Stuart follows in his grandfather's footsteps

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STUART Murray’s first experience of riding out was on Castle Craigs day and it could have turned out badly for him.

Cornet Stuart Murray will carry the town's standard on Friday
R Norris
Cornet Stuart Murray will carry the town's standard on Friday

It was 2008 and he was 13; Castle Craigs was his first ride-out and it is probably the biggest of the five, with a gallop up the Kirk Wynd thrown in.

Stuart turned up with his young riders’ club pals, having all booked their ponies, only to find out there was none for him.

He said: “I joined the young riders’ club in 2003 and did my first ride-out on Castle Craigs day when I was 13. I was very nervous because they did not bring enough ponies so they put me on a horse.

“I was terrified to begin with. They are harmless but you’re not thinking that when you are walking down the High Street and waiting to go up the Kirk Wynd. I did the Common Riding the next year and I’ve stuck to horses since then.”

The 22-year-old politics student, who has just graduated from Stirling University, grew up in a household infused with Common Riding traditions.

His grandfather Ian Murray was Cornet in 1957 and the family has been making the floral crown for several decades, with his father Les the current crown maker, although it is a team effort.

Stuart said: “I have wanted to be Cornet all my life and thought about it a lot growing up but I probably decided I was definitely going to stand in 2015 when Jamie (Fletcher) became Cornet. I thought my time would be close. My parents always encouraged me.”

Stuart, who attended Langholm Academy, lives with his parents Les and Gillian and his sister Shonagh, who is a sociology student in Edinburgh. Les works for Latimers of Langholm and Gillian for Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

During the summer holidays Stuart is working with his dad in the High Street store where he is not short of advice, with ex-Cornet John Murray and this year’s semi-jubilee Cornet Stephen Rae as colleagues.

In September he will return to Stirling to do an MSc in international relations which will be for one year.

It was his politics teacher in school, Rory Mackay, who first inspired his interest in politics. Stuart said: “He made it interesting and I got the bug. We studied British, European and world politics, both historical and contemporary, and did it jointly with history.

“I wrote my dissertation on German leadership in the European Union. My research was done mainly through books in Stirling library and by talking to a few of the German tutors there as well. I asked them what they thought about what was going on back home to get their perspective. It’s amazing how the Germans went from being pretty much ruined and divided to being a leader in Europe.

“I would like to go down the route of policy adviser or researcher and there are plenty of opportunities in Edinburgh.”

Right now, though, Stuart’s focus is on his home town. He has already represented Langholm at Hawick and Selkirk where he rode and at Gala and Jedburgh. He is due to go to Lauder in early August.

His mount this Friday is a gentle giant, 12-year-old grey gelding Riley, who belongs to David Blair of Ashkirk. The horse has already carried the flag at Lauder.

Stuart never knew his grandfather, who was Cornet 60 years ago.

He said: "He is talked about a lot and we have photos of him as well as cine film but there's no sound. The fact it is his 60th year will add to something which is already special."

The Murrays have been making the crown for 53 years and, normally, Stuart would help.

"I make the middle section with my sister; it's a family effort and we have a big group of helpers. Some have been helping my dad for as long as he has been making it."

Stuart's favourite moments over Common Riding so far include Castle Craigs night and following the bands along the Drove Road and Bar Brae on Common Riding day but after Friday, he will have many more favourite moments and many special memories.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 at 1:55PM
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