Steadying his horse, Jethart Callant Grant Raeburn took a deep breath and then stood tall in his stirrups and yelled the town’s age-old battle cry.
The spine-tingling ‘Jethart’s Here!’ shattered the silence to a great roar of approval from the large crowd gathered in the royal burgh’s Abbey Place on Friday morning.
It signalled the start of the main day of this year’s Jethart Callant’s Festival and wherever you went, from the pinning of the rosette to the flag first thing, to the traditional visits to Ferniehirst Castle and Douglas Camp, then the Capon Tree and the fording of the Jed at the Auld Brig, there were large crowds out to cheer on the Callant and his henchmen.
But ask any ex-callant and for their personal highlight of Festival Day and almost to a man is giving the battle cry in front of their kith and kin.
And so it was with this year’s callant. After returning the Jethart Flag he had borne with such pride at the head of a 271-strong mounted cavalcade on the main day of this year’s Jethart Callant’s Festival, Callant Raeburn was engulfed in a sea of warm embraces and congratulations.
Clearly emotional, the 21-year-old electrician had been determined to enjoy every single minute of the big day.
Without a doubt, the highlight was giving the battle cryGrant Raeburn
“Everything’s been so quick and a bit of a blur, but I’ve enjoyed every minute - it’s been a real emotional rollercoaster,” he told us.
“Without a doubt, the highlight for me has to be giving the battle cry this morning.
“The street went so quiet, you could almost hear your heart beating. Unforgettable. “For me it’s been a dream since I was a young laddie. And it was the best feeling ever being out on that horse today.”
Another experiencing an emotional morning was Allan Learmonth in his final year as Herald.
Three years ago when first appointed he had told The Southern he would be happy if he could do half as well as his predecessor, local rugby legend Gary Armstrong.
So it was a poignant moment when, at the end of Friday’s ceremonials, Gary made a point of steering his horse towards the platform in Abbey Place and reaching down to shake Allan’s hand for a job well done.
“It’s hard to put into words how I feel,” Allan, a champion butcher, told us. “It’s been a great three terms in office, but unless you have done it yourself, you can’t really understand what it is like.
“I’ve been so proud to be Herald. We had a great rideout today with a fantastic turnout and no mishaps whatsoever.”
And his comments were echoed by festival convener and this year’s silver jubilee callant, Rory Stewart.
“It’s been a tremendous fortnight, well supported by the public, riders, cyclists, runners - you name it. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
And he was full of praise for this year’s callant: “He’s been absolutely brilliant. He stood high in his stirrups and that’s the loudest I’ve heard anyone shout ‘Jethart’s Here!’ for a long time.”
Among the guests was Calum Kerr who said his first summer as local MP for the area was giving him a wider understanding of the important role such festivals and common ridings played in the community.
“They’re all so different and unique and they play a crucial role in keeping alive this amazing town spirit we have here in the Borders,” he said.