It’s not the shops, the restaurants, the abbey or the festival which makes Melrose great, it’s the people.
That was the message from principal guest Liam Harvey to the large crowd basking in the sunshine within Melrose Abbey last Thursday.
The 49-year-old former St Mary’s School pupils, where he is now headmaster, lives in Edinburgh with his wife Marnie and their two daughters now, but described himself as a Borderer born and bred as he took to the stage to give this year’s oration.
“I like to think I understand the sometimes parochial nature of living in a small, proud town that shares these Borderlands with many other towns just as proud as Melrose,” he said “In each of these places, the communities have their ups and downs and that has aye been the case. But people rally round in times of need.” Charting the examples of community spirit which shone during both the extreme weather and the loss of Melrose worthy John Crawford earlier this year, Mr Harvey paid tribute to people who make Melrose great, urging the town to be proud of its “rallying to support its own”.
Inspired by the town being hailed best place to live in Scotland thanks to the Sunday Times magazine last year, Mr Harvey asked: “What makes this town so special? It’s its people. It’s its community.
“And so to add a more qualified view to the Sunday Times article. It is not the hills, the abbey, the silvery tweed and the wonderful buildings, that make this town special- beautiful though they are. Neither is it the two first class schools that the children of Melrose have the privilege to attend.
“It is the hard working people, including the grumpy ones, who love their town that makes this the best place to live in Scotland.”
Included in Mr Harvey’s list of worthy Melrose folk was rugby star Doddie Weir, who is living with Motor Neurone Disease.
“His heart is most certainly as courageous as that of King Robert The Bruce’s- buried just a few feet from this very spot,” he added.
On Thursday night, festival chairman Douglas Hardie, installed the Melrosian with his official sash of office and said: “Harry has carried out his duties as Melrosian elect in a very professional manner and I am confident he will be a worthy ambassador for our town and community in the weeks ahead.”
And the poignancy and importance of the occasion was not lost on the young graduate.
Melrosian Harry replied: “Throughout my time growing up in Melrose I have walked down Coulters Road behind us to watch the crowning ceremony.
“Leaving my house I was always excited to watch the event. I never failed to observe in slight awe as I took in this great, ancient tradition under the Abbey walls.
“To now be standing here with the famous yellow and black sash around my chest is a truly amazing and surreal feeling. I do assure I am deeply conscious of the great honour you have bestowed on me and my family.”
“These past few weeks I have had the privilege to represent the town at Hawick and Selkirk and look forward to doing so at the festivals and common ridings yet to come.”
He described the well wishes and generosity from the Melrose community as “overwhelming” and added: “I hope our 2018 festival will continue to generate many fond and happy memories for us all.”
It was a big night too for festival queen Thea Foulkes and her court, who carried out their part of the ceremonies faultlessly, aided by the joint choir of Melrose Primary and St Mary’s schools and the St Boswells Concert Band.
Joining Thea in her court were first attendant Grace McWhinnie, second attendant Sophie McGarry, courtiers Jamie Whiting and Toby Swan, heralds Brodie Henderson and Mario Gee and the trainbearers Emma Wear and Ruby Jackson.