Note to self: check out transport first

Newtongrange Gala Day 2014, June 14
Newtongrange Gala Day 2014, June 14

We learned a valuable lesson on Saturday. By we, I mean Selkirk’s skiffling sensation the Bogie’s Close Stompers.

Actually, we learned quite a few lessons. Just to make sure we are all singing off the same hymn sheet.

The Stompers are a six-piece outfit consisting of Robin Wilson on guitar and vocals; George Irvine and Davie Scott on banjos; Jim Stillie on mandolin, Andy Sterricks (known as the Digger because he used to dig graves) on tea chest bass and yours truly on washboard and cowbell.

For this engagement, however, we were only five because Jim wasn’t able to join us. The occasion was the colourful and noisy Newtongrange Children’s Gala Day.

Like many of the band’s engagements, this one came by a strange route. The X95 Selkirk to Edinburgh First Bus. That’s where George met an old pal who helps organise the Nitten week which culminates in a major Saturday parade. We were booked. We learned we would have to play being towed through the crowded streets on the back of a trailer. Our combined brains couldn’t find one, but George’s pal did. And so, on Saturday, with a borrowed generator to power our amplification system, we headed for Newtongrange.

The Gala Day started 100 years ago and brings the entire population of what was once a thriving mining community onto the streets that are known only by numbers. We arranged to meet Jock, our driver, whom we hired for a bottle of brandy, and the borrowed trailer in the Co-op car park. There’s a lot of pipe bands at the Gala Day and we got some strange looks as we loaded it with said genny, mic stands, music stands, amp and mixer desk and then ourselves. It was twin axled – both in the middle – narrow, and had no sides.

This was the first time in the 14 years since we banded together that we had played on a trailer. We should have realised there might be problems by the somewhat wary expression on Jock’s face and the way he fussed around us like mother hen. We really should have realised.

Jock towed us from the Co-op to The Square where the parade was about start. We bounced over a sleeping policeman and realised staying on our feet wasn’t going to be easy. But we got there.

As the pipe bands massed and the Guides, and Scouts and BBs gathered around us, we steaded ourselves for our first Newtongrange Gala Day parade. But not for long.

When the parade started and we struck up Putting on the Agony and it almost became agony.

We jerked and stotted. Andy seemed to be heading for the Scouts, I thought I was about to join the Guides, while George saw the youth club looming.

For the rest of the parade we sat on speakers, the jenny and the tailboard. Davie stood because there was nothing left to sit on.

I think our music went down well as we headed through crowded streets. Our antics at trying to keep mic and music stands and even our seated-selves on board also provided entertainment. It was a great day. But we learned that next time we’ll check the trailer and take along some seats and perhaps a length of rope.