Langholm Cornet Stuart enjoys the best day of his life

Cornet Stuart Murray with his right and left-hand men Simon Tweddle and Jamie Fletcher at Castleholm.
Cornet Stuart Murray with his right and left-hand men Simon Tweddle and Jamie Fletcher at Castleholm.

The Muckle Toon was a sea of purple, white and pink last Friday as thousands crammed its streets to support this year’s Langholm Common Riding.

And man of the moment cornet Stuart Murray found no difficulty in expressing what being at the helm of the day’s festivities meant to him.

Rae Elliot cries the Langholm fair in Market Place.

Rae Elliot cries the Langholm fair in Market Place.

“It was the greatest day of my life, to be honest,” he said afterwards. “It’s been a great honour.”

And it was a day made even more special for the 22-year-old student as he stepped into the role 60 years to the day after his late grandfather ex-cornet Ian Murray did so.

“That added extra meaning to what was already a special thing,” he said. “My family were emotional on the day, but the overwhelming emotion was just pride.”

“It’s been a whirlwind, and the common riding day itself was like on fast-forward. It passed in the a blind of an eye.

The 'saut herrin' is sampled.

The 'saut herrin' is sampled.

“The Kirk Wynd gallop and the cornet’s chase were the most exhilarating parts, but emotionally going round the town and seeing everyone out and your family there brings a tear to the eye. They’re all great memories.”

Before the whirlwind of ceromonial duties, Stuart did allow one moment to admire the sea of familiar faces, returning exiles and visitors who had travelled risen early for the day’s celebrations.

He added: “That moment in the morning, walking the horse from the bottom of the town before I got the flag, was surreal. You could really take it all in before it began.

“The town usually has around 2,000 people, but we can get about 10,000 people there on common riding day. It’s breathtaking really.”

Cornet Stuart Murray coming up Kirk Wynd.

Cornet Stuart Murray coming up Kirk Wynd.

And there was no shortage of support out on Friday despite a few heavy showers.

Thousands lined the streets, hundreds followed on foot and more than 150 riders rode in the mounted cavalcade behind Stuart and his right and left-hand men Simon Tweddle and Jamie Fletcher, as they had done at the town’s six previous rides.

“All of the rides were well attended, and it was great to see so many young kids out on their ponies on the Wednesday night. That is what’s most satisfying, to see so many young riders out,” Stuart added.

On Friday, his duties began after receiving the burgh standard from David Stevenson, watched by his proud parents Leslie and Gillian and sister Shonagh.

Langholm Pipe Band's drum major clears a path through the crowds.

Langholm Pipe Band's drum major clears a path through the crowds.

Dutifully leading the procession through each of the town’s cherished ceremonies, thousands lined the steep slopes of the Kirk Wynd and Mount Hooley to witness the spectacular gallop and then to hear Billy Young cry the fair at the Castle Craigs.

The cavalcade then made its way to Whita Well and Mount Hooley and was met by the bearers of the common riding’s emblems, the thistle, the floral crown, the spade and the barley bannock as well as hundreds of children with heather besoms.

The procession was led by the pipe band back to town where Rae Elliot cried the second part of the fair.

After safely crossing the River Ewes and rounding the sod that was cut on the Castleholm, a rousing cheer welcomed the cornet and his followers as he galloped past the grandstand at Castleholm.

Stuart was announced as cornet back in May after winning the public vote by an emphatic majority and since then has represented the town at other common ridings across the Borders.

He added: “I would like to thank the people of Langholm for giving me the greatest day of my life.”

The Thistle is carried up Kirk Wynd.

The Thistle is carried up Kirk Wynd.

After an afternoon of sports, which enjoyed fair weather, the polka was danced at the Kilngreen, Crown Hotel and Townfoot before the flag was safely returned by Stuart to the town hall.

Congratulations were exchanged and another common riding, and the best day of the cornet’s life, came to an end to the sound of Auld Lang Syne and the national anthem.

Langholm Brass Band.

Langholm Brass Band.