Preserving past in song and story

There will be much pride and passion, much laughter and more than a few tears throughout the Borderland over the coming weeks.

And that is rightly so. As towns and villages remember their past – in action, in song and in story – we are preserving our history and tradition for future generations, and in homage to those generations that have gone before.

Many years ago the mother of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, took a verbal swipe at no less a man than novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott.

Wattie’s sin in her eyes was writing down the songs and anecdotes that until then had been mostly oral. She could equally have taken a swipe at her son.

But Walter and James were perhaps a wee bit ahead of their time, realising that if the past wasn’t penned for posterity, it would eventually disappear. Perhaps Mrs H was a wee tad hard on the Shirra.

The songs and stories that are so much part of our common ridings, gatherings, festivals and civic weeks are not always from the dim and distant past. Like music in the kirks, they were sometimes a bit late in coming. And there is no doubt that these songs and stories add much to what lies ahead.

Some of the music, of course, is ancient – many of the pipe tunes are a prime example.

And perhaps if Sir Walter had waded across the Tweed from his many-gabled Abbotsford a wee bit more often, he might have saved some words that could have been used at the Braw Lads’ Gathering.

Each year the good people of my native Galashiels meet near the start of our great day at the Englishman’s Syke – better known as the Raid Stane to commemorate the day when we routed a band of raiders from south of the border (wherever that was in 1337) and sent them hameward tae think again. Well, some of them, because much English blood was spilled that day.

Galashiels Ex-Servicemen’s Pipe Band plays The Sour Plooms o’ Gala. Music for the tune survives – but the words were lost long ago. And that’s a shame.

They would have been known to generations long gone and long before Provost Hayward put the Gathering in place in 1930. I would really like to know what the words portrayed.

Many have researched – but none have found. They will probably be hidden in an ancient desk, folded inside a dusty tome that hasn’t been opened for a century.

That is one reason why oor common ridings, gatherings, festivals and civic weeks are so important. It’s not just the battles and the charters, it’s our history in song and story. Enjoy.