Every Kelso Laddie is always the subject of praise and plaudits during Civic Week, but this year one adjective was heard more than any other.
Asking anyone for their view of 2015 Kelso Laddie Fraser Hastie, and more often than not, the word that came back was ‘exceptional’.
And it was a word heard frequently early on Saturday evening after the last Civic Week rideout, in this case the long trek to Yetholm, and the handing back of the burgh standard.
The Yetholm ride is the climax of a packed week-long programme of events, although as Kelso Laddie, Fraser has been representing his home town at numerous other Border festivals and common ridings since early summer.
Just how popular a choice the 22-year-old marketing co-ordinator with local firm, Lloyd Land Rover, has been was underlined by the impressive cavalcade of 211 riders and their mounts following him out to Yetholm after leaving The Square in Kelso at 8.30am on Saturday.
Reaching the village they were officially greeted by the Reverend Ian Clark at the war memorial.
Fraser laid a wreath before riding on to Kirk Yetholm where he was officially welcomed by Yetholm Community Council chairman Susan Stewart on the Green and this year’s Bari Gadgi Mark Dixon presented him with the traditional Yetholm Jagger.
Riders were joined by a large contingent who had come by more modern forms of transport for the customary picnic lunch before the cavalcade prepared for the long ride back to Kelso.
After being welcomed back into the town by the local pipe band and crowds lining the streets, Right-Hand Man Ross Henderson’s mother, Wendy, presented Fraser with the coveted blue bonnet for crossing the border, after which the platform party acknowledged the rest of the mounted cavalcade.
The Kelso Laddie also presented cups for youngest and oldest riders, to Tara Kane, 5, and Ex-Kelso Laddie James Hinnigan, respectively.
After he had returned the burgh standard, Fraser told The Southern it had been an “amazing” week and an unforgettable honour.
“It was the best day of my life. Words can’t describe it better than that,” a clearly emotional Kelso Laddie told us.
“There was a really good following to Yetholm and I can honestly say this has been the best day of my life. Just amazing.”
He told us the highlight of his day had been coming down the Venchen Hill: “It was a bit breezy with the flag, but coming down the hill and taking the time to look back and see all the followers was something special.”
And making the whole day extra special was the support of Fraser’s family, including twin brother, Murray, and older brother, Grant.
“And it definitely made it a bit special to have my dad, Neil, who was Laddie in 1981, riding today as well. Only thing wrong is that it’s all gone by so quick!”
And Provost John Bassett was full of praise for the young man who has represented the town so well this summer:
“It’s been absolutely brilliant this year. We seem to say that every year the young men that come forward to be Kelso Laddie get better and better, but I think this year’s Laddie has been exceptional.
“He seems to be able to bond with everyone and wherever he’s gone people have welcomed him and he’s had a huge following.”
Provost Bassett said the week’s rides had started with the Laddie getting a drenching on the cavalcade to Heiton.
“Monday night’s ride was a bit tough on him but Fraser still had that big smile on his face. And even though drenched, he still got up, did the reel and got back on his horse all the while still smiling – in fact, I don’t think there’s been a day I’ve seen him without a smile.”
Asked if he had a personal highlight himself, Provost Bassett said there was a moment on the Yetholm Ride that had him, and many others, open-mouthed in admiration.
“There was a moment today when the Laddie’s bonnet flew off, then he nearly lost the standard, but somehow managed to throw down his reins and grab it.
“How he managed to stop that horse careering I don’t know. That was some feat of horsemanship – he did really, really well. That’s my highlight!”
Civic Week chairman Scott Forbes confirmed Saturday’s ride had gone smoothly.
“It was an excellent turnout today with 211 horses taking part. Fraser’s been a very popular Kelso Laddie and there have been excellent turnouts for the mounted and other events.
“We haven’t had any hiccups and it’s all run very smoothly and that’s thanks to a very hard-working committee who spend months before Civic Week making sure it all goes well so that everyone can really enjoy themselves.”
Among the Ex-Laddies present for the Wednesday night installation and colour bussing ceremonies, was diamond jubilee Kelso Laddie, George McCombie.
“It’s a lot different than it was in my day,” said George, Kelso Laddie in 1955.
“It was a lot smaller; there wasn’t all this colour bussing and, as for the reel, we just picked some ladies out from the crowd and got on with it.
“But I was so very proud to be Laddie and the highlight of my week was carrying the flag on the ride to Yetholm.
“And I’ll be at Yetholm on Saturday to cheer on the Laddie – although it will not be on the back of a horse; it’s been a wee while since I was on one of those!”
Colour bussers for this year were Rhianne Dagg, 11, and Mia Wight, 12, (both Broomlands Primary); Leigh Anderson, 11, and Emily Scott, 11, (both Edenside Primary).