Rain clouds drift away as Cornet performs his duty

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IT WAS one of those 'supremely blest' moments which can happen only in Langholm and only on Common Riding day.

The flag flies in the breeze as Cornet Stuart Murray prepares to ride around the final sod on the CastleholmRachel Norris
Rachel Norris
The flag flies in the breeze as Cornet Stuart Murray prepares to ride around the final sod on the CastleholmRachel Norris

At dawn the flute band struggled through what they described as the worst rain they had known while marching through the streets to waken the town.

But as Cornet Stuart Murray rode forward to take the burgh standard from officiating magistrate David Stevenson, the clouds dispersed allowing the sun to shed its light and warmth on the time-honoured traditions taking place below.

In welcoming everyone to Langholm, David said: "We have a fine young man as Cornet. Stuart Murray is an excellent horseman, having come through the ranks of the Langholm young riders' club.

"Our Common Riding started 258 years ago and it is an annual reminder not only of our heritage but also, irrespective of where we are in the world, it reminds us of where we belong, where our heart belongs.

"It’s the occasion which brings together a community in a way not seen outside the Borders. The Common Riding members are to be congratulated on the manner in which they celebrate the traditions and customs of the past, while ensuring the Common Riding is still relevant to Langholm in the 21st century.

"Today we will do as we have done since 1759; go round our marches, cry our fairs and celebrate our traditions which date from the days of the Border Reivers when the fight for survival fostered close-knit communities like Langholm, Hawick and Selkirk but each with a fiercely independent spirit and identity.

"Today, this same spirit is reflected in the strong sense of civic pride which exists in the Border towns as well as the friendly rivalry it fosters. So both as friends and rivals, we are delighted to welcome visitors from near and far, whether for the first time or as hardy annuals.

"Stuart is currently working alongside his father, Les, and Stephen Rae in Latimers, our High Street Emporium. They have a notice in a window saying they open on Friday at 8.30am and we can only hope all three have negotiated a day off.

"His grandfather Ian Murray was Cornet 60 years ago and for the past 54 years the floral crown has been made by the Murray family, initially by Ian, then Ella and now, Les, with Stuart and his sister, Shonagh, as apprentices."

The Cornet, supported by his right and left-hand men Simon Tweddle and Jamie Fletcher, led 150 horse riders, including semi-jubilee Cornet Stephen Rae and jubilee Cornet Colin Barnfather, down to the Square Pump.

The procession, led by the barley banna and the town band, returned to visit Townfoot and back to the Market Place to hear the first fair crying.

Rae Elliot, stood atop a horse, proclaimed their rights, saying "And last of a' we to the Moss do steer, To see gif a' oor Marches they be clear; And when unto the Castle Craigs we come, I'll cry the Langholm Fair and then we'll beat the drum".

The 22-year-old Cornet then turned his face to the hill above and, cheered on by the thousands packed into the Kirk Wynd, galloped his little grey mare up the steep thoroughfare followed by an enthusiastic cavalcade.

Having reached the monument, the Cornet invited Stephen Rae, semi-jubilee Cornet, to carry the flag down to Whita Well where the riders enjoyed brief refreshments before making their way down to Mount Hooley.

In the meantime, the crown and thistle bearers, along with the pipe band and the children with their heather besoms, had gathered at Mount Hooley to welcome the horseriders.

The whole parade, led by the pipe band, marched up and down the High Street for a second time before pausing to listen to the second fair crying, after which they sang Auld Lang Syne.

While the parade went by way of Drove Road and Bar Brae to the Kilngreen, the foot followers took up position on the banks of the Ewes Water to watch the horses cross the fairly deep and fast-flowing river. Gordon Reid, spade bearer, was escorted across by rider Clare Johnstone.

Gordon cut the final sod on the Castleholm before the Cornet led the chase around the racetrack and the morning's proceedings gave way to the afternoon sports.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 10:06AM
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