Putting us on fancy dress parade

Melrose Fancy Dress. Melrose Pipe Band
Melrose Fancy Dress. Melrose Pipe Band

As I write, there’s a discussion on BBC Radio Scotland about whether the novelist Sir Walter Scott is more relevant today than he was at the time he was alive.

I’ve just switched it off. I think Scott wrote long-winded, boring books where the plot meandered aimlessly and characters appeared for a few chapters, took a walk or a carriage ride, and never found their way back.

Many years ago I was given a copy of Rob Roy as a present. It was a paperback edition and the cover was multi-coloured. Rob Roy appeared on that cover. And that was the last I saw of him until I was halfway through the book. Rob, Rob, wherefore art thou Rob? Sorry, wrong boring author.

To those who think Scott is wonderful – and there are many – my feelings are about his works, not against the man, who had many commendable attributes. And I admit I have read few of his works because of my dislike at the few I have read. Biographies of the man are much more interesting. And some of his poems are truly inspiring.

I once dressed as a woman – complete with stockings, suspenders and a black bra – and displayed myself through the streets of my hometown.

There, that got your attention back. I hasten to add that I was part of a crowd from the sadly-defunct Royal Hotel who entered the Braw Lads’ Gathering fancy dress parade as a team of St Trinian’s hockey players. Pat and her staff at the Royal really went to town with the make-up and wigs, and we played hockey in front of a crowd of thousands outside the General Post Office.

What’s this got to do with Wattie Scott, you ask? Well, the man from Abbotsford is credited with turning Scotland into a must-do tourist destination. He did it through his books and his love of all things tartan.

Actually, I think he invented the fancy dress parade. When George IV decided that Scotland was actually part of the royal patch and condescended to visit in 1822, his chief wardrobe master was no other than Sir Walter. The bulky monarch was dressed in kilt, plaid, feather bonnet and – wait for it – pink tights. He was painted in that outfit, although later artists took both the tights and a few pounds off him. But, hats off to Walter, the tradition of the fancy dress parade was established.

And over the years it has given delight to children and adults alike. Never more so than during our summer of fun in the Borders.

Last night James Moffat, a worthy of Peebles, was installed as Warden of Neidpath. In his address he spoke of pleasure and hilarity he, his children and his grandchildren have enjoyed at the Beltane fancy dress parade.

He recommended it to everyone.

He said: “If, like me all those years ago, you feel a bit shy and awkward, don’t, because there will be some great banter among fellow entrants.”

Thousands of adults and children will dress up this year, mostly in homemade costumes, and there will be much fun in what can sometimes be a pretty gloomy world.

Sir Walter, I forgive you, your works and thank you for the fancy dress parade.