was incredible and I enjoyed it. The rest of the week’s been perfect, absolutely perfect. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it – the best week of my life - pretty busy though, with a lack of sleep.

“It was something I always wanted to do, having been in the company of a lot of ex-standard bearers like my dad and a lot of other friends.

“I was thrilled to be asked. I always said if I was asked, no matter what was going on in my life, I couldn’t refuse.”

That combination of nervous excitement and pride was also evident in the duxes, Joe Giegerich and Bryony Patterson, daughter of president, Alan.

“I really enjoyed it. It was great, although I was a little bit nervous when walking up to stage and turning round and see all those people,” admitted Joe.

“But I’d definitely recommend to other boys and girls to take part if they get the chance.”

Bryony added: “So would I. Tonight was really good.”

Mr Patterson was delighted with the way things had gone. “We’ve been very lucky with the weather when you consider what other festivals have had,” he told us.

“That’s my last year as you can only do five years consecutively, but it’s been great and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

“Stressful? It’s had its moments,” he laughed. “But you just learn to roll with the punches. There’s a great team working behind the scenes and I can’t thank them enough.”

The last word should possibly belong to Mr Scott, who was standard bearer in 1967.

“Festivals like this are very much still relevant. What keeps the Borders together are our Borders festivals. They keep the Borders alive,” he told TheSouthern.

“We’ve a great community here in Innerleithen and well may it last. I’ll keep involved as long as I’m able.

“I’ve never missed it. It’d be sad if you did miss Games Week.”

Saturday saw the Flower Parade round the town, involving more than 400 youngsters and the first public appearance during the week of the imposing figure of the De’il.

John Cockburn, clad in a black cloak and hood, carried the fiery-red carved head of the De’il mounted on the top of a stout pole draped in red cloth.

During the parade, Dux Boy Joe Giegerich hung wreaths at three wall plaques commemorating past Cleikum officials.

The procession, which opened the 185th anniversary of St Ronan’s Border Games, took the form of a massed bands display, held just after the Race Roond the Toon.

The large crowds at the Beating of the Retreat also enjoyed excellent weather conditions and music on Saturday evening.

The final act of Games Week 2012 took place with the Burning of the De’il and fireworks display at the top of Curly Hill.