Well, our festival week has come and gone and I know two people who’ll be saying “Soon be Christmas!” The way the months fly by, I’m beginning to agree, much as I don’t want Christmas coming round too quickly!
Anyway Beltane week also flew by. The red and white bunting was flying over the High Street on the Sunday morning when the children marched from the town to the old Cross Kirk for a morning service., led by the Warden of the Kirk. I got caught up in the parade trying to make my way out of town to Edinburgh, but wasn’t too late to meet my friend in the city.
I really didn’t take much note of anything else in the festival till Wednesday, when the leading man, the Cornet, was inaugurated. In front of a big crowd of local folk and visitors, he received his sash and the burgh standard into his safe keeping for the coming year.
His Lass bussed the flag with a ribbon bearing his name and the year, which joins the ribbons of previous Cornets over the 100+ years the Beltane Festival has been in existence in the form it takes today.
The main job of the Cornet and his supporters is to ride round the Marches – the boundaries of the town, checking that all is well. After his installation as 2014’s champion, he led a huge cavalcade of horses on the rideout, first, over the bridge and along the High Street, on to Neidpath Castle to be welcomed by the Warden of Neidpath, then up the hills and back to ford the river Tweed at HayLodge Park where crowds were waiting to see him “Safe oot, safe in!” Instead of photos this year I took some videos with my iPad, but can’t work out how to include them here!
After the Fording, the horses make their way through the Park proceeding to a field beyond the Golf Course for the annual horse races. The big prize is the Beltane Bell, a trophy that this year was won by a rider from elsewhere in the Borders. At last the cavalcade returns to the High Street, and just before it gets dark (about 11pm at this time of year) the Cornet, his Lass, last year’s Cornet and Lass, and the two previous years’ Cornets and Lasses dance a very energetic Eightsome Reel to the music of the Peebles pipe band in their tartan kilts and plaids. The light wasn’t good enough for photos or film, sad to say.
So that was Wednesday, and now to Friday which was fancy dress night! Individuals and groups of all ages can think up a theme and dress up accordingly, to be judged in the competitions, and then if they wish, to take part in the parade. The themes are very inventive, and usually include a few topical events, local, national and international. Two groups chose to represent the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence. Amazingly, one was for the Yes vote and the other for the Vote No campaign. The 100th anniversary of the first world war was another choice of theme very topical at the moment. Scottish Homecoming, local millworkers, Wizard of Oz, various nursery characters and some TV characters… everyone’s imagination knows no bounds!
The queen is crowned with great ceremony. Telegrams from well-wishers across the globe are read out by the herald, and the Queen’s highlander calls for three cheers for the queen! When it is all over the Cornet rides past and then queen and her maids are driven off in a horse drawn landau, her pages leaving in another landau and followed by the VIP guests in cars. Everyone cheers and shouts of “hurr-ay!” are heard all round. The school children climb onto floats and led by the Cornet the parade leaves on a tour of the town streets. All along the route sweets/candies are thrown for the children on the floats, and waves and cheers carry them on their way! It must be quite a tiring morning for the very youngest children, but I bet it’s something they never forget.
I’ve only mentioned a few of the events of Beltane week, but probably the best. Not too many photos this year, but I hope you have enjoyed a bit of the flavour of our local festival.
Talk again soon.