Starring role for Borders pupils in Duns Castle 700th anniversary celebrations

Herding them in...Berwickshire High and Duns Primary School pupils form 700 in front of Duns Castle. (Pic: Sky Vantage Productions)
Herding them in...Berwickshire High and Duns Primary School pupils form 700 in front of Duns Castle. (Pic: Sky Vantage Productions)

Just before the school holidays, some 850 local pupils played a starring role in helping publicise a local landmark.

In 2020, Duns Castle will celebrate its 700th anniversary, the original tower house being built by the Earl of Moray in 1320.

Members of the Duns anniversary organising committee, (l-r) Kenny Manson, Rachel Foy and Jonathan Findlay.

Members of the Duns anniversary organising committee, (l-r) Kenny Manson, Rachel Foy and Jonathan Findlay.

And an army of pupils from Duns Primary and Berwickshire High Schools descended on the venue at the end of last month to create a stunning publicity video for the event.

Anyone driving through Duns on Thursday, June 20, may have figured out something unique was taking place.

For they had to wait some time at the pedestrian crossing at Berwickshire High – as hundreds of pupils streamed across the road!

They then converged at the gates of Duns Castle with another pack of pupils from Duns Primary before heading along the castle’s main drive.

Heading towards the castle, school children from Berwickshire High and Duns Primary prepare for their star performance. (Pic: Jonathan Findlay)

Heading towards the castle, school children from Berwickshire High and Duns Primary prepare for their star performance. (Pic: Jonathan Findlay)

You would be forgiven for thinking the Pied Piper of Hamelin was visiting town but another magical event was, in fact, drawing them towards the castle!

Although a private home and an exclusive use venue, it is also an important local landmark.

As such, the anniversary will be both a castle and community celebration.

The Duns Castle 700 Committee, consisting of members of the local community, has been established to commemorate the historic occasion.

Berwickshire High School teachers (from left) Kenny Manson (deputy head teacher), Colin Gracey (principal teacher of developing the young workforce), Chris Ash (principal teacher of guidance) and John Clarke (headteacher). (Pic: Jonathan Findlay)

Berwickshire High School teachers (from left) Kenny Manson (deputy head teacher), Colin Gracey (principal teacher of developing the young workforce), Chris Ash (principal teacher of guidance) and John Clarke (headteacher). (Pic: Jonathan Findlay)

Local organisations are being invited to celebrate in their own ways to create a full programme of events.

A sound and light show, designed to enhance the 2020 Duns Summer Festival, has already been planned – Duns 700 Castle and Community, or DCC 700 for short. This event will showcase 700 years of local history and cultural heritage.

And pupils were asked to play an integral role in advertising it.

Jonathan Findlay, one of the organisers, explained: “Since DCC is also 700 in Roman numerals, we’ve built this into our visual identity and that’s where the pupils came into the picture.

“We needed a strong image to help us launch the celebrations, one that clearly showed incredible community spirit.

“When we first had the idea of the children forming the letters DCC then morphing into 700, we could not have imagined the level of excitement this would stir among them. They have all been amazing!”

Great praise considering the children only had one rehearsal before the drone video shoot took place!

Much credit also goes to the teachers who managed to co-ordinate them, not least Rachel Foy, acting head teacher at Duns Primary, and deputy head and headteacher at Berwickshire High, Kenny Manson and John Clarke.

Rachel said: “It’s a privilege to be on the DCC 700 committee as the Duns Primary representative.

“Next year’s 700th anniversary creates many exciting opportunities for us here at the town’s primary school.

“Throughout next session, our P7 pupils will be training as Duns Castle tour guides and leading learning for other school children across the authority.

“Our early years children will be focusing on skills for lifelong learning by taking on the job of wildlife rangers and each and every class will be involved in learning in the context of the rich historical and cultural community we have here in Duns.”

For the pupils, the castle photo call gave them a wee taste of what’s to come.

Isla, a Duns Primary pupil, said: “It brought back good memories from when I won a prize to visit Duns Castle two years ago. I liked being with everyone from the High School too.”

Meanwhile, P4/P5 pupils Niamh, Courtney and Sophie eagerly expressed their architectural opinions.

They said: “The castle wouldn’t look like this 700 years ago because it would still be under construction.

“Although the castle is now really old, it’s not a ruin and the stonework still 
looks nice.”

The committee engaged the services of Sky Vantage Productions to film the choreography from above with the castle in the background.

A clip is viewable now on the committee’s Facebook page at dunscastle700, but the full edit will be online later this month.

Jonathan added: “Our thanks go to Robert Lamont who relocated his grazing cattle to enable the drone filming to take place.

“Considering the positive reception this project has received, it is anticipated the 700th anniversary will foster an even greater sense of pride in the community.”

The sound and light show is dependent on funding.

Anyone who would like to support it should contact the committee at www.facebook.com/DunsCastle700.