Courageous Fletcher is with them in spirit

Vice-chairman of the Selkirk Ex Standard Bearers, Gary Guthrie, left, joined Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Rory Monks to make the presentation of the Harvey Lockie Memorial Silver Horse to Patrick MacDonell of Lilliesleaf Primary School last Tuesday afternoon. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the competition.
Vice-chairman of the Selkirk Ex Standard Bearers, Gary Guthrie, left, joined Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Rory Monks to make the presentation of the Harvey Lockie Memorial Silver Horse to Patrick MacDonell of Lilliesleaf Primary School last Tuesday afternoon. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the competition.

It was a disaster. Everything had gone wrong. Bodies were falling behind me as I ran for my life, the cannon blasts deafening ears. There were Bodies crumpling and keeling over by weapons as lethal as tigers.

I saw a flag lying on the ground in the hands of an unfortunate dead English boy. I picked it up, wet and heavy in my arms. Where was the glory of victory that King James had promised?

The sun had risen beautifully on another common riding morning. It made me excited when the banners of true blue and scarlet were put up and now it was the day of the ride out. “Safe Oot, Safe In”. The Ex standard Bearer had now finished his speech and the crowd made a ginormous round of applause. The ex-Standard Bearer now gave the flag to the present Standard Bearer and shook his hand. That was when the cameras started flashing. It happens every year, but I have now got used to it. However, it was only now that I realised it was me who originally brought back the flag and that none of this would happen if I hadn’t …

I painfully mounted my horse, the smell of smoky gunpowder in the air. As I set off, I looked back one last time at the battlefield. It was a site that I will never forget, horses and soldiers from both sides that were strewn all over the foggy grounds and scarlet blood as far as the eye could see. I rode away ...

I could hear the Selkirk Silver Band in the distance, marching down the High Street. Clip clop, came the horses. The Standard Bearer came first, now his attendants, and now more Souters. But with each year come younger riders and it makes me feel extremely proud that they do it in my honour. I saw many young bairns riding their small ponies and I thought about how they would be the ones to be Standard Bearers in years to come and I will be watching over every single generation …

The journey back to Selkirk was a very painful one and travelling over hills and through fords made it almost impossible. My horse Tinker had not had any food since before the start of the battle, which made her stop once in a while to chew the fresh green grass thankfully. But I did not give her much time in case the English survivors came after me. I would not have made it back to Selkirk if it had not been for that horse. She stayed determined to the very end of the journey. As I came down the hill to the square it was only then did I realise that I must be that only one back from the battlefield. I heard people shouting and they crowded round me. I vaguely remember saying to get the horse some food because a few seconds later there was a huge bucket of hay for her and she ate it gratefully. I was then helped off my horse and I knew these were probably the last moments of my life, so I took the flag, I told everyone to stand back and I put every last effort into swinging the flag around my head. I finished and everyone started clapping and I collapsed to the ground. Then, darkness surrounded me and I was nothing…

It must have been about a ten-second gap between me dying and my soul coming back to Selkirk to roam it again. Everybody was crowded round me as I floated above the people down below. I was carried away from the crying crowd and into the church where they cleaned my wounds and washed me so I wouldn’t get infected. Then they put ointments on me and wrapped my body in cloth. They kept me in a cold cellar of the vicar’s house until a few days later when I was buried at the top of the three brethren’s. But they thought it better for people to not know where I was buried in case the English still wanted to have a go at me, but people put the flowers at the stones for all that lost their lives at the Flodden battleground ...

As I watch the flag being waved again today it gives me great pleasure to think that even over 500 years the Common Riding still takes places in the same location as all the other lads and I went scouting for Reivers and that they still carry the flag, a replica of the one that I brought back from Flodden.

The man finished the waving of the flag, there was a round of applause and the man stepped down from the podium ...

To this day, my body is still there at the top of that hill, but my soul, however, is a different story. I have been all over the Borders in the spirit of a ghost. And it turned out that I wasn’t the only one that turned into a spirit. All of my friends who went to battle came back as ghosts, ghosts who will never speak to the living again. And ghosts that will never die again.