“He has smiled out of his eyes all morning,” one lady in the Muckle Toon crowds said last Friday, perfectly summing up Langholm Cornet Iain Little.
The 24-year-old teacher led the town in its ancient celebrations and traditions, and there was no doubting what it meant for Iain to be at the front of it all.
“It was absolutely incredible, a dream come true to be honest,” he said. “It was just brilliant.”
There was nothing little about the crowds that enjoyed the sunshine in Langholm as thousands lined the streets, hundreds followed on foot and more than 140 riders rode in a mounted cavalcade behind Iain and his right and left-hand men, Stuart Murray and Simon Tweddle, as they had done at the town’s six previous rides.
“I just kept on going up the hill and seeing masses of horses following me and seas of people follow us,” Iain said. “It was crazy really.
“It’s always been my favourite part, the gallop up Kirk Wynd, and I got to the bottom and looked up and saw the huge crowds, but after that it was just a blur really.”
On Friday, Iain lead the procession through each of the town’s cherished ceremonies. Thousands lined the steep slopes of the Kirk Wynd and Mount Hooley to witness the spectacular gallop and then to hear the fair cried at the Castle Craigs.
After inspecting the ancient boundaries, the riders circled the monument built to John Malcolm in 1835.
The cavalcade then made its way to Whita Well and Mount Hooley and was met by the bearers of the common riding’s emblems, the thistle, the floral crown, the spade and the barley banna, as well as hundreds of children with heather besoms.
The procession, now complete with bands and emblems too, was led back to town, where Rae Elliot cried the second part of the fair from the back of a horse, following once again in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great grandfather.
After safely crossing the River Ewes and rounding the sod that was cut on the Castleholm, a rousing cheer welcomed the cornet and his followers as he galloped past the grandstand at Castleholm.
Iain has ridden the Border common ridings since 2004 but admitted being at the forefront of his home town’s celebrations was something special.
“It’s been an ambition of mine since I was a wee boy, so for it to actually happen is a dream come true,” he said. “I wish I could do it all again. It’s been amazing.”
“I was possibly one of the luckiest cornets ever. It’s been sunny since I was elected back in May. I couldn’t have faulted it at all.”
The Muckle Toon celebrated 259 years of traditions and, as always, attracted plenty of exiles, visitors, stag dos and visiting principals to help them do it
“It’s really the whole tradition of Langholm Common Riding, all the emblems, the banners and all the afternoon races and sports, which means the whole day is jam-packed with spectators,” Iain added.
“The children have their heather besoms parade and get their special coin for taking part. From young to old, there’s something for everyone.”
Cornet Iain has followed on horseback at Hawick and Selkirk common ridings and on foot at several more and will do so again for the Lauder Cornet this weekend.