SELKIRK Standard Bearer Gavin Henderson must have had a moment of deja vu while attending Coldstream Civic Week, when a thunderstorm broke on the opening day and a bolt of lightning meant a ceremony was moved from Henderson Park to the parish church.
But nothing could wipe the smile from the face of Coldstreamer Liam Wallis who laughed: “There isn’t another Borders town to have thunder and lightning to start off their civic week.”
Organisers had to put contingency plans into operation because of the variable weather – including the switch of venue for the opening ceremony. Some events were cancelled, others rescheduled and ride-out routes altered to cope with conditions and the requirements of farmers and landowners.
There is much fun and merriment during Civic Week, but also times of commemoration and tribute.
Flags were dipped at the war memorial and then, of course, the ride across the border and on to English soil at Branxton Hill. It was here on September 9, 1513, that King of Scots James IV and his army suffered a crushing and humiliating defeat at the hands of the English forces under the command of the Earl of Surrey. This was the Battle of Flodden – a battle that changed the path of European history.
More than 250 riders followed the Coldstreamer on that journey of commemoration, including Standard Bearer Henderson and a number of Selkirk riders.
First, a wreath laid at the memorial to the dead of both nations; then the gallop uphill where Coldstream Guards flanked the temporary shelter where the religious ceremony of remembrance was held.
There were hymns and prayers, a silence, a lament and the reveille. And there was a stirring description of that day 499 years ago when Flodden Field ran red with blood and a king and hierarchy of Scotland lay dead amongst the common soldiers who had rallied to James’s call.
The oration this year was delivered by former Langholm Cornet and newsagent Billy Young. He told those gathered: “As we gaze down over this patchwork of fields and out towards the Merse and the Lammermuir Hills, it is impossible to grasp the sheer scale of the horror and carnage that happened here on that fateful day.”
He spoke of the ill-fated decision by James to switch the position of his army and of the conflict that followed.
He concluded: “At a time when the youth of our nation have achieved so much on the sporting field, we here must also look to our youngsters to become the future custodians of our proud heritage.”
Next year marks the 500th anniversary of the battle and special ceremonies are planned on both sides of the border.
And while the Flodden cavalcade will be much larger, the chairman of Presenting Coldstream, Jim Leifer, said the format of Civic Week itself will remain the same.