There can be no doubt that this year’s Jethart Callant Nick Arnold is a popular choice if the resounding cheer that welcomed him onto the hustings on Friday is anything to go by.
The 21-year-old grinned from ear to ear as one of the Borders’ best-kept secrets was finally outed by the town’s honorary provost, Harvey Oliver.
Making history, Nick becomes the 72nd Jethart Callant and the first in his family to take on the role.
“It’s something that I have always aspired to do, but you never quite know if you will be asked,” he said. “You have to be in a certain crowd and bring certain qualities to the role, so I was obviously very honoured to be asked.
“Friday night was amazing. I had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up all night.
“I was taken into the courthouse early on, and it felt like the longest wait ever, but when I finally got to bed at 6am the next day it felt like the whole night had just passed into a couple of hours.”
It was a special night too for his parents – David, a stocktaker and pub adviser now living in Denholm, and Susan, a bookkeeper living in Ancrum – as well as his elder brother Louis, 23, a carpet-fitter and photographer in Jedburgh.
“My dad is especially excited as he has followed the festival for years,” Nick said.
“I think he always aspired to be involved, so it’s a big, big thing for him.
“He used to be a keen rider and was very horsey when he was younger, so he will follow on horseback as much as he can.
“Louis, being into his photography, has covered the festival for years so he can’t wait to do it all, especially this year.
“And my mum is just over the moon too. She can’t wait.”
Nick studied at Ancrum and Parkside primaries and Jedburgh Grammar School before taking up work as a custodian at Melrose for Historic Environment Scotland, his employer for the past four years.
A keen mountain biker, Nick has followed most of the rideouts on pushbike and is new to horseback.
He has been taking riding lessons with Kings Equestrian at Jedburgh, which, he says, will stand him in good stead for his first ride following Hawick Cornet Gareth Renwick to Mosspaul next Saturday.
Nick added: “At the moment I am mostly looking forward to my first official Jethart rideout at Morebattle and leading our own cavalcade for the first time.”
Friend Chloe Wight, 21, of Jedburgh, will be his lass. Chloe has just finished a degree in criminology at Edinburgh Napier University.
“She is a very good friend, and, having just graduated, is free to enjoy the summer now,” he said. “She is over the moon. Her parents are both delighted, and both her sisters were planning on riding this year, even before they knew who the callant was.”
On Friday, Nick was carried out shoulder-high from the town hall by his right and left-hand men, Brodie Irvine and Gary Hogg, and they will support him this summer alongside Brian Marshall , now in his final year as herald.
This year’s festival week runs from Saturday to Friday, July 9 to 13, with the first rideout two weeks before, to Morebattle on Sunday, June 24.
The celebrations that followed inside the town hall saw speeches from the provost, guest David Greer, ex-callant Grant Raeburn, festival convener Len Wyse, ex-callants’ association president John Mabon, festival committee member Judith King, Kelso Laddie Sean Hook, Nick and his father David.