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It’s all sun and smiles as Melrose celebrates in style

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It would be hard to imagine a more perfect backdrop to a Borders common riding or festival than the one enjoyed at Melrose on Saturday.

A week of events had built up to Saturday morning’s climax, when the Melrosian, the Festival Queen and her court tour surrounding villages and take part in ceremonies at Melrose Abbey.

Townsfolk had awoken to perfect azure blue skies and golden sunshine. In fact, the only thing brighter than the weather was the smiles on the faces of all those involved.

And one of the biggest was that of 2014 Melrosian Fraser Anderson.

Speaking minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s ceremonies in the abbey grounds, he told us: “It’s been unbelievable. It went very quickly like everyone says.

“I can’t really describe it, but without the support of everyone, I wouldn’t have had such a great week.”

And asked for his personal highlights of the week, he added: “Coming up the High Street on the horse behind the pipers, the abbey and the ball – and seeing everyone happy and relaxed.”

The son of Ian and Vada Anderson, from Fairways, the Melrosian said he felt that any young man getting the chance to be Melrosian should grab the opportunity with both hands: “The thing is, I’d never considered it until I got asked.

“But it’s literally something you can’t turn down – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” he said.

Festival chairman in charge of proceedings this year, James Marjoribanks, was also a delighted man by the conclusion of Saturday’s ceremonies at the abbey.

He told The Southern: “It’s been tremendous.

“We couldn’t have had a better week weather-wise: It makes it all so much easier when you have good weather.

“Our principals were also wonderfully supported by the people of Melrose, because it is, after all, a community festival, and that’s what we proved this week.”

His personal highlights from the week was the crowning and installation ceremonies at the abbey on Thursday night.

“Last year was my first year as chairman and I was a bit like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights.

“So I take my hat off to this year’s orator, Nigel Brown, who was excellent. He and I had a good chat up on the dais and it helped make it all very relaxed.”

Saturday’s ceremonies began with the traditional visit to Newstead and the site of what is claimed to be the oldest Masonic lodge in the country and where office-bearers of Melrose’s modern-day lodge greeted the principals.

Festival Queen Charlie Hume and her court were also given a warm welcome by residents of the village.

It was then a brief walk to the site of the former Roman fort of Trimontium.

The Melrosian and the official party were greeted by Ex-Melrosian Clark Eaton-Turner in the authentic garb of a Roman soldier.

From there it was on to Gattonside and a welcome from the village, the site of the fruit orchards once tended by monks from the abbey and where cherries were offered to the official party.

Among those who turned out to greet the official party was Gattonside’s oldest resident at 100, Harry Williams.

After having his picture taken with Trainbearer Maia Thomson, one of Gattonside’s youngest citizens, Harry told us: “I’m enjoying it very much. It’s living history and the weather’s great.”

At Abbotsford, the Melrosian and his supporters received traditional yellow roses from Jane Douglas-Home, on behalf of the Abbotsford Trust, and a gift was presented to the Festival Queen.

The last port of call before returning to the abbey was Darnick Tower, where the Melrosian received a gift of honey, while guests accepted refreshments symbolising the mead of long ago.

Ex-Melrosian (2000) Greig Anderson, in the role of the abbey’s lord abbot, was offered a gift of wax ‘to lighten your convent at Melrose’.

The ruined abbey was bathed in sunshine for the final ceremonies of the day, the highlight of which was the laying of a wreath of red roses by the Festival Queen on the site of the burial of King Robert Bruce’s heart.

The Melrosian was ably supported throughout the week by Right-Hand Man Sam Thomson and Left-Hand Man Graeme Crawford.

Festival Queen Charlie Hume is the granddaughter of Ex-Melrosian John Bunyan and great-grand-niece of Ex-Melrosian and past festival chairman, George Bunyan.

The Festival Queen was also ably supported by her court, comprising First Attendant Katherine Donaghy; Second Attendant Heather Panter; Courtier Ruaridh Tullis; Courtier Matthew Kirk; Heralds Ben Lynch and Lex Daunas and Trainbearers Maia Thomson and Lucy Whiting.

 

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