You’re never too old to be Standard Bearer

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selkirk’s Royal Burgh Standard Bearer for 2011 is paramedic Michael Craig.

The 48-year-old was appointed the leader of the historic Common Riding at the Town Hall on Friday night before being paraded around the town centre.

He told TheSouthern: “I’m very excited and proud. Every kid wants to be the Standard Bearer. My mum and aunt have told me I used to ride about on a stick pretending it was a horse and I always looked up to the Standard Bearer. But as I got older and I thought I didn’t like horses, I moved away from the idea that I would ever be a Standard Bearer.”

But he took up horseriding in his 30s and friends and Common Riding supporters talked him into becoming an Attendant in 2000 despite his concerns that he was too old – and the rest is history.

Michael – known as Mick to his friends – was first an Attendant 11 years ago, then again in 2002, 2004 and last year.

The paramedic gained his long service medal with the ambulance service after completing 25 years with the organisation this year. Based in Hawick, Michael trained in Glasgow as an ambulance technician before becoming a paramedic 12 years ago.

His partner Lynda Jackson also works for the ambulance service, as a care assistant: “She’s very pleased for me and she’s a great help and has organised a lot,” said the new Standard Bearer.

Michael’s late father Peter from Kirkcudbright and mother June, a retired sister of Peel Hospital, originally from Inverness-shire, met when June moved to Peel to train as a nurse and after Peter’s family had bought the County Hotel and moved to Selkirk.

Michael said: “They had the hotel for about 17 years, it was a time when there was sawdust on the floor. I was about eight when they left.”

And his mum’s reaction to his appointment: “She’s very proud,” said Michael.

The young Michael went to Philiphaugh Primary School and on to Selkirk High School before leaving to work for Selkirk cleansing chemicals company R P Adams for six years, including a year at the company’s Aberdeen depot. He was made redundant in 1986 and went to California for six months before returning and starting work with the ambulance service.

The keen golfer played rugby for Selkirk, turning out about 100 times for the firsts as scrum half, but he was a latecomer to horse-riding, preferring bikes in his younger days.

“I always thought I was scared of horses and was more into bikes, but I’ve found horseriding is more interesting because a horse has a mind of its own: it’s a challenge because you have to try and predict what it’s trying to do. So I soon got into it.

“I started off riding with (now racehorse trainer) Stuart Coltherd. We went halfers on a horse, Two Good Judges, which we started racing – I learned a lot riding him out and jumping him, and I ended up keeping him. I used him twice when I was an Attendant. It would have been nice to have him as Standard Bearer, he was a nice big horse.”

Michael is relishing every day of his time as the Royal Burgh Standard Bearer. He said: “I was really quite nervous about speaking at Appointment Night but now that is over I’m just looking forward to it all, practising casting the flag, the riding practice and the big day itself.”

His oldest brother, Graham, a director of an oil firm, is returning from Texas to the town for the important festival. Older married brother, Murray, a sergeant at RAF Leeming, will join in the celebrations along with his sister Elspeth, her husband Iain Heard and their two daughters who live in Tweedbank.

He has chosen his Colours – teal, white and black.

“The colours I would have taken to do with school and rugby have been taken many times before, so I just decided to pick colours I liked and that look nice together,” said Michael.

His Attendants this year are Rikki McLean, Gavin Henderson, Greg MacDougall and Craig Monks.

And this year Ex-Standard Bearer Elliott Grieve celebrates his golden jubilee, while Ex-Standard Bearer Ian Rodgerson has reached his 25th anniversary.