‘This was everything I dreamed it would be and so much more’

Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Peter Forrest is safe in at the Toll
Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Peter Forrest is safe in at the Toll

It was most definitely a Hail Smilin’ Morn on Friday for Souters as Royal Burgh Standard Bearer Peter Forrest and his attendants did his town proud.

Following a truly stormy Thursday, with winds and enough rain to put the big day’s river crossing in doubt, when the common riding morning dawned, it came with possibly the best weather anyone could have asked for ... largely dry and cool ... perfect for the horses and band members who entertained the crowds in the town centre from 4am till around 11.30am.

Ex-Soldiers Standard Bearer Martin Young dips the flag at the end of the casting.

Ex-Soldiers Standard Bearer Martin Young dips the flag at the end of the casting.

The first news everyone received was that the river crossing was definitely on following an early inspection.

And for Peter, the opportunity to follow countless representatives of the town down the years in the complete riding of the marches was even better than he had hoped for.

He told The Southern: “It has been amazing ... everything I’ve dreamed it would be and so much more.

“The weather has been absolutely perfect, especially after the high winds and rain yesterday, which led to doubts that we would be crossing the water today.

Senior Burgh Officer Graeme Bell cries the Burley

Senior Burgh Officer Graeme Bell cries the Burley

“My highlights have to be coming in at the Toll, and then, of course, the casting ceremony. It was absolutely fantastic.

“The gallop in, I was loving it. I don’t think the smile has been off my face all day, and there were seven perfect casts from me and all the other standard bearers ... I’m so proud of everyone.”

He was roused by the town’s bands soon after 4am, and from then on he beamed with pride as he undertook his time-honoured duties.

Accepting the Burgh Flag from Honorary provost Jake Wheelans – which had been “well and truly bussed” by Jake’s wife Dilys – at the Victoria Hall balcony. Peter promised to ride the marches of the town and return the flag following the casting ceremony “unsullied and untarnished”.

Peter at the Three Brethren

Peter at the Three Brethren

He was not short of company on his ride.

Including his four attendants, Craig Monks, Robbie Reilly, Thomas Wilmott and Liam Cassidy, Peter was followed by a magnificent total of 280 horses and riders across the Ettrick and up Linglie to the Three Brethren.

And on the way back, the emotion was there for all to see as fellow Souters roared as he galloped up the Toll, gathering himself for the casting of the colours ceremony.

There, all eyes were on him as he perfectly timed his cast, as did the other representatives of the crafts and associations –Mark Easson (Hammermen); Michael Pepper (Weavers); Jackie Johnston (Fleshers); Alisdair Piercy (Colonials); Stuart Davidson (Merchant Company) and Martin Young (Ex Soldiers).

Casting the Burgh Flag

Casting the Burgh Flag

It was a truly poignant moment when Martin dipped his flag in rembrance of those who have fallen in conflict, the gathered crowd respectfully silent for the two minutes, before the haunting melody of the Liltin’ was played by the town’s silver band.

The Burgh Flag was handed back to the provost in the manner it was given to him, unsullied and untarnished, with Peter reporting that the marches were, indeed, in good order.

Honorary provost Jake Wheelans – who was officiating in his third common riding – told us: “What a day it’s been, after yesterday’s bad weather.

“We thought at first we wouldn’t be able to cross the water after the rain, but we were able to carry out everything we intended doing.

“It’s been a good ride round the marches today, and we’ve been blessed with very good weather.

“The rain stayed off, the sun came out, and the standard bearer did an excellent job. Everything has gone to plan.

Dilys and Jake Wheelans

Dilys and Jake Wheelans

“This is my third year in a three year term of office and we’ve been very lucky.

“We have had three good common ridings and it has been an honour to be provost of Selkirk Common Riding Trust.

“The standard bearer has been an excellent ambassador for the town and he has carried out all his duties to a high standard.

“He has enjoyed his time immensely.

“It has been an excellent day and all I can say is Hail Smilin Morn’ ... God must have been a Souter.”

● See pages 37-44 for more photos from Selkirk’s big day.