A cavalcade of 212 horses
Published at 21:44, Wednesday, 29 July 2009
THERE was only a glint of angry red in the sky just before 5am on Friday and incredibly that was all the ‘sunshine’ on the Common Riding Day.
Incredible when it is remembered that there had been beautiful sunshine for weeks past, and apart from an odd shower there hadn’t been any proper rain either since away back in the middle of February.
But there it is and against all the odds some 0.2 inches fell on the event.
Not surprisingly, of course, it made little difference to the real enthusiasts.
There was the usual hundreds at the Hound Trail on what must have been the coldest occasion for some years.
By the time Cornet Young drew nigh to the Market Place to get the Flag from James Harkness, the Acting Chief Magistrate, the High Street was lined solidly on both sides and there was a big contingent of New Tooners on the Fore Street and at the Square.
The First Fair was cried, John Elliot standing on the back of John Ireland’s horse, and the Cornet led a cavalcade of 212 horses to the Hill, which included in its ranks Ex-Cornet Robert Graham the Jubilee Cornet.
The first few ominous spots of rain just missed the howking of the Thistle and a light drizzle began as the Emblems were paraded from the Toonfit to Mount Hooley.
There was a slackening of the drizzle by the time the Cornet and his men returned from the Common Moss, and were greeted by an apparently bigger-than-ever Heather Besom procession and soon it had almost cleared up.
The full procession had some difficulty not only in getting through the Market Place but in passing along the High Street so thick were the crowds.
After the Second Fair Crying the Procession could scarcely get up the Kirkwynd for the jam-packed people at the foot.
In Drove Road and on the Bar Brae the Procession came to a standstill several times before it rounded the corner on to the main road.
When the horses had crossed the water the drizzle began again, but still of an intensity hardly worthy of a raincoat, although many were in evidence as were a few umbrellas.
It did not turn to rain until after the Cornet’s Chase and the forenoon’s horse races were run in a heavier and still heavier downpour.
It faired about 2.30, just in time to let the running events get going, and it was one of the best programmes of sports seen on the Castleholm for some years.
Apart from the Highland Dancing events, which were held in Buccleuch Hall, it was possible to get through the races with only a small amount of precipitation.
When all was over, there was another downpour, so heavy in fact that there was some doubt that the Dance on the Green might have to be held in the hall.
But it faired, and several hundred people were on the Castleholm, and a breeze kept away the worst of the midgies.
When the Procession stopped at the Kilngreen for the first Polka there must have been a couple of thousand people in it, and by the time they reached the Crown Hotel there could well have been double that number marching and watching.
It is always easier to polka at the Toonfit, but the Market Place was so full of people that when the left Hand Man’s horse “capered a bit” it could only make a space about 12 feet square for itself.
James Harkness took back the flag and thanked the Cornet for doing a fine job. The Cornet then thanked the people for their support and his was not the only eye bedimmed with tears as a final verse of Auld Lang Syne was sung.
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