Gregor and lass Loryn to lead Beltane Festival

Cornet elect Gregor McGrath and  cornet elect's lass Loryn Paterson before being announced to the public.
Cornet elect Gregor McGrath and cornet elect's lass Loryn Paterson before being announced to the public.

The principals picked to lead this summer’s Peebles Beltane Festival were announced to a packed-out burgh hall last Friday night.

Mill worker Gregor McGrath and student nurse Loryn Paterson were unveiled as this year’s cornet elect and lass.

And there’s no doubt the pair are a popular choice, with standing room only left in the hall and resounding cheers from townsfolk and visiting principals alike.

A former pupil of Priorsford Primary and Peebles High School, Gregor, 24, works as a warehouse operative at Holland and Sherry textile mill and part-time at the town’s golf club.

Gregor follows in the footsteps of his parents David and Karen McGrath, cornet and lass in 2000 and 2001, his sister Rachel was in the event’s immediate entourage in 2003 and his aunt Susan Bell was crowning lady in 2016.

Gregor is no stranger to the Beltane, having followed the Wednesday night ride before, albeit on push bike and 17 years ago, and has previously appeared as a mouse, sailor and standard bearer.

He is a members of Peebles Callants’ Club and plays football for Tweeddale Rovers Colts.

Gregor said: “I remember sitting in this hall 18 years ago and watching my mum and dad be unveiled as cornet and lass. I feel proud to follow in their footsteps.

“I cannot tell you how happy I am. Anyone who knows me will I know I smile near enough all the time, but that will be nothing compared to the smile on my face when I ride down the High Street on the Wednesday night with the burgh standard.

“I cannot wait to get to know not only my supporters better but all the principals from other towns and to spend the summer representing Peebles.”

Cornet-elect’s lass Loryn is, like Gregor, a gutterbluid, and attended Priorsford Primary and Peebles High School.

Loryn, 24,spent over two years living in New Zealand from 2010 before travelling around south east Asia and returning home to work as manager of the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel.

She is due to graduate from Edinburgh Napier University as a nurse this summer.

Unlike Gregor, she is no stranger to the saddle. She first followed the Beltane on horseback at just three years old and became a member of the Peebles March Riders Association, of which her mum Lynsey is currently chairwoman, at the age of six.

During her primary years, her Beltane appearances included ones as a daffodil and a lady of the court, and she has twice won the callants’ club trophy, in 2015 and 2016.

Loryn told the crowd she was “absolutely buzzing” to be named cornet elect’s lass.

“It’s a lifetime honour and a dream come true,” she said.

“I have ridden the marches for 17 years and have been part of the Beltane Wednesday for 10 years, and I can’t quite believe I will now be leading the ride alongside Gregor. I will do all I can to support Gregor as his lass, and I hope that I do all of you and Peebles proud.”

Also announced at last Friday’s introduction night were the supporting principals.

Lawyer and father-of-three Douglas Neil will be boundary reader; former police chief inspector and vice-chairman of the Beltane committee Douglas Wright will be the warden of Neidpath; and Tweed Theatre stalwart Katharine Mathison will serve as crowning lady. The Rev Barry Hughes will return for the second time as Warden of the Cross Kirk.

Beltane chairman Keith Brunton congratulated the new principals and wished each a successful year in office.