Feeling the emotions passed down through the generations of the town’s residents for 500 years, the Souters o’ Selkirk gracefully honoured their Flodden fallen.
The Borderers Return saw 100 principals, on foot and horse, carry the Borders Flodden 1513-2013 banner 130 miles through nine Border towns from Thursday to Sunday last week, to remember the few who returned from Flodden field, and the 10,000 Scots slaughtered, 500 years ago.
Many hundreds more gathered to see the 1513 Club’s commemorative flag colour-bussed, and hear a proclamation in each community before riding with the banner to the next town – first to Kelso and Jedburgh on Thursday, then Hawick on Friday, Selkirk, Galashiels and Melrose on Saturday, and finally Duns and Coldstream on Sunday.
Early on Saturday morning, six of Selkirk’s ex-Royal Burgh Standard Bearers rode with the flag to a ceremony at Victoria Halls, in front of Fletcher’s statue – for a time Scotland’s only Flodden monument, until the memorial was built on Flodden Field.
“Although this was a Borders-wide event, Flodden has always been a big deal in Selkirk,” Provost David Anderson said.
“Flodden and Fletcher struck a chord in Selkirk, and the story has been passed down by word of mouth for 500 years.
“The history is good for the town: it gives it a community spirit, something to identify with.”
The Borderers Return event, leading into the 500th anniversary of the battle between England and Scotland, served as a reminder to all those taking part, that despite their differences, Borderers fought as one at the Battle of Flodden.
Later on Saturday, the Duke of Buccleuch opened the Victoria Halls’ new Flodden Memorial Garden, bearing a plaque dedicated to the fortitude of the women and children of Selkirk bereaved by war.
Five marble plinths were also unveiled, telling the story of the national catastrophe on September 9, 1513, in words written by author Alex Massie.
“If the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) is recalled as the zenith of Scottish military achievement, Flodden marks its nadir,” the inscription reads.
And, at the ceremony to open the garden, the Duke of Buccleuch said: “There is something missing this garden can address. What I think might be called the testimony of silence, a place for private thoughts.
“Our great local historian Craig Brown reminds us that from the 22nd of August until the 25th of October 1513 there is a blank – not one word is written – as if a veil is drawn of the battle, of the slaughter, of its impact on the lives of those bereaved, forsaken, left behind. There is not a mention. Out of the record maybe, but it can’t have been blotted out of people’s minds.”
A moving and poignant service followed at Selkirk Parish Church on Sunday evening, conducted by the Reverend Margaret Steele, which explored the twin themes of the folly of war and helping each other in times of peace.
The Burgh Flag, along with the banners of the Hammermen, Fleshers, Merchants, Weavers, Ex-Soldiers and Colonials, were presented after Ex-Royal Standard Bearer Harry Russell delivered a speech on Selkirk’s connection with the disasterous battle.
In a solemn act of remembrance, 80 lit candles stood on the communion table, one for each Souter who rallied around their King.
Sheila Lockie, representing the women and children of the men who did not return, laid a wreath, escorted by four Burleymen, who, one by one, nipped out the flames.
Sheila extinguished the final few flames until only one remained burning – the sole light representing Fletcher, Selkirk’s only survivor.
Compounding the emotion, Karen D’Agrosa, Yvonne Mitchell and Lorraine Kemp sang the Flowers o’ The Forest to the tune of The Liltin’.
At the conclusion of the hour-long service, ex-Standard Bearers led a second act of remembrance at Fletcher’s monument, where chairman Keith Riddell laid a wreath, and the flag of the Royal and Ancient Burgh, along with those of the Crafts and Casting organisations, were dipped in tribute, to the sound of piper Colin Turnbull’s lament.
Silently, at a minute past midnight on Monday, in the Market Place, Selkirk’s Hammermen cast their banner to mark the exact day the battle was fought.
“Fletcher would have cast the flag in silence,” Hammermen Deacon Kevin Fairbairn told us: “To us it was the defining moment, Fletcher coming back from the battle and casting his flag to the ground.”
Later, 25 of Selkirk’s Ex-Royal Standard Bearers laid a wreath at the Flodden Memorial, on the field where 79 Selkirk lads and men lost their lives, and only one returned, 500 years ago to the day.
On Sunday, Royal and Ancient Standard Bearer Martin Rodgerson will ride Selkirk’s South Marches, for the first time since 1985, leading the cavalcade on a 19-mile route around Midlem and Lilliesleaf starting at 8am, and returning back to the heart of the town at 3pm, to dip the Burgh Flag before Fletcher’s statue.
A Flodden exhibition also opened on Friday at Halliwell’s Museum.