Changing routes fail to derail Jed’s big day

Jedburgh Callant Festival 2012.
Jedburgh Callant Festival 2012.

FRIDAY stayed fair for Jedburgh’s big day when the town came together to celebrate.

Huge crowds turned out for Festival Day on a cloudy but dry morning to cheer Jethart Callant Iain Chisholm, his henchmen and followers.

Jedburgh Callant Festival 2012.

Jedburgh Callant Festival 2012.

Supporters lined the streets waiting in anticipation – then the strains of Jedforest Instrumental Band could be heard as the musicians made their way up High Street to Abbey Place.

Next, Herald Gary Armstrong, sounding his horn, rode towards the platform with Jedburgh Royal British Legion Pipe Band playing behind him and the crowd cheered again. Finally, Callant Chisholm, flanked by his Right and Left-Hand Men, Ryan Miller and Grant Davidson, rode in to view and townsfolk once again gave a rousing welcome.

The young principal dismounted before striding to the platform with the Jethart Flag on which Provost Harvey Oliver’s wife, Helen, pinned the traditional rosette. Silence fell as Callant Chisholm remounted and, after taking a few moments to compose himself, held the flag aloft and roared out the mighty battle cry: “Jethart’s Here!” Music and wild cheering followed, and supporters sang “Jethart’s Here” as the cavalcade of 240 made off towards Ferniehirst Castle, stronghold of the Kerr family.

Arriving at Ferniehirst, the Callant and other principals were piped down to the castle where, in 1575, the men of Jethart joined the Kerr family to break an English siege.

Jedburgh Callant Festival 2012.

Jedburgh Callant Festival 2012.

Friday’s meeting, however, was of a more peaceful nature when Jedburgh Grammar School pupil Natalie McEachran gave the recitation of Walter Laidlaw’s “Reprisal” and Lord Lothian’s nephew, Johnnie Kerr, welcomed riders on behalf of the family.

The 23-year-old journalist remembered as a young boy listening to another family member giving the welcome speech and being told one day he would be doing the same: “It terrified me then almost as much as it does today!”

He spoke of the uniqueness of the Borders, its having the best riding countryside in the world, and of the links between Jedburgh and Ferniehirst which had been strong for 700 years.

Callant Chisholm thanked the Kerr family and led supporters in a rousing rendition of a verse of “Jethart’s Here”.

He then rode on with his henchmen to the Capon Tree where Callant’s Club president Graham Hamilton pinned a sprig of the ancient Jed Forest oak onto Callant Chisholm’s sash.

Routes were compromised this year because of rain-sodden ground and the cavalcade, which usually follows the Callant to the Capon Tree, instead rode along the road from Ferniehirst back towards the royal burgh to meet up with Callant Chisholm and his henchmen. Organisers ruled out crossing the Jed Water on safety grounds, so the procession made its way along the A68.

Speaking to TheSouthern afterwards, Callant Chisholm said: “I have had the most amazing week. I just loved being Jethart Callant. It’s an honour to be able to represent your town on that scale.

“You get overwhelmed by the support – Jedburgh folk are great, they are always there come rain or shine.”

He continued: “The highlight for me was the immortal battle cry ‘Jethart’s Here’ at the ramparts. I can’t really describe it, it’s something only a Callant can feel and there’s only been 65 of them.”

He had been looking forward to the ride to Ancrum last Wednesday when more than 100 formed the cavalcade following him, for his grandparents live in the village.

He said: “It was really good and quite emotional for me and Grant because we both have got big family ties there, and there was a great following considering the weather.”

Another highlight of the Callant’s festival was the ride to Redeswire Stane near the border last Saturday.

He commented: “That was something else. Usually, everybody can see you coming from a long, long way away, but it was pea soup up there and we just emerged from the mist. There was an amazing number of people there and Rob Keiller was an unbelievable speaker.”

Most routes had to be changed during the festival. It was only the second time the Callant had been unable to cross the Jed Water on Friday and it was the first time a Callant did not cross the River Ale en route to Ancrum.