Family's crowning achievement

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ONE of the most impressive features of Langholm Common Riding is the floral crown.

Les Murray is proud that, on his family's 54th anniversary of making the crown, his son, Stuart, is Cornet.

Les's dad, Ian, who had his own bus company in Langholm, made the crown from 1963 until he died in 1978. In all those years there was only one year in 1975 when he didn't make the crown because he was too busy with the buses. Irene Bell made the crown that year.

From 1976 he started to teach Les how to do it and when he died, Les's aunt Ella took over and Les became her apprentice. Before that she used to cut the flowers for Ian.

Rita, Les's mum, used to make the toorie, the crown's finishing touch at the top made with a lily, white heather and some of the roses up until she passed away in 2008.

Les said: "I recall dad spotting the flowers growing around the town as he drove the buses, mainly rambling roses or, on rare occasions, Sweet Williams if they were available first. It has been 2002 since the crown was made with Sweet Williams. They are certainly more difficult to find."

Once Common Riding day is over, Les leaves the crown to wilt and fade and it becomes like pot pourri.

As soon as the Cornet is elected, the crown is brought out of storage and stripped back. Sphagnum moss is used to cover the iron frame. The moss is collected from the hills and normally left on for three years when the moss is stripped back and the frame painted.

Les is unsure of where the frame came from originally and who made it but it predates welding because the joints are riveted. It has had bits of welding over the years since to maintain and repair it.

The crown, with its rock-hard moss, is soaked for up to eight days to soften it and placed into its A-frame stands, which have been made to match Les's height and have a brake which he can apply to stop it spinning at certain points.

Les said: "I have certain places I collect the flowers from in Canonbie and Langholm. All the family are involved in helping to make the crown, including my wife, Gillian. My daughter Shonagh has been learning to make it since last year and Stuart for four years.

"I normally make the crown from the Tuesday to the Thursday. Each individual rose is tied on by hand and I like to have complete concentration and quiet".

Kevin Irving is the official bearer and he has helpers each year to help him carry the crown which weighs 22 to 23 pounds.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 2:18PM
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