Jim cries time on town role

For the last 30 years it has been his voice that has signalled the start of the Braw Lads’ Gathering’s main day of ceremonies.

But this summer’s Gathering in Galashiels was the last for Jim Amos as the official town crier.

Only the fourth person to have held the position – which remains a local authority role – Jim took over from retiring predecessor, the late Jock Lyall, in 1986.

And at the Burgh Chambers in Galashiels on Friday night, a special presentation was held to mark Jim’s 30 Braw Lads’ Gatherings as town crier.

At the event, Jim, who received presentations from both the Braw Lads’ Gathering executive as well as Scottish Borders Council, handed over the scroll of office to his successor, Alaistar Waddell.

Galashiels-born and bred, Jim was an attendant at the 1969 Gathering and went on to become chairman of the Ex-Braw Lads and Lasses Association in 1975 and 1976. He also served on the Braw Lads’ Executive Council.

All four Galashiels councillors, along with Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker and convener Graham Garvie, presented Jim with a reiver sculpture to mark his retiral.

The Braw Lads’ Executive Council and Ex-Braw Lads’ and Lasses Association also presented him with a framed picture.

Jim, who still lives in the Balmoral area of Galashiels where he grew up, has strong family links to the Gathering.

As well as his own involvement, his sister Agnes and cousin Nancy were attendants in 1966 and 1959 respectively, and his cousin, Scott, was Braw Lad in 1961.

And growing up as a young laddie in the town’s Forest Place, the first Braw Lad, Henry Polson, who filled the role in 1930, was a next-door neighbour of Jim and his family.

“I think it was 1985, when I was asked if I would be the next town crier as Jock Lyall wanted to retire,” Jim told The Southern.

“After I was an attendant in 1969, I’d gone right onto the executive after that and did 11 years on the ceremonials side.

“I then had a break for five years and then in 1985, Gordon Keddie, who was the chairman of the executive back then, came up to see me one night and asked if I would take on the role.”

Apart from appearing in his official capacity in recent events to mark the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden, Jim’s role as town crier was restricted to his appearances on the Gathering’s main day – crying the fair from the balcony of the Burgh Chambers first thing in the morning and then, on two further occasions, at the ceremonies at the Old Town Cross.

“I’m not sure which other towns in the Borders have a town crier – I know Langholm does because he has to cry the fair from the back of a horse! Not sure I’d have fancied that!” laughed Jim this week.

After leaving school, Jim worked at Reiver Press before joining British Telecom where he worked until he retired.

He played rugby for Gala Red Triangle and Gala YM, and has served on the YM committee for many years.

He was in the Boys’ Brigade for all of 40 years – starting as a boy in the 6th Company and finishing up as captain of the 4th Company.

An accomplished trumpet player, Jim was also a member of Hawick Saxhorn Band where his grandfather was bandmaster and where he played alongside his father and cousin.

He also excelled on the bugle and played many times at Galashiels Remembrance Day.

Jim and his wife, Margaret, have two daughters and two grandchildren who keep him busy.

He moved to his present home with his parents in 1972 from Balmoral Avenue and attended the local primary school: “I grew up round here and played in these woods – little did I think then that I’d be living in this house now.

“It used to be the auld gamie’s cottage. We were all feared of him back then! But it used to be called The Kennels because the gamie kept his dogs up here. It was all part of Gala Estate then.”

Jim said he chose to retire as town crier as reaching the 30 gatherings mark seemed an opportune time.

“I thought it was a good time to finish. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. None in particular stand out over the rest, except perhaps the wet ones!

“I knew a lot of the principals through the Boys’ Brigade and the rugby, which was great seeing them achieving a dream.

“I think the best way of summing it up is something Dave Romanis said to me at this year’s Gathering – this was his first year as president. He said it felt like a big family coming together for the Gala Day and the Gathering. It seems more popular than ever – the Gathering and other festivals and common ridings are unique and very important for our Border towns.

“The year I was an attendant was one of the best times of my life.

“Being involved with the Gathering has been tremendous, but I missed out on going with my own kids to it because of my involvement.

“So in future years I’m looking forward to enjoying it from the sidelines with my grand kids!”

At Friday night’s celebration, Mr Romanis paid tribute: “Jim Amos has given many years of excellent service to the Braw Lads’ Gathering. He is a really genuine and dependable person who always gives of his best and has been a tremendous help to me in my first year as president.

“I would like to congratulate Alaistar Waddell on his appointment.

“The town crier has a prominent role to play on Braw Lads’ Day and I am sure Alaistar will step up to the plate. I look forward to working with him in his new role.”