Say ‘yes’ in a heartbeat was the advice from this year’s Melrosian to any young man who gets the chance to follow in his footsteps.
Sam Thomson, the 21-year-old son of Lesley and Jamie Thomson, was speaking just moments after the final Melrose Festival ceremonies were concluded on Saturday.
The town’s magnificent ruined abbey had provided the splendid backdrop to the last event of the day’s tour of ceremonies, which saw the official party visiting local villages.
“It has been fantastic,” the Melrosian told The Southern. “Words can’t describe it. It’s been an absolutely amazing experience.”
Asked, like every Melrosian to single out some highlights, he struggled to pick one: “That’s impossible. There have been so many, although I’d have to say coming down the High Street on horseback behind the pipe band after the rideout and everybody cheering me on was really special.
“Things like the ball, which is such a really nice occasion, were also very enjoyable. And today as well, with the whole ceremonial side of being Melrosian.
“So, yes, I’d advise anyone to say ‘yes’ in a heartbeat if they get asked to be Melrosian, just like I did, because it’s unique. It’s such a fantastic honour, just brilliant.”
And the Melrosian’s sentiments were echoed by Festival Queen Zoe Palmer, from Newstead, who told us: “It’s been amazing. The crowning was the best bit for me and I’d definitely tell any other girl to go for it.”
In his first year as Festival Chairman, James Marjoribanks, said it had been a real privilege to fill the role in the festival’s 75th anniversary year.
“That has been a tremendous privilege and the weather has been absolutely fantastic.”
And Mr Marjoribanks praised the Melrosian, his Right and Left-Hand Men, Graeme Crawford and Ruaridh Nairn, and the Queen and Her Court.
“They are great guys. As for the Queen and her court, we couldn’t have asked for better.”
Newstead was the first port of call during Saturday’s tour of ceremonies, and it was here the Melrosian and his supporters were welcomed by local Masons at the site of the what is claimed to be the oldest lodge in the land.
And by the time, the procession moved on the short distance to the site of the former Roman fort at Trimontium, the sun had started to break through the clouds. At Trimontium, the Melrosian was greeted by a figure in the guise of a Roman centurion, marking the links across the centuries between the once mighty empire and Melrose.
Gattonside is next, where the official party is greeted by a villager in monk’s garb proffering cherries, the fruit of the orchard once tended by the monks.
The former home of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford saw the Melrosian and party presented with the traditional yellow roses, while the Festival Queen received a gift.
And the last visit of the morning before heading to the abbey was at Darnick Tower, where the Melrosian received a gift of honey, while guests accepted refreshments symbolising the mead of long ago and Ex-Melrosian Greig Anderson, in the role of the abbey’s lord abbot, was offered a gift of wax “to lighten your convent at Melrose”.
The day’s final ceremonies in the abbey grounds, included the laying of a wreath of red roses by the Festival Queen on the burial site of the heart of King Robert Bruce.
It was here, too, that King David – played by Alasdair Houston – presented the monks with the abbey’s founding charter.