“The ancient and cherished tradition of the common riding continues to contribute much to the life of the royal burgh of Lauder, increasing the sense of pride and cohesiveness in its people while, at the same time, providing a wonderful experience for each young man lucky enough to serve as cornet.”
Those words, from Norrie McLeish’s acclaimed tome Lauderdale in the 20th Century, resonated and radiated in the bright sunshine of an unforgettable morning of celebration and remembrance on Saturday.
On this occasion the lucky young man was 22-year-old Greg Scott, who teaches craft, design and technology at his alma mater, Earlston High.
“I loved every second of it,” reflected Greg after returning the burgh standard to the safe keeping of Lauder Common Riding committee chairman Ian Middlemiss to the acclaim of the gathered masses outside the town hall shortly after midday.
Four hours earlier, Greg had proudly set off from the same spot, leading a cavalcade of 335 riders around Lauder’s marches – a tradition which dates back to the 16 th century.
With his parents Corinne and Dougie among the hundreds who witnessed his achievement, Greg told the Southern: “It was an incredible day, better than I could ever have imagined.
“Although I’ve been a mounted supporter since 2010, I’m the first from my family to be chosen for this honour, which makes it extra-special.
“I’ve also so many people to thank for their support, especially all the ex-cornets, my right and left-hand men, Daniel Simpson and Craig Connell, and my lass, Jenni Cook.
“Like me, Jenni is a teacher, and we became friends last year when we were both doing our probation at Earlston High. I was so delighted when she agreed to be my lass.”
For Jenni, the 24-year- old daughter of Andy and Linda Cook , it was her 10th consecutive common riding on horseback.
Soon to take up her new post as a history and modern studies teacher at Earlston High, Jenni said she would cherish the memories of this year’s festivities.
“Quite simply, it’s been the best week of my life, and to be blessed with such glorious weather on common riding day has been a real bonus,” she said.
“Although everything about today was magic, my personal highlight was riding in behind the band from the war memorial to the town hall and to watch Greg safely return the flag. He was so proud.”
Ex-cornet Middlemiss, in his second year as chairman, said the day had been “as near perfect as you can get”.
“I had similar lovely weather when I was cornet in 1979, but even I don’t remember it being this good,” he enthused.
“Everything ran like clockwork, which is a real tribute to all the boys and girls on our organising committee who do such a great job throughout the week and make life so easy for me.
“I’m told the police were full of praise for the way the ride was organised on Saturday and the efficiency of the marshalling arrangements, which is a tribute to our chief marshall, Jock Threadgall, and his team.
“In Greg Scott, we had a superb cornet whose smile and enthusiasm radiated almost as much as the sunshine. He has been a real credit to himself, his family and everyone in Lauder.”
Cornet Scott’s big morning had begun at 7am, when, fronted by Selkirk Silver Band, he proudly led the cornet’s walk from the Lauderdale Hotel to the town hall.
After the riders had assembled, he accepted the burgh standard from lady busser and long-standing committee member Nancy Hardie before setting off at the head of his cavalcade – first around the town and then, at the gallop, to the golf course, where hundreds marvelled at the spectacle, and across Lauder Common.
Many more had gathered in the sunshine at the Waterin’ Stane, the traditional stop for refreshments, before the cavalcade galloped up to the Burgess Cairn – the last surviving boundary stone.
It was on this section that the only serious riding mishap occurred, when a male rider was unshipped and conveyed to the Borders General Hospital, being discharged later that day with a broken collarbone.
Outside the Lauderdale Hotel, the crowd had swelled to greet the returning riders at the war memorial, where the service of remembrance was conducted by the Rev Rae Clark, minister of Channelkirk and Lauder Church.
The band-led march back along High Street and the safe return of the symbolic Standard was a fitting climax to a wonderful day.
From the Sunday kirkin’ to the ball on Saturday night, 2016’s Lauder Common Riding was a tremendous success, according to Ian Middlemiss.
“Everything went without a hitch and, given the summer we’ve had, we were so lucky with the beautiful sunny weather on common riding day,” he said.
The number of participants on Thursday’s evening’s preliminary ride was down on previous years, with around 40 mounted supporters.
“Unfortunately, this year the preliminary ride, which usually attracts around 100 riders, clashed with Coldstream Civic Week’s annual Flodden Ride,” explained Ian.
“It was still a fantastic experience for all who took part.”
The ever-popular family fun day – held after the kirkin’ – drew large crowds to the public park to enjoy a variety of stalls and events.
Races were run for all age groups, and the winner of the Woodheads Shield for the best athlete went to Ailsa Brown.
See lots more photos in our eight-page pullout inside.