No takers stepping up for James’ post

Senior Burgh Officer James Heatlie in 2001 at Selkirk Common Riding.
Senior Burgh Officer James Heatlie in 2001 at Selkirk Common Riding.

Retiring Senior Burgh Officer James Heatlie will stay on another year in the historic post – because not a single Souter has applied to replace him.

The Common Riding Trust advertised for applicants to the ancient ceremonial role last December, after local postie James Heatlie announced he would be laying down his halberd after 16 years.

But by the noon deadline on January 16, secretary Johnnie Thomson had received no applicants to step into Mr Heatlie’s shoes, stockings and breeks. When Mr Heatlie was elected, he beat 15 other applicants for the honorary role.

As a result, he has agreed to stay for one more Common Riding, postponing his retirement, to show a new Senior Burgh Officer the ropes.

Mr Thomson told The Wee Paper: “We’re not panicking. James is quite relaxed about doing another year to help us out. I suppose it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. I suspect one or two people are interested, but they’re holding back because they’re not sure what’s involved.”

He added the trust plans to intensify its recruitment-drive within Selkirk’s incorporations.

Historically, burgh officers served as the provost’s bodyguard, halberd in hand, keeping order at rowdy town council meetings. He is also the Town Crier, relaying news to townsfolk – a task still performed by the Senior Burgh Officer at the Cryin’ of the Burley.

From Appointment Night until the end of the Common Riding, the Senior Burgh Officer helps the Standard Bearer perform his official duties and trains him in the tradition of casting the Burgh Flag, for as the Trust Deed states: ‘The Standard Bearer, failing whom, the Senior Burgh Officer, failing whom, the Junior Burgh Officer, shall cast the Burgh Colours.”