Selkirk hailed a smiling morn’ that tipped the hills with gold at Friday’s Common Riding.
When Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Scott Rodgerson was roused at 4am by the Flute Band, he was greeted by glorious skies for one of the proudest days of his life.
“It was just amazing seeing the sun this morning when I got up,” the confident, relaxed 28-year-old horseman told The Southern. “It couldn’t have been better. I was a bit nervous this morning, but once I was on my horse I was fine.” Experienced Scott and his steed, Smartie, had already ridden the burgh boundaries together three times. In the years 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2014, Scott supported Royal Burgh Standard Bearers as one of their four Attendants.
Scott’s relief at the fine weather was shared by his family of Ex-Standard Bearers – his brother Martin (2013), father Brian (1980) and uncle Ian (1986), who, with his other uncle Kevin, would Ride the Marches “safe oot” at 7am, and return “safe in” at the Toll at 10.30am, behind him.
Behind them, and greeted with cheers of “hooray”, cantered more than 300 horseriders – 321 were counted out, roughly equal to last year’s 328. A few did not return – at least three fell fording the Ettrick, up Linglie Hill and at the Toll, but luckily no serious injuries to either humans or horses were reported. As spectators gathered at the Toll to see family and friends safe in, a Sea King helicopter attended a section on the rideout, but, Provost David Anderson explained, search and rescue teams use the event as much for a training exercise as for medical emergencies.
Standing at the Toll, waiting to carry their flags up to the Casting of the Colours in the Market Place at 11am, were six more Standard Bearers from each of Selkirk’s guilds – the Hammermen’s Michael Glendinning, the Weavers’ Kevin Clark, the Fleshers’ Keith Hermiston, the Colonials’ Christopher Yardley, the Merchants’ David Nichol and the Ex-Soldiers’ Donald Francis. Each spoke of the “overwhelming” and “indescribable” emotions as they became part of their town and family’s living history.
All cast their flags gracefully and with perfect timing to the tune of the Souters o’ Selkirk, thanks to their dedication to do it right, and the expert training of Senior Burgh Officer James Heatlie, who laid down his top hat and halberd after 17 years in the historic role, and now hands over his duties to Graeme Bell.
Selkirk Common Riding means many different things to many different people, but the echo of loss from Flodden and the wars since perhaps resonates most within the Ex-Soldiers’ Standard Bearer, who is the last to cast before he (or she for the first time last year) leads the two-minute silence in remembrance of the fallen.
“It was one of the most emotional things I’ve ever done,” said Captain Donald Francis. “When you’re standing to attention with your head bowed, for a two-minute silence, your mind drifts to all sorts of places: to far away lost friends. There’s nothing in the world like this.”
Duties discharged, the principals and their supporters retired to the Rig horseracing, the foys and the ball to celebrate a job done well. Scott Rodgerson concluded: “There’s no words to describe how good it actually was. I’ve been waiting a long time, and you can imagine what it’s like, but it’s so much better than you could have imagined.”