There was not a cloud in sight as Jethart Callant Nick Arnold galloped atop Carter Bar on Saturday roaring the immortal battle cry ‘Jethart’s here’.
He led his cavalcade south on the town festival’s longest ride in blazing sunshine on what is a curtain-raiser for the Jethart Callant’s Festival, set to unite the town in celebration tomorrow.
A cavalcade of 47 riders, eight of whom, including callant Nick Arnold, were first-timers gaining their coveted Redeswire badges, rode to Carter Bar to commemorate the last bloody encounter between Scotland and England on July 7, 1575.
After the callant arrived at the historic spot, having bellowed the battle cry ‘Jethart’s here’ to the hundreds waiting to greet him, it fell upon the 1973 Melrosian Roy Mack, this year’s guest speaker, to give an oration.
Recounting the raid of Redeswire, he said: “Tensions were tinder-dry, and soon a bloody battle took place. At the height of the battle, strangely enough, the English forces stopped because they raided all the Scots’ merchandise.
“That gave the Scots lads a wee chance, and they reformed and they rallied, and just at a crucial time reinforcements arrived from Jethart with drums beating and banners flying and crying ‘Jethart’s here’.
“And how poignant today to watch the horses coming over the hill and think of that time.”
He added: “Things change. We move on. The cries may not come through the Borderlands in the way they used to, and we certainly won’t see a beacon blaze on the Dunion top any more, but what we do, without doubt, have is a Borders spirit.
“It’s community spirit as we know nowhere else in Scotland.”
Speaking afterwards, callant Nick added: “It was absolutely amazing. It was overwhelming actually. I was stalked by nerves all the way out there because it meant that much to me to do it.
“The whole thing has stepped up a notch from Saturday as this is the start of it all now. I’m very excited for Friday, but it’s a slightly bitter-sweet feeling as I don’t want it to be over. Nerves are definitely high, but I can’t wait.”
Nick’s duties continued this week with Sunday’s lead-rein ride, followed by a kirking that evening, and Monday’s Queen’s ride, when he led 114 riders in glorious sunshine to Fulton Peel Tower.
A combined rideout to Lanton and Ancrum followed last night.
Tonight sees an investiture ceremony and callant’s walk take place from 7.15pm in Market Place.
Tomorrow, Nick, supported by his right and left-hand men Brodie Irvine and Gary Hogg, plus herald Brian Marshall, will lead the town in its main celebrations.
They begin in Abbey Place at 8.45am, when the lady provost pins a rosette to the Jethart flag borne by the callant. From there the cavalcade proceeds to Ferniehirst Castle, where a recital of Walter Laidlaw’s The Reprisal will be given at 10.10am. The president of Jethart Callants’ Club pins a sprig from the capon tree to the callant’s sash at 11.10am before the cavalcade continues back to the Toll at 11.30am.
The Jed is forded at Auld Brig at 11.40am. A ceremony of remembrance will takes place at 12.30pm before the callant returns the flag at Abbey Place. A family fun day follows on Murray’s Green between 1pm and 5pm.
Sunday sees the ceremonial return of the sashes at Mary Queen of Scots’ House at 2pm.