Peebles takes pride in its Beltane Festival week

The Peebles Beltane Queen and her attendants.
The Peebles Beltane Queen and her attendants.

Peebles was a town bursting with passion and pride last week as it celebrated its history and traditions during its march riding and Beltane Festival.

Cornet and queen reigned as the royal burgh took cornet Gregor McGrath and queen Katy Blackwood to their hearts.

Gregor McGrath.

Gregor McGrath.

Wednesday and the riding of the marches belonged to Gregor and his lass Loryn Paterson when the two gutterbluids, both 24, were installed and sashed at the Old Parish Church by festival chairman Keith Brunton.

Gregor took hold of the standard, relinquished by outgoing cornet Ross Falla, before it was bussed by Loryn and carried at the head of a 200-strong cavalcade around the marches.

Arriving at Neidpath Castle, this year’s Warden of Neidpath, former police chief Douglas Wright, gave the traditional address.

Urging Gregor and Loryn to “make the most of it”, he said: “You will have treasured memories for the rest of your lives. Enjoy the great experiences.”

Addressing Katy and her court, the 81st warden told the youngsters of the importance of living in the moment.

“Make the most of what you have now, and at all times, while you have the chance. Whatever you do, live life with a purpose and enjoy life to the full,” he told them.

He added: “I honestly consider that by putting something into your life, your work and your community, you get something back – not in monetary terms – but in terms of satisfaction with your life, and with your family. That is what will make your lives worth living.”

He told them: “As well as remembering this Beltane week, always remember, whenever and wherever you are, that each tomorrows is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Mr Wright then spoke of his work with the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society, and he urged all townsfolk, be they cyclists, walkers, drivers or dog-owners, to take pride in their town and respect the responsibility they have for their environment.

He paid tribute to the hard-working volunteer organisations of the town and added: “Let’s encourage responsible conduct by everyone. Remember the slogan ‘Peebles for pleasure’ and take a pride in Peebles.”

This week, Gregor told the Southern his week had been “absolutely brilliant”.

“Every second of it has been amazing. I’ve absolutely loved it, and it’s such an honour to represent the town in this way,” the mill worker said.

“The whole week passed so quickly.

“The only thing that didn’t go to plan was the fording of the Tweed because of the rain on Tuesday night. It was disappointing but understandable.”

Paying tribute to cornet’s lass Loryn Paterson, he added: “I can’t fault her one bit. She was absolutely outstanding supporting me all of last week from keeping me right on the horse to telling me where to be and when and just keeping me right.

“Both Loryn and her mum Lynsey were a huge help.”

Saturday, or red letter day, belonged to queen Katy, her court and the children of Peebles.

More than 500 youngsters – chefs, penguins, sailors, pirates , flower girls and mice – marched to the parish church steps.

With the characters of the festival waiting, visiting principals and dignitaries were escorted into place by the town’s pipe and silver bands, and with dignity the court, including chief maid Jess Colledge, first courtier Callum McRobert and second courtier Innes Cormack, was built up before Beltane queen Katy was crowned by this year’s crowning lady, Katharine Mathison.

“Saturday is all about the kids,” Gregor added. “We watch them as they pass in their fancy dress and give them big hoorays to get the cheers going.

“We tried to get them as excited as we could. They were all absolutely delighted for the queen and her court.

“I reckon there’s been friendships for life made between the four of them.”

The cornet led the grand procession of pipe bands, brass bands and floats filled with youngsters around the town.

Amidst the fun and joviality, though, in the quadrangle, as the parade continued outside, floral wreaths were laid in tribute to the town’s war dead.

The celebrations had begun the previous Sunday evening when the Rev Barry Hughes was installed as warden of the Cross Kirk during a ceremony held at the war memorial.

Thursday night’s junior ride attracted 70-odd followers.

The rest of this year’s court were:

Maids: Natalie Beatton, Stella Davidson, Kirsten Duncan, Amelia Griffiths and Neve Scott.

Immediate Entourage: Erin Blacklaw, Lois Findlay, Aliya French, Lara Little, Neve Reed, Ruby Ridley and Chloe Williamson.

Court admiral Jack Gordon-Duf; Casket bearer Dylan Greens; Crown bearer Oliver Furness; 1st herald Andrew Duncan; 2nd herald : Louis Whyte; Royal herald Morgan Hamilton; Queen’s Highlander Robbie Hardie; Sceptre bearer Charlie Franklin-White; Standard bearer Thomas Hilton; Sword bearer Rory Clark; Telegram girl Emma Tennant.

Queen’s pages: Benny Bennett, Reuben Cassidy, Charlie Davidson, Frazer Harvie, Alfie Johnstone and Oliver Rand.