“It’s all been leading up to this, and it’s all been magic.”
Those were the words of proud and excited Hawick Cornet Ali George on the eve of the unique and historic celebration of civic pride and remembrance that is his home town’s annual common riding.
This morning, the 24-year-old greenkeeper will, for the first time since his appointment, carry the town’s flag of blue and gold as he leads his mounted supporters on the second major chase of the festivities.
Tonight the spotlight will fall on cornet’s lass Katy Moffat when she busses that symbolic banner at a colour-bussing ceremony in a packed Hawick Town Hall.
Tomorrow, Ali will be at the vanguard of a 300-strong cavalcade to ride the burgh boundaries, having undertaken to return the flag unsullied and unstained to the safe keeping of honorary provost Watson McAteer on Saturday.
Amid all the accompanying revelry, song-singing and bonhomie – so evident at the traditional two-day family party at the Hawick Moor racecourse and in hostelries around the town – Ali is acutely aware of the honour bestowed on him.
“Representing your town on its biggest weekend of the year is a huge responsibility, but it’s one I’m relishing,” he told the Southern.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with the support I’ve received at the rideouts, and that has been a great confidence boost with the big day now upon us.
“I was buzzing when I was appointed, and I’m still buzzing now. Come rain or shine, I’m sure it’s going to be a memorable common riding.”
That optimism is shared by Mr McAteer in his first year as honorary provost.
“The town is full of anticipation and rightly so, for in Ali and Katy we have two fantastic young people who have already engaged with townsfolk of all ages,” said the Hawick and Hermitage councillor.
“Once again, Hawick will provide a ceremonial spectacle which will be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
“The common riding is all about safeguarding our history traditions and customs, and I personally cannot wait to play my part in ensuring that 2017 is a memorable year.
“It’s a humbling and fantastic privilege to be Hawick’s honorary provost at this special time of the year for all Teries.”
For 22-year-old Katy – Ali’s girlfriend for the past three years – tonight’s colour-bussing ceremony cannot come soon enough.
“I feel very lucky to have the opportunity, and I’ve been really looking forward to it for ages,” she said.
In the role of acting father, Ronnie Frost will have his chance to carry the flag tomorrow when he leads the married supporters to a curds and cream repast at St Leonard’s.
“I know that carrying that famous flag will fill me with pride,” said Ronnie, and he was also full of praise for Hawick’s 301st cornet, saying: “Ali has been doing a great job and is really coming out of his shell.”
“Every time I see him, there’s a wee smile on his face which tells me he’ll remember this for the rest of his life.”