Resilience and self-belief should never be underestimated, according to this year’s principal guest, Mark Robertson.
He said: “For anyone that knew me in primary seven, I think you would agree that my teacher would have put her mortgage on me not getting the opportunity to address the queen and her court.”
But with two world series titles and a Rio Olympics silver medal to his name, the 32-year-old, recently part of the first Scotland team to beat New Zealand in 112 years, was more than worthy of the honour.
Charting the good and tough times he has encountered, he urged, in particular, the town’s youngsters, to use sport to challenge their perceptions of what is possible.
He said: “Self-belief is the critical factor that enables people to reach new heights.
“I have been involved with Scottish teams with bags of talent where we’ve failed to reach our potential because we didn’t truly believe we could beat the best teams.
“Fortunately I have also played in a team that has grown in self-belief to a point where we performed at the pinnacle of our sport and managed to make history.”
“In Melrose, our youngsters are provided with a fantastic platform to enable them to go on and achieve amazing things. The town does everything it can to lay a path for them to succeed in life.
“The value of being around people who perform at an elite level, however, cannot be underestimated.
“That was certainly the case for me growing up in Melrose during the ’90s, when the place was rugby daft and our local team was full of famous internationalists.
“Because I knew no different, it just seemed normal that these guys were playing for Melrose one week and then donning a Scotland shirt on the tv in front of tens of thousands of people the next. This without doubt contributed to what I thought was possible for myself and at the age of eight or nine, perhaps somewhat arrogantly, I thought I would become a professional rugby player and I would play for Scotland too.
“Without their influence I’m not sure that would have been the case.
“I can only hope that my Melrose and Scotland team-mate Scott Wight and I can have a similar influence on the youngsters today.
“It’s important for the two of us to spend time at the club and give back to the town which gave us so much inspiration as youngsters.”
He added: “I am very very fortunate to be from Melrose.
“It may be small, but it has a rich, rich history.”
“And for me, the song when it was written, ‘Here’s tae Melrose’ back in 1937 the words ‘the gem of scotland’ have really stood the test of time.”
Congratuling Festival Queen Ilona and Melrosian Russell, Mark added: “It all comes down to the people in the town giving up their time because they are proud of the town and whay it stands for. This festival is case and point. The buzz around the town, I think you’ll all agree, is infectious. It’s constantly evolving whilst keeping with traditions which will alwyas be celebrated.
“To be successful requires having the right people around you. People who are doing it for all the right reasons. In Melrose we have these people in bucket loads and this is something I am very proud to be a part of.”