Innerleithen cheers the Olympic torch on its way

CROWDS started gathering before 11am along the barrier-lined High Street of Innerleithen as the town’s pipe band and St Ronans Silver Band played by the bridge over Leithen Water in this morning’s (Thursday) sunshine,

Children’s entertainers on blades added to the musical interludes, amusing crowds the length of the town as anticipation grew.

St Ronan’s Primary School children lined the road waving flags and balloons, joining hundreds of others from the town and further afield cheering as the entourage swept through just before noon.

Carrying the flame through the Tweeddale town were 12-year-old Fraser Cowan from Edinburgh who started at the Peebles end of the High Street. He handed the flame on to Motherwell’s Helen Allan, 52, who has helped raise over £10,000 for charity. Then she handed the flame on to the Borders’ own Janet Jack from Jedburgh.

The health, exercise and fitness lecturer at Jewel & Esk College and former Scottish hockey player spoke to TheSouthern just before her run of 300 metres from Leithen Road to the edge of the town.

She said: “I was in the (torch bearers) bus with so many people, just listening to their stories and (former Scotland rugby captain) Chris Paterson on the bus and we were saying this is nerve-wracking and wondering which was more so - going out to play for your first international cap or being part of this - and we agreed this is worse!”

The Champions in Schools Ambassador was Scottish Tetrathlon champion 1983-1984 and UK Team member 1982-1984. The all-round sports-woman achieving 23 caps for GB playing hockey, including travelling to the Sydney Olympics as reserve. She also has 176 caps for the Scottish squad and continues to play for local teams and the Scottish Seniors.

Among the spectators Peebles couple Robert and Ivy Corsie had come down to Innerleithen to join their daughter and have a family party to celebrate the event. A former Hotspur player at Kirkwall in Orkney, Mr Corsie secured his viewing spot just under two hours before the convoy was expected.

“We love everything to do with sporting events, the Jubilee, everything like that and we’re just having a wee get together and a bit of lunch - it’s very exciting.” said Mrs Corsie.

Primary school children had created their own torches from paper and card and some primary six pupils told TheSouthern the Olympics were important so that people around the world could share their skills in sport.

For seven-year-old Tara Brennan, it was the second time seeing the Olympic flame for she was one of the children on the stage watching the cauldron being lit at Edinburgh Castle last night (Wednesday).

The Innerleithen youngster is one of around 700 children chosen to become part of the Olympic Games’ Children’s Promise because her birthday is December 20, 2004, the date decided on by the bid committee.

Proud mum Julieann said: “It was fabulous, it was unbelievable - what an opportunity, it’s not going to happen again.”

Tara said: “I was feeling a bit queasy at the end (of last night’s cauldron lighting) because there was lots of smoke but it was fantastic.”

Near Leithen Water, mum of two Catherine Marshall explained: “We’re here because the children are really excited and they have been learning a lot about the Olympics at school. They’re really enthusiastic to join in.”

Her son Alistair, six, was among the group at the front of the barriers and Emily, four, was waving her flag from her pushchair.

Retired shop assistant Gladys Ramage and retired businesswoman Isobel Buchan bought a saltire flag and cheered the convoy through.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I’ll never see it again and it brings the community together, “ said Gladys

“It’s the torch that’s brought us out and all the activities that come along with that: it’s exciting, “ said Isobel.

After the torch had gone, former clothes designer from Traquair, Wendy Holdsworth said: “The weather was absolutely perfect and it was a wonderful atmosphere, it was very exciting and really great to see.”

The local bands then escorted the schoolchildren through to the town to school.