Beltane week leaves Peebles Cornet Andrew speechless

Peebles Cornet Andrew Napier.
Peebles Cornet Andrew Napier.

This year’s Peebles Cornet struggled to find the words to say what leading the town’s Beltane Festival meant to him.

Andrew Napier was blessed with sunshine for almost every second of last week’s celebrations as he led the town in celebrating its history and traditions.

And looking back on his big week, he said: “I have no words to describe how good last week was.

“I keep trying to find them, but they all fall short.

“It was fantastic. It was a dream.”

And there’s no doubt that the town took the 24-year-old chef, his lass Natalie Stewart, 23, and Beltane Queen Jenna Jones to its heart.

“I couldn’t tell you how many folk were out supporting us,” Andrew added. “They were six-deep along the street on Saturday, and on Friday night the town really turned out for the fancy dress. The floats were magnificent.

“I’m a sunshine cornet, and there’s not many of them.

“It was a beautiful night for the rideout, the turnout was amazing, and we just had brilliant weather for everything.”

Wednesday’s riding of the marches belonged to Andrew and Natalie, when the two gutterbluids were installed and sashed at the old parish church by festival chairman Keith Brunton.

Andrew took hold of the standard, relinquished by outgoing cornet Gregor McGrath, before it was bussed by Natalie and carried at the head of a 204-strong cavalcade around the marches.

“Carrying the burgh standard down the high street on horseback leading the cavalcade was amazing,” Andrew, who only took up riding four months ago said. “That was a real highlight.”

Paying tribute to Natalie, he added: “She had a fall on Wednesday so was a bit sore and bruised but was fine and bounced back brilliantly.”

And Natalie’s wasn’t the only tumble of the week, with the heat on Saturday proving a little too much for one member of the court who fainted and split his chin.

Saturday, or red letter day, belonged to queen Jenna, her court and the town’s children.

More than 500 youngsters – penguins, sailors, chefs and 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 the court, including chief maid Ayla Russell, first courtier Fin Price and second courtier Jack Hardie, was built up before Beltane queen Jenna was crowned by this year’s crowning lady, Mandi Bain.

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 Father Tony Lappin of St Joseph and St James Church in Innerleithen, was installed as warden of the Cross Kirk during a ceremony at the war memorial.

The rest of this year’s court were: Maids: Ashleigh Drake, Freya Gibson, Lola Lockyer, Ruby MacLean, Molly Nethercot.

Immediate entourage: Lucy Bannister, Abbie Brown, Anna Carlotti, Lois Cornwall, Gracie Linton, Izzy Molyneux and Lottie Mulligan .

Court admiral Kieran Fulton; casket bearer James Pickburn; Crown bearer Daniel Newsam; 1st herald Luke Grieve; 2nd herald Calum Kinghorn; royal herald Fraser Wrigley; Queen’s Highlander Calum Ackerman; sceptre bearer Shaun Pyman; standard bearer Finlay Ward; sword bearer Gregor Wells; telegram girl Ellie Napier.

Queen’s pages: Daniel Allan, Aran Clark, Billy Clink, Ollie Graham, Max McGovern-Helfter and Tom Service.