Pressing to bring back hacks’ bash

Pressure is mounting for the re-introduction of what, for many years, was grandly known as the Borders Press Dinner.

Those who know me well are aware that I thoroughly enjoy a good night out in convivial company.

Before I go further, I must apologise to the hard-working and eccentric committee of the Copshaw Common Riding for missing their Burns supper earlier this month. They had given four VIP tickets to be used by any of our regular contingent who camp for about four days during the village’s music festival, which also encompasses the Tub-led Common Riding on bikes.

We had intended going, but last-minute hiccups meant we missed it. I have been reliably informed that it was a fantastic night and one of which the Bard himself would have approved.

From an apology to a thank you – to the Royal Burgh of Peebles Callants Club who have invited me to propose the toast to the club at their annual supper on the Monday of Beltane Week. I was honoured previously to propose the toast to the Royal Burgh of Peebles.

Tales of what happened after these suppers are folklore in Peebles – Pied Pipers, mysterious horsemen, unusual fording of the Cuddy and Tweed, and strange places to sleep.

I was there as a Peeblesshire News reporter in 1973 when look-alikes the Reverend David Macfarlane and Cornet-Elect Kenny Hope swapped dog collar, sash, jackets and all during one of the intervals. It took many some time to note the switch. Sadly, I was there too a week later when Cornet Hope collapsed and died from a heart attack while riding over Gala Hill at the Braw Lads’ Gathering.

Back in mists of time I organised the first Borders Press Dinner which was held in the King’s Hotel, Galashiels. There was a demand for it to become an annual affair and so each year one of the local media organisations was delegated with the duty of organising the event.

This brought some great variety.Bill Chisholm, The Scotsman’s local man, was determined that speakers should stick to their allotted time, so arranged for the speeches to be delivered before dinner was served. And it worked. I forget who it was that deemed there would be no top table – chairman and speakers would be dotted around the room. Again, it worked.

That great worthy and exponent of both the written and spoken word, John Dawson, published the name of one of the main speakers before he’d even asked him – John was duly summonsed to the chambers of Sheriff James Paterson. And the great Bill McLaren accepted John’s invitation to attend at the Cross Keys Hotel in Kelso – and the stunned Voice of Rugby almost choked on his after-dinner mints when John introduced him as the proposer of the toast to The Borders Press.

The annual dinner folded during the early 1990s. Staff cuts and workloads have taken much fun out of my chosen profession. But I and a few others have determined that there will be another Borders Press Dinner – just for the fun of it.