History in the casting

David & Fiona Deacon
David & Fiona Deacon

The Royal and Ancient Burgh of Selkirk made history on Sunday, by appointing its first female Common Riding Standard Bearer.

Army veteran Fiona Deacon will cast the flag for Selkirk’s Ex-Soldiers Association on June 13, breaking centuries of male dominance.

A long-standing member and official of another of the town’s casting bodies told us: “If you’re good enough to fight for your country, you’re good enough to cast a flag.”

“We’re in the 21st century. Lady members are integral to all of Selkirk’s incorporations. It was just a matter of time.”

Fiona, from Lauder, enlisted as a soldier aged 18, straight after leaving Earlston High School.

She began an 18-year career in the Women’s Royal Army Corps and Royal Military Police, where she met her husband of 21 years, David, who carried the banner as 2013 Ex-Soldiers Standard Bearer, with Fiona as his Lady Busser. This year, he’ll buss her flag.

The couple live in Selkirk with their two children Callum and Rhian.

Fiona told us: “My only desire is to follow in the footsteps of my fellow Ex Soldiers Standard Bearers, and stand shoulder to shoulder with them, as I did with those men and women in HM Forces.

“It just so happens I am a woman. It’s a huge honour to be elected, especially in the centenary of the beginning of the Great War. I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of support.”

The committee’s vote on Sunday was “unanimous”, followed by “an emphatic round of applause,” its chairman Graham Easton revealed.

He told us: “She’s served her country, so she’s qualified in her own right.

“Now we’re just carrying on as normal, protecting and supporting our Standard Bearer.”

He admitted: This was a historical moment. There was opposition six years ago even to the thought of it. But attitudes have changed, gradually. This has opened the doors to more female members becoming Standard Bearers – hopefully.”

Fiona, 43, already made Selkirk history on Remembrance Sunday last year, when she became the first female veteran to lay the Ex-Soldiers’ wreath at the War Memorial. Despite fears the “aye byns” would object, so far support has been unanimous, Mr Easton reported, with congratulations on Facebook from the Royal Burgh Ex Standard Bearers Association and Colonial Society. Other Souters wrote: “About time!”, and “Way to go Selkirk breaking the waves with the first woman Standard Bearer.”

Tomorrow Selkirk appoints its Royal Burgh Standard Bearer, who leads the Riding of the Marches and six other Standard Bearers at the Casting of the Colours. Fiona, as the last cast, leads the two-minute silence.