The principals picked to lead this summer’s Peebles Beltane Festival were announced to a packed-out burgh hall last Friday night.
Pals Andrew Napier and Natalie Stewart were greeted with resounding cheers from townfolk as they were named this year’s cornet-elect and lass.
A former pupil of Kingsland Primary and Peebles High School, Andrew, 24, has worked as a chef at Coltman’s restaurant in the town for the past eight years.
He is no stranger to the Beltane, having performed as a drummer in the pipe band from the age of nine to 21 and with the silver band, for which his dad Colin is chairman, as a trombonist for the past three years.
“My family has quite a strong connection with the Beltane,” Andrew said. “I am the first cornet but my gran Rosemary was crowning lady in 2002, so she is really chuffed.
“Both my sets of grandparents have been quite involved, as is my dad through his 40 years’ service with the silver band and both my brothers in the fancy dress through the rugby club.”
While he is no stranger to the Beltane, Andrew is a stranger to horseback.
“Until about seven weeks ago, I had never ridden a horse before,” he said. “The closest I’d come was being flung on the back of aunt Suzie’s horse with no saddle and reins and flung about a field, but I am really looking forward to it and following at the other Border common ridings.”
On Friday evening, townsfolk heard of Andrew’s previous Beltane appearances as a cowboy, Indian, sailor and a chef before being a royal archer in his final year at school and going on to support the long tradition of cross-dressing in the Beltane fancy-dress as a YM dancer.
“I was very nervous but once the speeches were over with, it was great,” Andrew added. “There was a good turnout and we enjoyed dancing the reel and meeting everyone in the rugby club afterwards.”
Cornet-elect’s lass Natalie is, like Gregor, a gutterbluid and attended Kingsland Primary and Peebles High School.
Natalie, 23, worked at Castle Venlaw hotel and has worked at the Crown Hotel as a barmaid and waitress for the past two years.
She said: “I’m really looking forward to all the duties that lie ahead. Friday night really kicked it all off.
“I was so nervous, but now that’s the introduction over and done with, I can look forward to the summer ahead.”
Her history with the Beltane includes being a mouse, Victorian lady and Egyptian girl.
However, the horseriding side of things is also relatively new to Natalie.
“The riding lessons are going well, “ she added. “I am really enjoying it.”
Outside of work, Natalie is a keen netball player.
She knows cornet-elect Andrew from their schooldays and added: “It will be nice to have a familiar face standing beside me through it all.”
Also announced at last Friday’s introduction night were the supporting principals.
Mother-of-two Sally Swinney returns as boundary reader, having held that role before in both 1987 and 2009.
Father Tony Lappin of St Joseph and St James Church in Innerleithen, originally from Loanhead, will be warden of the Cross Kirk.
Beltane stalwart Mandi Bain, a mother of four, will serve as crowning lady.
This year’s Warden of Neidpath will be the Rev Calum McDougall, who previously served as Warden of the Cross Kirk in 2003. 2009 and 2017. The father-of-two has been minister at the Old Parish Church since 2001 and he’s also a member of the Peebles Guidry and chairman of the town’s foodbank.
Beltane chairman Keith Brunton congratulated the new principals and wished each a successful year in office.