He has enjoyed the most memorable 12 months of his life, but Ryan Mania admitted Saturday was one of his more emotional days of the last year.
The likeable 23-year-old was calmness personified when performing as Braw Lad exactly 12 months ago, and followed it up with an incredible Grand National win in April, just 24 hours before a nasty fall at Hexham could so easily have ended his racing career altogether.
But watching on as Bearer of the Sod this year, while Daniel Whitehead and Lucy Black took on Galashiels’ highest honours, proved a more emotive occasion.
He told The Southern: “I was able to take in a bit more this year and was more emotional. It was great to help Daniel and Lucy along and see how well they did.
“Last year I was so cool and thought: ‘What is the fuss all about?’ I felt relaxed. But this year I was watching and observing and it was different. It gets to you, but that is a good thing.
Asked about his last 12 months, Ryan added: “It has been incredible. I am not sure what I can cram into the next year. Next year at this stage is going to be very hard.”
Ryan’s Braw Lass Nicola Mackay, Bearer of the Red Roses, described Lucy and Daniel’s performances as amazing and paid tribute to outgoing principals Lewis Playfair (Bearer of the Stone) and Suzanne Henry (Bearer of the White Roses).
She said: “I was more relaxed this year, but my highlight was still Scott Street.
“Lewis and Suzanne have been super and will be a huge loss. They are some characters.”
Suzanne added: “The time has totally flown by. There is so much on every weekend.
“I could not have asked for a better Braw Lad than Lewis. He has been the best.
“Myself and Lewis have already been attending ex-Braw Lad and Lass meetings and will keep involved.”
And Lewis said: “It is unbelievable how fast it has gone by. I have enjoyed every minute of it.
“The highlight has been the Gala Day itself, in particular Scott Street. The noise is amazing, it is incredible to see all the Galaleans out in force.”
Last Wednesday saw a cavalcade of 135 head to Torwoodlee where they were welcomed by the Laird of estate, James Pringle, and his family.
At the Old Tower, Braw Lad Whitehead dug up the sod while Braw Lass Black received the stone taken from the tower. Both played roles in the poignant Mixing of the Roses ceremony on Braw Lads’ Day.
In his speech, the Laird reflected on the importance of the Borders Railway to Galashiels’ future.
He said: “The railway will bring people to the Borders – younger people who will live and work here, who will spend money here and send their kids to school here, and it will bring people who will come to enjoy all that we have to offer, from our hospitality to our shops and our green and lovely land.
“It is up to us to make the most of the opportunity to benefit from the increase in footfall because the best of the Borders is the best in the world.
“It may take a wee while but, when the railway is up and running and the economy has started to recover from our spending spree, there will come a time when those who have the drive will start to see the potential and I would like to think that some of them might be Galaleans because it will be they who will allow Gala to thrive as the capital of the Borders.”
On their return to the town, the mounted followers were joined by the Galashiels Ex-Service Pipe Band and the ever-popular fancy dress parade.