Scott’s Selkirk: the grand finale?

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Souters old and new gathered to enjoy the 15th Scott’s Selkirk winter festival on Saturday, possibly for the last time in its current form.

“It has been a great day,” Maistress Edith Scott, chief organiser of the Christmas festival, told us, dressed the part in her cloak, bunnet and shawl. “Everywhere has been busy. There’s a real buzz about the place.”

But she noted footfall and some stall takings were down on last year – although to make up for it, she said, Selkirk was busy for a Saturday.

Maistress Scott had been to-ing and fro-ing all day, like the rest of her small, ageing committee, which has worked for many months arranging the day’s market stalls and entertainment – as well as working late into the night and early in the morning, putting up marquees and staging.

“We were very, very lucky the Selkirk Rhinos did the security at night, and the Haining volunteers helped as well,” she added: “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The festival day began at 10am, with John Nichol, playing ‘The Shirra’ himself, Sir Walter Scott, holding court in Selkirk Court House, dispensing justice over two cases – The Hare In the Girn Of Wire, and, a new composition by Toby Ross, The Bolting of the Jolted Colt.

Parading the streets in oft spitting rain, a chipper Sir Walter told The Southern: “The Meteorological Office assured us the weather would be seasonal.”

But, checking his timepiece and timetable, the Selkirk Sheriff humorously struck a stern note of caution to one wayward entertainer: “James Gibb is still singing away like a linty (chaffinch) in the County Pend, but he’s due in court in five minutes.”

Mr Gibb was just one of the many performers, including Rum Rats, Beggar Girls, Carlenjig, and The Back Row Ceilidh Band, that filled up Meg Dods’ Kitchen in the County Pend with merriment, music and dancing.

“It was right buzzing,” Mrs Scott reflected. “The entertainment was really superb.”

Like Maistress Scott, many Souters had also dressed in Georgian costume, including bands of French and Scots soldiers with muskets, dodging the traffic and a horse-drawn carriage. The day closed with a torchlight procession and, at 5pm, fireworks, costing £1,250, thanks to a donation by Belmont Motors.

Stallholders and shopkeepers decorated the Royal Burgh too, with High Street hairdresser Michelle Amos winning the shop window competition, and the Selkirk Deli coming second.

“The highlight was the firework display,” Mrs Scott said. “It was just fabulous. People were oo-ing and ah-ing all around me.”

Later, at the Scott’s Selkirk concert in the County Hotel, John Nichol premiered his own composition: a ‘cannabis calypso’ called The Weed’s Awa, marking the discovery of £1.8million worth of cannabis in Selkirk’s former pub, the Queen’s Head.

Mr Nichol kindly sang a verse for The Southern, before his next performance this Saturday:

Mrs Scott was full of praise: “It was super concert,” she said. “The audience loved it. Eleven-year-old Annabelle Murray from Lauder opened the concert on her fiddle – it was her first time playing at a concert – and then 13-year-old Molly Coltherd sang Elvis Presley and Hillbilly tunes.

“Then we had the superb singer Hilary Bell, and Tommy Knox’s group Gael Force finished the night. Someone in the audience said to me afterwards: ‘I always say at each Scott’s Selkirk that’ll be a hard night to beat, but you beat it every year’.” Gratitude also flowed to the festival’s team of nine organisers: Edith, Viv Ross, Elaine Dunnipace, Graham Easton, Irene Strafford, Dick Marks, Anne Henderson, and Tommy and Sheena Combe. Tributes on the Scott’s Selkirk Facebook page included: “Absolutely loved Scott’s Selkirk. Thank you everyone for a great day, topped off with amazing fireworks.”

Another read: “Great day yesterday guys. Had family up from England and they loved it. Well done.”

But Edith feared this may be the last time the festival goes ahead in its current form: “We made it a one-day event because numbers were dwindling and we hoped the change would hold it up for a bit longer. It’s a big job. We’ve got a very small, ageing committee that works very hard, but we need new blood.

“The future of Scott’s Selkirk in its present format is uncertain, because we haven’t got the people to run it. We’ll definitely have to call for an extraordinary general meeting and see where we go from here.”