Elder statesman Norman is Peebles’ leading light

Tweedale Citizen of the Year  Norman Elliot.
Tweedale Citizen of the Year Norman Elliot.

Peebles man Norman Elder,62, has been honoured as the 2011 Tweeddale Citizen of the Year at an award ceremony in the town’s council chambers.

Scottish Borders Council convenor Alasdair Hutton, who presented the ashwood fruit bowl crafted by Peebles woodturner Mike Candlish, praised Mr Elder’s decades of service to the Tweeddale community, doing good works on many of the town’s civic committees, such as the Christmas Lights Association, the Beltane Committee, Peebles Rugby Club and the Peeblesshire Agricultural Society.

Thanking Mr Hutton and the award’s judges for both the prize and kind hospitality shown to his family and friends during the evening, Mr Elder said in his acceptance speech: “I feel privileged to live in an area which is rich in good organisations. However, I am only a small cog in a large wheel. There are many people working hard both within and outwith these organisations to ensure the smooth running of events. Without them, traditions, history and fellowship would not happen.”

“My theory is that actions speak louder than words,” the auto-electrical goods salesman said. “Most of the committees I’m on, I just do what has to be done. My father was like that: he never said no to anything he was asked to do.”

Describing his years of service, Mr Elder said: “It was my work with the farming community that got me involved in the Peebles Agricultural Society, first as a helper, then a trade stand convenor, and in 2007 I became the first non-farmer president, which was an honour.”

“My first involvement with the Christmas Lights Association was as a Callant helping the Gutterbluids put up and take down the lights.

“Today (30 years later) Ian Thorburn and myself are the only two survivors from the Gutterbluids on the new committee of volunteers.

“My interest in rugby started as a spectator, then I got asked to help take money at the gate. Eventually I joined the committee and still take the gate money, help set up the pitch, and volunteer to help behind the bar when required. I have never played a game of rugby in my life.”

“I joined the Beltane Committee more than 20 years ago. My first convenorship was children’s sports, and later lorry convenor – a role I shared with Norman McCormick. We rely on the contractors, farmers and others who give their lorries and drivers free of charge to help make our Saturday morning parade an outstanding spectacle. Work starts at the Beltane hut from February onwards – preparing and repairing the sides of the floats.”

“Probably the Beltane Festival is one of the brightest festivals in the Borders because we involve children. Saturday morning sees 500 children on the church steps all in fancy dress. When the two bands come along the street from the Cross Kirk, behind the procession of children, and start playing together, it brings a lump to your throat, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.”

Mr Elder, who was born in Peebles’ War Memorial Hospital in 1949, spent his early years in Blyth Bridge and West Linton, and now lives in Damcroft with his wife Christina, a nurse at Galashiels Health Centre.

“I am pleased to say my sons have not been put off: David is a member of the Beltane Committee and chairman of the Christmas Lights Association, and Scott, though not on the committee, is a willing helper at Beltane time. Christina is also a past Beltane chairman.”

“I hope I can continue to contribute to these organisations and the community for years to come. I’ll not give up, but I’ll probably take a step back, because climbing on ladders and jumping on and off lorries is not as easy as it was.

“We must encourage young people to come forward and join or help in these organisations to introduce fresh ideas,” he concluded.

David Younger, Lord Lieutenant of Tweeddale and chair of the selection panel, in his vote of thanks acknowledged the continued support of SBC to the awards.