History hung heavy in the air in Jedburgh on Friday as the town celebrated its 70th Jethart Callant’s Festival.
And charged with leading the town in the celebrations were callant Brodie Irvine, his right and left-hand men Gary Hogg and Grant Raeburn and herald Brian Marshall.
The principals enjoyed unfaltering support leading up to the big day, and Friday was no different, with hundreds lining the streets to cheer on the principals as they arrived in Abbey Place behind the pipe band that morning.
With the Jethart flag duly bussed by the provost’s wife, Pamela Gordon, the town fell silent as Brodie remounted before bursting from the saddle to thrust the flag aloft and roar the battle cry “Jethart’s here!”
“It was so quiet, and you knew it was all eyes on you,” Brodie, 21, said afterwards. “You could year a pin drop.
“I just gave it my all, which was what I wanted to do. It’s something you can never imagine what it will be like until you get the chance to do it.”
A mighty cheer erupted before the 225-strong mounted cavalcade headed for Ferniehirst Castle, where Jedburgh Grammar pupil Alex Taylor gave the recitation of Walter Laidlaw’s The Reprisal, later hailed by her mentor ex-callant Jim Miller as “absolutely brilliant”.
Lord Lothian addressed the crowds before the callant made further visits to Lintalee House and the Capon Tree, where callants’ club acting president Billy Gillies pinned a sprig from the ancient oak to Brodie’s sash.
Crowds cheered the riders through the town and the River Jed before a hush fell across the town once for the ceremeony of remembrance at the war memorial.
Brodie said afterwards: “There were definitely nerves at the war memorial. I was quite worried as we wanted to get it bang on, but it went fine.”
It was an emotional moment too for his lass, Amy Headspath, and his parents Lara and Jake, who watched just metres away. “I think I even got a tear our of my dad,” Brodie added.
His duties almost complete, the callant remounted and returned once again to Abbey Place to return the flag and take hold of the callant’s cup before saluting his followers on their way past.
After the callant’s lunch, Brodie and his henchmen joined children who braved the showers at the family fun afternoon on Murray’s Green.
“It is good to see how much the young ones all love the festival as they are the future of it,” said Brodie.
He added: “I must say well done to Grant for this year because he has managed to overcome his knee injury and do himself proud.
“Our herald Brian did a great job as it’s a big responsibility he takes on with the recce rides and preparations.
“Thanks too to Gary for his guidance. He was a hard act to follow, but I am grateful I had him as my right-hand man.”
Paying tribute to his lass, he added: “Amy has done really well. She learnt to ride alongside me this year and did Melrose Festival and Ancrum with me. She’s really enjoyed herself and the Jed folk have really welcomed her.”
For Brodie, his final duties were the firing of the cannon on Saturday morning fresh from the festival ball, the run round the town, of which he proudly says he “actually ran the whole thing” and the handing back of the sashes ceremony at Mary Queen of Scots House on Sunday.
The festival saw a few changes in format this year, with Brodie’s declaration in May being announced from the town hall rather than the court house, and the venue for the callant’s lunch and festival ball also changed.
However, festival convenor Len Wyse is confident both have been well received. He said: “This year’s festival has went really well. We had a great callant and good weather most of the time.
“Obviously declaration night saw a change in venue but that seems to have gone down well.
“As for the festival itself the main change was moving the ball from a marquee at the glebe to the sports centre but the food was good, the band were good and the atmosphere was great so I’ve only heard good reports back on this.” The festival day lunch was also moved to the sports centre and saw a slight change in format.
“We moved from of the principals’ speeches to investiture evening and instead had addresses from our invited guest Ian Landels, the callant and myself as convenor.
“For the first time too we invited Alex, who recited the Reprisal, to the lunch as a lot of those on horseback miss this at Ferniehirst”
He added: “Big praise must go too to both Jedburgh bands who played well both separately and together again this year.
“The support from townsfolk all festival has been excellent but as always we are looking for more people to help either on or outwith the committee.”