Hark ye gallant chiels o’ Kelsae,
Dance and sing your cares away,
Drink a toast – a bright tomorrow,
Never, never dread that day.
So runs the chorus of the rousing seven-verse The Gallant Chiels o’ Kelsae which will soon be sung again with great gusto during Kelso Civic Week.
The Civic Week was one of the latest to be introduced to the summer calender of commemoration, celebration and fun in the Borders.
Provost John Scott wisely took the view that this ancient abbey town by the side o’ the bank’ o’ the Tweed had much to celebrate and commemorate, and that its townsfolk had as much right to have fun as their Borderland neighbours.
The local baker was aided by fellow councillors and business colleagues in shaping what was to become Kelso Civic Week. So it was that in 1937 R. W. Service became the first Kelso Laddie at the inaugural week.
And so, this year, 2012, Kelso Civic Week reaches its 75th anniversary with a proud Callum Vickers, 20, as the anniversary Laddie. This is not, however, the 75th Civic Week. The outbreak of the Second World War meant 1939 was the last pre-war week and 1946 the first post-war event.
But Kelsonians, their neighbours and friends will be out in force to mark this historic milestone and remember Provost Scott’s contribution to the life of this burgh.
Two of plumber Callum’s most ardent supporters will be his parents Paul and Wilma. Also lending family backing will be older brother Sean and sisters Michelle and Sarah. Callum’s Right and Left-Hand men are immediate past Laddies Phil Hume and Murray Playfair.
Callum, of Inch Gardens, attended Borders College after leaving the local high school and now works with Coldstream-based plumber Dean Wilson.
Since Declaration Night in April he has represented Kelso with pride and dignity in other towns and assisted the Duke of Roxburghe in lighting the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacon at Friarshaugh.
On that April night, he said: “I am looking forward to the whole experience. I am honoured to be elected and promise to endeavour to carry out my duties to the best of my ability.”
Callum was sashed on Declaration Night by Provost Fiona Scott and on Wednesday the Burgh Standard will be in his safe hands as it is bussed in the four corners of a packed Kelso Square – the largest in Scotland – by 11-year-olds Aimee Martin and Laureen Mackay from Edenside Primary School, and Betheny Millar and Lucy Murray from Broomlands Primary School. Callum admitted: “I’m excited about it, but will probably be nervous.”
During the festivities Callum will lead his cavalcade to surrounding villages – Heiton, Stichill, Hume, Ednam and Morebattle – where he and his supporters will be assured of an enthusiastic welcome. A visit will also be paid to Floors Castle, home of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe.
And the greens at Yetholm and Kirk Yetholm will be crowded with revellers when he carries the Burgh Banner over the hills in one of the most popular mounted outings in the Borders calender. He’ll join the Bari Gadgi and Bari Manushi in laying a wreath at the roadside War Memorial.
On the previous evening the Old Curfew Bell will ring at 5.40pm prior to Callum being handed the Whipman’s Flag before riding to the Trysting Tree where a sod will be cut. The Whipman’s Society was formed about 300 years ago by men from various occupations connected with the horse – it was a form of trade union to secure decent working arrangements from farmers and landowners.
On his return to Yetholm comes one of the proudest - and probably tear-jerking – moments for any Kelso Laddie, the moment when he swaps his black bowler hat for the cherished Blue Bonnet.
If 75 is young, then Kelso is indeed a young festival. But it is a young festival that over the years has matured with a passion of which Provost John Scott would rightly have been proud.
Callum Vickers is the toast of Kelsae Bonnie Kelsae – but surely there will be a toast or two also for baker John Scott whose recipe for a Civic Week is standing the test of time.