representing the ‘First True Border Toun’ is an honour like no other, according to Coldstream Steven Bell, as he prepares to lead the town’s civic week celebrations which start this weekend.
Steven has grown up with Coldstream Civic Week in his blood and this year’s celebrations will be the culmination of all those years of following the Coldstream on horseback.
“Being Coldstreamer 2011 is an immense honour for me and something that I have dreamt about since I was a four year old boy riding my horse up Branxton Hill as youngest rider,” said Steven.
“My father James Bell was Coldstreamer in 1976 and my late mother Susan Bell was the secretary of Presenting Coldstream for many years, so Coldstream Civic Week has always featured heavily in my life and I have big shoes to step into.”
Steven’s father James is Presenting Coldstream chairman, and he will be in the thick of it - as well as his chairman duties he’s usually at the head of Coldsteam Pipe Band as they lead the ride-outs and parades, and this year there is also the small matter of the support he will be giving his son as this year’s Coldstreamer.
Explaining the origins of Coldstream Civic Week, James Bell said: “It is 60 years since the Festival of Britain, an event organised to lift the spirits of the people of Britain after years of austerity.
“Towns and villages were encouraged to hold events. Coldstream embraced this idea with gusto and the first Civic Week was held.
“Since then Civic Week has grown from strength to strength and so has the support shown by the folk of Coldstream.”
Over the 60 years, the annual celebrations have developed - and events added to the programme, emphasising both the social and historical elements of the town.
Looking back over the 60 years of Presenting Coldstream and the prospect of the 500th anniversary when over 500 horses are expected to make the journey from Coldstream to Flodden, Will Murray said: “From those early beginnings, Civic Week has gone from strength to strength, also backed by excellent principals, a hard-working committee aided and abetted by the ex-Coldstreamers’ Association and of course the guid folks of Coldstream.
“Sometimes the week is flavoured by unusual or unexpected events.”
In 1965 Coldstreamer Hamish Brown was sashed in Home Park, because it was being used by the Kings’ Own Scottish Borderers for their Minden Day Parade; in 1966 Civic Week the Coldstream Guards received the freedom of the Burgh; foot and mouth outbreaks limited the 1966 ride out and caused the 2001 ride out to be cancelled.
Flodden Day on Thursday is the focal point of the Civic Week celebrations, and as we draw closer to the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden in 2013, the traditions that have become part of the ride to Flodden become more poignant.
As Coldstreamer Steven will lead the 300 strong cavalcade of horses and riders along Coldstream HIgh Street to the bridge and over into England on their journey to Flodden, with his Right Hand Man Liam Wallis and Left Hand Man Ricky Hope, on either side of him.
Last year the Presenting Coldstream Committee took the decision to move the timing of the Flodden ride to mid morning, rather than leaving the town at midday.
They are continuing with these time changes this year which give horses and riders a longer break at Flodden and also bring the cavalcade back into town slightly earlier, giving riders more time to get themselves ready for the Civic Week Ball that evening.
For over half a century there have been orators at Flodden giving their take on the battle, and this year Selkirk Ex-Standard Bearer Ian Galloway has been invited to share his thoughts on a battle he has a real interest in - being an honorary member of Coldstream’s 1513 Club.
The Battle of Flodden plays a major role in the Selkirk Common Riding celebrations as legend has it that only one young man - the town clerk called Fletcher - returned alive after the battle.
Every year the Selkirk Standard Bearer casts the burgh standard as Fletcher is said to have done with a captured flag to let townsfolk know that all the other soldiers from the town had perished, and dying very soon afterwards himself.
And as Ian Galloway performed this ritual in 1964 ,coupled with his interest in Borders History, his Flodden oration should prove interesting.
The Flodden Ride, the ceremonial handing over of the Home colours to the Coldstreamer by the present Earl of Home, the reading of the Royal Charter and laying of Flodden turf at the Tweed Green on their return from Flodden, have all become major parts of Coldstream Civic Week - but so too has fun and nonsense.
After the sashing ceremony in Henderson Park on Sunday afternoon, the week is then filled with a variety of events for young and old - from the highly competitive Dub Dash Race and children’s sports on Monday, through to the torchlight procession on Friday night and the Fancy Dress on Saturday.
And throughout the week there will be basic camping facilities on the Tweed Green as usual.
Whatever events you go along to during Civic Week, it’s almost certain that you will hear the strains of the Coldstream Song - so join in!