It was sunshine from dawn to dusk at Langholm Common Riding last Friday – and Cornet Alasdair Cavers had a beaming smile throughout.
As is tradition at Langholm, the cornet is elected by public vote and Alasdair had to stand four times before being chosen. He had a dream of one day carrying the burgh standard and this was realised on Friday – and he enjoyed every minute.
Huge crowds attended the ceremonies and they gave the 24-year-old farmer from the Ewes valley a rousing reception.
The Muckle Toon was celebrating 254 years of ancient traditions and customs – and as hundreds of exiles and visitors joined the locals, they did it in style.
After an early short shower, it was a glorious Simmer Fair Night (Thursday) with the low sun drenching the Market Place where a large crowd was entertained by Langholm Town Band, and they were later joined by the Pipe Band to play a couple of selections.
Cornet Cavers and his Right and Left-Hand Men, Andrew Elliot and Lee Earsman, were joined early on Thursday evening by the Common Riding committee to inspect the floral crown made by Les Murray, and the giant thistle chosen from the garden of Robert Warwick.
The Flute and Pipe Bands went to the Townfoot to meet “the last train” at 9pm. The railway closed in 1964, but the tradition remains. They then played up the High Street and round the streets of the town, followed by several rows of enthusiastic supporters.
With warm weather from early morning on the Friday, it was a shirt-sleeved Common Riding, with few people even bothering to put on jackets to head out for the hound trail, after being roused from their beds by the Flute Band at 5 am.
The Flute Band played round the town before heading up the Copshaw road for the hound trail.
There was great joy for owner Linda Neale when Eagle Heart won what is regarded by enthusiasts as the blue riband of Border trails. She was later presented with the Arkleton Trophy and Holmwood Cup by Kevin Knott at the Town Hall – and the hound certainly enjoyed the occasion as it looked over the front of the stage to accept the applause.
Cheers echoed along the High Street as Cornet Cavers and his Right and Left-Hand Men made their way towards the platform at the Town Hall.
In his speech, officiating magistrate David Stevenson made mention of Semi-jubilee Cornet Andrew Jeffrey who was on horseback to support the cornet and Jubilee Cornet George Ellwood, who was on the platform. Mention was also made of Diamond Jubilee Cornet John Paterson who, due to ill-health, could not be present.
He said Alasdair Cavers had been determined to be Langholm Cornet and on his fourth time of standing had been elected in May. He had enjoyed glorious weather at all the preliminary ride-outs, and as the cornet received the flag, he was told to go out “to see gif a’ oor marches they be clear”.
The cornet’s mother and father, Aileen and Elliot, along with other family members, watched from the platform as the procession, led by the Barley Banna emblem carried by Ian Borthwick, followed by the Town Band, set off up the High Street.
It was then over the bridge which joins the Old Town to the New Town and up Thomas Telford Road and round the Square Pump, then back through the packed High Street and down to the Townfoot.
On the return of the procession and mounted cavalcade to the Market Place, Rae Elliot cried the Langholm fair, standing on the back of Gillian Paterson’s horse, and was held secure by his friends James Johnstone and Neil Basnett. He was following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
A large crowd lined the steep slopes of the Kirk Wynd and Mount Hooley to witness the spectacular gallop up to the hill, which was led by Cornet Cavers, closely followed by his Right and Left-Hand Men, then Semi-jubilee Cornet Andrew Jeffrey and 162 riders.
After inspecting the ancient boundaries and hearing David Pool cry the fair at the Castle Craigs, the riders circled the monument built to Sir John Malcolm in 1835. The mounted procession made their way to Whita Well then to Mount Hooley, where they were met by the Bearer of the Thistle, James Johnstone, and the floral crown held aloft by Kevin Irving, and hundreds of children with heather besoms.
The procession, which was now complete with the bands, emblems, children and riders, was led off by the Pipe Band down the Kirk Wynd to parade the main street. Rae Elliot then cried the second part of the Langholm fair in a packed Market Place.
The Town Band played Auld Lang Syne then headed along Drove Road and the Bar Brae, along with the rest of the procession, but the crowd and a number of the riders had to make way for the local fire service that had been called out.
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