Sunshine celebrations

A superb cornet, scorching temperatures and large crowds made the 2014 Langholm Common Riding one which will remain in the memory.

It was a superb week of weather and Cornet Dale Irving proved to be a great ambassador for the town.

Langholm common riding 2014. The Cornet's horse crosses the Ewes Water.

Langholm common riding 2014. The Cornet's horse crosses the Ewes Water.

The 20-year-old conditional jockey took everything in his stride while everyone else was hot under the collar, and he made sure he enjoyed every minute. Good weather at past common ridings have been reported as shirt-sleeved, but this was more like Caribbean.

The cornet is elected via public vote and Dale won by a large majority in May at the first time of standing, surpassing the public confidence shown in him.

The Young Riders’ Club was set up a number of years ago and Dale was one of the first to join as a 10-year-old and the first to be cornet.

The Muckle Toon was celebrating 255 years of traditions and customs and as hundreds of exiles and visitors joined the locals, they did it in style.

It was a glorious Simmer Fair Night (Thursday), as the low sun drenched the Market Place where an exceptionally large crowd was entertained by Langholm town and pipe bands.

Cornet Irving and his Right and Left-Hand Men – Alasdair Cavers and Andrew Elliot – along with the committee, inspected the floral crown intricately made by Les Murray, and the giant thistle chosen once again from the garden of Robert Warwick.

At Townfoot, the last train was met at 9pm – the railway closed in 1964, but the tradition remains.

Glorious weather greeted the flute band as it roused townsfolk at 5am and then led the crowds up Copshaw Road for the hound trail. There was joy for owner Linda Neale who won the blue riband race for the second year running with Eagle Heart. She was later presented with the Arkleton Trophy and Holmwood Cup by Kevin Knott, and the victorious hound posed for the cameras.

Cheers echoed along the High Street as Cornet Irving, with ex-Cornets Cavers and Elliot, made their way to the platform.

Officiating magistrate David Stevenson made mention of semi-jubilee Cornet Andrew Johnstone, who was on horseback, and jubilee Cornet Irving Edgar, on the platform.

The cornet received the flag amid loud applause. His mother and father, Morag and Kenneth, brother Gareth, and grandparents John and Eileen Irving and Michael and Rose Hogg 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 into the New Town, up Thomas Telford Road and round the Square Pump, then back into the Old Town, through the packed High Street and down to the Townfoot.

In the Market Place, Rae Elliot cried the Langholm Fair standing on the back of Gillian Paterson’s horse, held secure by his friends James Johnstone, Neil Basnett and David Devlin. He was following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great grandfather.

Crowds lined the steep slopes of the Kirk Wynd and Mount Hooley to witness the spectacular gallop by Cornet Irving, followed by 198 riders.

After inspecting the ancient boundaries and hearing Billy Young cry the fair at the Castle Craigs, the riders circled the monument built to Sir John Malcolm in 1835.

The mounted procession made its way to Whita Well then 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 bands, emblems, children and riders, was led 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. On arrival at the Kilngreen the boundary sod was cut by Spade Bearer Gordon Reid and circled by the riders. After fording a rather low River Ewes, and rounding the sod that was cut on the Castleholm, Cornet Irving was given a rousing cheer as he galloped past the grandstand in the Cornet’s Chase.

There was a comprehensive programme of horse racing, athletics, Cumberland wrestling and Highland dancing. T he open-air Castleholm dance in the evening went ahead in fine weather, with music from the town band, under conductor Chris Shanks, and the traditional polka was danced – free of midges.

At 8.45pm the procession gathered at the Lodge Gates to be led towards the town by the band, with stops at the Kilngreen, Crown Hotel and Townfoot to dance the polka.

In a thronged Market Place, David Stevenson received the flag and congratulated Cornet Irving on a job well done. In an emotional speech, the Cornet thanked his family, Right and Left-Hand Men, the committee and friends for their support, and also Shelley Johnstone for looking after his horse. And he praised the people of Langholm.

Another memorable Langholm Common Riding came to an end with Auld Lang Syne and the National Anthem, and it was declared by Cornet Irving to be the greatest day of his life.