With nerves well hidden behind a smile matched only in size by the crowds filling Abbey Place, Jethart Callant Nick Arnold led his town in celebration and commemoration on Friday.
And while it looked briefly as though the sunshine that had blessed each of Nick’s six previous rideouts might have finally failed him, the skies dried just in time for herald Brian Marshall, fulfilling his final festival day in the job, to sound his horn and kick off Jedburgh’s biggest day of the year.
He was followed by the Jedburgh Pipe Band, the callant, his right and left-hand men, Brodie Irvine and Gary Hogg, and a 240-strong mounted cavalcade into Abbey Place.
With not a word spoken, the 21-year-old callant carried the flag, presented to him at the investiture ceremony the night before, to be bussed by provost’s wife Helen Oliver.
Returning to his horse, the silence was finally broken as he roared out the battle cry “Jethart’s here”.
“You walk around to Abbey Place and it all falls silent,” Nick said. “That is the moment that everybody who has been in my shoes remembers and wishes they could do again. You can hear a pin drop. It’s just breathtaking.”
The cheers that followed gave way to a rousing rendition of the song of the same name before Nick and his cavalcade headed for Ferniehirst.
There, Jedburgh Grammar School pupil Kobe Ross gave a stirring rendition of The Reprisal, Walter Laidlaw’s account of how an English occupation of the castle was broken in 1575.
Speaker Francis Kerr then spoke of a resilience and determination, individuality and self-respect found in the Borders but nowhere else in the world.
Further visits to Lintalee and the capon tree followed before the cavalcade returned to the town, crossed the water and fell silent once again for an act of remembrance at the war memorial.
Duties completed, Nick returned the flag before accepting the callant’s cup and acknowledging his followers with the same smile worn since his appointment two months ago.
He’s enjoyed unwavering support and huge followings but still admitted: “I was nervous on Friday. I was really panicking, but we took great pride in doing it properly, especially the ceremony at the war memorial.
“A war veteran actually came up to me on Sunday and shook my hand saying how well we had done it. That was a special moment for me, and to know we did it right means a lot.
“Another highlight which I had never heard about before came just after the ceremony at the capon tree when the callant leads the cavalcade for the very first time.
“The herald falls back to be with the ex-heralds and you ride away up the forest. You can hear the ex-principals singing Ride On, Brave Jethart Callant and Alan Lauder, the 25th anniversary callant was sent up behind me.
“It’s a tradition I wasn’t aware of, and to live that moment was something else.”
Beside Nick every step of the way this year were his parents Susan and David, brother Louis and friend and lass Chloe Wight.
“My mum has been crying all week, and Chloe has been unbelievable. She was in the dark until May and it was a massive ask, but she’s bent over backwards to be at everything,” added Nick.