EXPERIENCED hill walker and mountaineer Arthur Jones has not lived in Selkirk for 40 years, but this week he found his way back to propose the toast to the Royal and Ancient Burgh at the Ex-Standard Bearers dinner on Monday.
He spoke of how he had met many Souters during his stays in the West Indies and New Guinea and while on holiday in South Africa as well as across Scotland.
Mr Jones, a keen piper, runs the Trossachs Treks outdoor experience from his home in Aberfolyle.
Recounting his various encounters, he said he now understood why living in Selkirk gives people a sense of belonging to a community or being part of a large family.
Firstly, he said, it is the right size for a town. It is big enough to be a familiar name and big enough to have a decent infrastructure, with a big enough population to have a varied mix of people to create friendly rivalry and encourage personal ambition. But it is also small enough, he said, to be a caring community, small enough to be personal and small enough for folk to be remembered as individuals.
Secondly – it has a history. He said: “This is no bland collection of houses thrown up by a 20th century planner. Nor is it just any old burgh – it is a Royal and Ancient Burgh with a history that stretches back at least as far as the 12th century and where, in the Kirk o’ the Forest, William Wallace was declared Guardian of Scotland.
“It is a town that has taken its fair share of the brunt of cross-border skirmishing and the story of Fletcher’s dramatic return from Flodden is still one that grips the imagination. And, of course, it’s a town that still celebrates the Common Riding – one of the original ones dating back to granting of the royal charter by James V. There is a lot to be proud about.”
And thirdly, it had a resilient and determined community, he said.
Mr Jones went on: “In recent years, Selkirk has taken more than its fair share of knocks – the decimation of the tweed industry and the Exacta debacle possibly being the most devastating.
“Both of these events have perhaps had a similar psychological impact on the town to that which Flodden must have had – apparently a complete disaster, sounding the death knell for the town, a catastrophe from which it would be impossible to recover.
“But in a remarkably short time the community picks itself up, dusts itself down, takes stock, and Selkirk continues to move forward again – perhaps in a slightly different direction. It doesn’t sit and wallow in self-pity. It has confidence in itself.
“Lastly, it is an attractive town in a beautiful part of the country. Neither of these aspects really struck me when I stayed here – you seldom completely appreciate your surroundings when you actually live in a place.
“But it always strikes me when I come back to visit. Our Border Hills have a lovely rolling, slightly wild aspect and Selkirk itself has great character with some superb old stone buildings. Some of the newer ones may not wear quite so well, but that is true of everywhere.”
He concluded: “I think that all of these factors have worked positively to reinforce each other and have ended up creating a self-assured and confident community – a community that can be proud of its achievements and one with which folk can be proud to be associated.
“It is rather a special place and when I think about it, it isn’t really so surprising that it still feels like home to me.”