Melrosian Donald has a ball at fantastic festival

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One of Donald Crawford’s earliest memories of the Melrose Festival was as the youngest rider looking up to Melrosian and hoping he could do the same one day.

That day came last Monday as he led 204 riders across the mighty River Tweed. And that was just the start of a breathless week of duties for the 22-year-old.

With his father Michael being Melrosian in 1984, and his family steeped in Melrose history, he was not short of offers of help.

He said: “Yes, my dad helped me out quite a bit, but I also wanted to find out a lot myself.

“And during the ceremonies I learned more than I thought possible about our great town and its history.”

And while he found all the new information deeply interesting, he was glad of the chance to let his hair down a little at the Festival Ball, one of his highlights of the week.

He said: “The ball was absolutely fantastic, it’s one of the more informal events. All my friends were there and it was superb being able to catch up with the principals from the other towns.

“Indeed, I’m really looking forward to attending the other festivals in the weeks ahead – starting with Gala this week.

“It is a great honour to be asked to be Melrosian, which is why I jumped at the offer when it was made before Christmas.

“And it’s very important you make the most of it during the other festivals and common ridings as you only get to be Melrosian once.”

Another highlight for Donald was his visit to his old school, St Mary’s, where a surprise laid in wait.

He said: “It was a little embarrasing as the teacher had fished out a couple of my old school reports and read them out to the school.

“Thankfully, they must have been the only two good ones I got!”

Donald heaped praise on Festival Queen Robyn MacKay and her court.

He said: “Robyn was a fantastic queen, and she and her Court performed their duties incredibly well, especially on the Friday night for the Installation and Crowning, as it was very cold.

“They were certainly the right group of youngsters for the job.”

Queen Robyn was aided in her duties by attendants Maddie Thomson and Charli McGeever, trainbearers Ella Moore and Maisie White, courtiers Ben Sloan and Oliver Ewing, and heralds Luke Blackwood and Andrej Barlansky.

And Donald, in turn, was helped by his Right and Left-Hand Men, Fraser Anderson and Sam Thomson.

Donald will be able to work closely with his father at next year’s festival, as he will be the new Melrosian’s Right-Hand Man and Michael will be Festival chairman, taking over from James Marjoribanks, who finished his three-year stint this year.

James was delighted with how the week had panned out.

He said: “It was really good from start to finish.

“The weather was fine on the whole, which led to big crowds and full buses on the Saturday for the Tour of Ceremonies.”

The tour took in Newstead, Trimontium, Gattonside, Abbotsford and Darnick Tower, before ending in a ceremony back at Melrose Abbey, and the laying of a wreath on the burial site of Robert the Bruce’s heart.

Melrose had proved again that it is indeed, as the song states, the Gem of Scotland.

z Melrose provides a foundation for life – turn to page 47.