Tradition maintained on a day of contrasts

Braw Lad Greg Robertson and Braw Lass Amy Thomson in full flight up Scott St during today's rideout.
Braw Lad Greg Robertson and Braw Lass Amy Thomson in full flight up Scott St during today's rideout.
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It may have been a truncated Gala Day, with the week’s heavy rainfall ensuring that river crossing was not on the menu, but it was a dry, sunny and warm day for all involved.

“The attendance has been fantastic.”

And Greg paid tribute to his four-legged friend, which carried him throughout the day’s festivities in excellent fashion.

He said: “Mavros was superb, whatever I asked him to do he did it.

“My highlights were picking up the Burgh Flag and carrying it up Scott St ... to see all those thousands of people cheering us on, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.”

Braw Lass Amy, whose favourite moment was mixing the roses, told us: “It’s so important to keep traditions like these alive. The Borders is the only area that celebrates history in this fashion and it is absolutely imperative that we keep doing so.”

And the day was mixed with a tinge of sadness for Cameron Pate and Abbie Frankland, who were putting in their final shifts as attendants.

A tearful Abbie told us: “It has been an absolutely fantastic three years, and there is a sadness there that it is all over, and we are not going to be doing it again. But it has been a really superb morning.”

The day began early, with the big breakfast taking place in the Volunteer Hall at the crack of dawn.

The Braw Lad recieved the Burgh Flag from Gathering President David Romanis at 8am – and the traditional journey around the town’s borders began in earnest, with 315 horses and riders turning up to support the principals.

A short ride to the Raidstane for the ceremony which sees each lass pin a sprig of sour plum on their respective Braw Lad’s tunic commemorating an 1337 scuffle, when a band of English soldiers where routed by the men of the town when they were eating the sour plums.

Then it was on to Abbostford ... Walter Scott’s former home being reached by bridge rather than ford, before a circuitous route took them up Gala Hill for the traditional gallop.

While the Raidstane ceremony celebrates the wars of independence, political balance is found in the Galashiels event in the Mixing of the Roses ceremony at Auld Toon Cross, which symbolizes the act of union between Margaret Tudor of England to King James the Fourth of Scotland in 1503.

Contrast, too is found at Scott Street.

Where the Sasine ceremony at the cross is serene and mournful, the traditional gallop up Scott Street is full of exuberant joy, when even the youngest rider picks up the pace and smiles at the assembled crowds.

Carrying on the contrasting themes, at noon, back at the War Memorial, exactly four hours from when he took on the reponsibility of carrying the flag, Greg dipped the standard to commemorate those who fell in the two world wars. It is a moment as poignant and moving as Scott Street is exciting.

The town’s traditional day of celebration is as strong today as it has ever been, and it would take more than a pesky river in spate to spoil it.

And while its principals retain that sense of history, that neverending pride in their hometown, and hold its importance close to their hearts, the Gala Day will continue to prosper.