Following in the footsteps of Fletcher

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Flodden and all that it meant to the Borders, the wider Scotland and England was commemorated when Coldstreamer Colin Leifer led a cavalcade of 513 across the border to the battlefield on Branxton Hill, writes Bob Burgess.

It was here on September 9, 1513, that the armies of James IV and Earl of Surrey clashed in bloody and mortal combat.

The short-lived battle claimed the life of the king, his son Alexander, 13 earls, 15 lords, a bishop, clan chiefs and the French ambassador. So too did around 15,000 Scots – men and boys. And like most communities throughout Scotland, Selkirk took its toll – only Fletcher returned from a band of 80 Souters who had rallied round their king.

Last Thursday, Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Greg MacDougall, his Attendants and a host of Selkirk riders and foot followers converged on the battlefield to pay homage.

There was a pipe lament, the bugle sounded Last Post and Reveille – and there was an oration by MSP John Lamont who had gazed on the site of the battle from his home in Coldstream High Street.

He spoke of losses shared on both sides of the border and how the death of the men who perished robbed communities of literacy – because literacy was restricted to only a few men, and seldom to women.

He said: “In their absence, it is said that in Selkirk no records were kept, because simply nobody was able to read or write. Births, deaths and marriages went undocumented, and the town council’s minutes were not taken.

“So, for Scotland, Flodden wasn’t just a personal tragedy, it was a civic catastrophe which permeated through every facet of daily life.”

Coldstreamer Leifer cut a sod from the battlefield which was carried back to the town and placed at the site of the former priory where nuns had taken some of the dead nobility for Christian burial in consecrated ground.