Dougie’s calling 1514 tune

1514 Club president Dougie Rae
1514 Club president Dougie Rae

LIKE every young Teri, Dougie Rae grew up wanting to be Cornet.

Since first following at the tender age of ten, behind Drew Martin, he wanted to get his hands on the cherished Banner Blue and to lead the cavalcade in the annual celebrations.

Sadly that dream wasn’t realised. But while he didn’t get to carry the Flag, he has still been able to lead the mounted supporters – not just once, but every year for the last 23.

He told the Hawick News: “I obviously wanted to be Cornet but it never happened so I went for the next best thing, to be in front of the Cornet.”

And that was by becoming a member of ‘the best band in the world’ – the Drums and Fifes.

It was as his horse-riding days were drawing to a close with the impending birth of daughter Nikki.

Despite not being a musical person – and joking now that he still isn’t – the 50-year-old joiner and former work colleague, Kenny Lynn, each bought a penny whistle with the intention of pretending to be part of the ‘Cornet’s Band’.

Two years later, and with a little tuition from Jimmy Crawford in the British Legion, it was time to stop pretending as he headed up to the house of Stuart Farish in 1988 for his very first outing with the band.

He said: “I was really nervous and never played a note! It was just a great experience.

“I still get nervous playing at concerts if there’s only a few of us, but it’s still a great buzz.”

From Picking Night right through to the end of the Common-Riding, it is estimated that members of the Drums and Fifes walk 13 miles – with the odd rum and milk refreshment along the way to keep them well oiled.

And so from his first pony, Dillon, whom he rode on every ride-out back in 1971, Dougie, who has been married to Lesley for 27 years and also has a 19-year-old son Kevin, now prefers Shanks’ pony, although that doesn’t mean his horse-riding days have ended.

Recalling one particular incident in 2003 when Greg McLeod was Cornet, he said: “Iain Anderson said if we leave The Hut at the same time as the Cornet, then we would get to see him galloping round Acreknowe. It was just on the off chance we each got a loose horse to take back to the Mair and I rode it round the racecourse in my full band uniform. I think I’m the only person to have done that over the years.

“That’s my claim to fame in the band.”

Being part of the band, Dougie has been lucky enough to have attended almost every Common-Riding function, and it was through this that he first became involved in the 1514 Club.

Stalwart Ronnie Nichol put his name down many years ago when he first joined the Drums and Fifes, but there were never any thoughts of taking the helm of the proud organisation.

“I just wanted to help out so I went onto the committee. You only serve on the committee for three years and then you come off and I thought I’d help them for that time just,” said Dougie.

“It was in my third year and Rob [Halliday] asked me if I wanted a lift home one night from a 1514 meeting. We were in the car and he just asked if I wanted to be his vice-president.”

Among his duties, he admitted the most nerve-wracking was overseeing the annual Burns supper. He said: “After Rob asked me I was shaking like a leaf, really nervous. I remember walking up the Green Café Brae thinking, ‘God, I’ve got to address the haggis’. That was the main thing I was worried about, getting the haggis toasted.”

The toast to the haggis was word perfect and a successful and enjoyable night was enjoyed back in January.

Similar rave reviews were received following the 1514 concert earlier this month as new acts were intertwined with Common-Riding favourites.

And so it is over to the 1514 dinner tonight. Among the speakers, John Elliot is toasting the club and Ian Lowes is delivering the toast to the Common-Riding.

With Dougie in the chair it is sure to be music to the ears of members and guests.