HUNDREDS lined the streets in Berwickshire as the Olympic torch made its way through the Borders on its way to England.
Westruther teenager Callum Airlie had the honour of carrying the flame through Gordon, while Chirnside’s indoor rowing world record holder paraded the torch through Milton Bridge, near Penicuik, in the morning before quickly making it back to his home town in time to see it again as a spectator. On what was day 27 of the 70-day relay, Iain MacDonald of Duns was the first torch bearer to take the flame on its return to England as he set off on his electric wheelchair to get the party started in Berwick.
Torch bearers from Edinburgh, East Lothian, the Borders and Northumberland enjoyed their moment in the sun in front of huge crowds lining the route from start to finish as the relay worked its way through Gordon, Greenlaw, Duns, Chirnside and Foulden before crossing the border to reach Berwick.
South of Scotland MSP John Lamont, who lives in Coldstream, said: “I think I was as excited as some of the school kids!”
Starting in Edinburgh at 7am, the relay had passed through Penicuik, Peebles, Selkirk, Galashiels and Earlston before arriving in the village of Gordon, where Westruther schoolboy Callum Airlie had the honour of being the only Berwickshire resident to carry the flame in Berwickshire itself. The whole village seemed to be out to wave the 16-year-old sailor through as he carried the flame with pride. The two torch bearers in Gordon took just four minutes to make their way though before the rolling convoy of vehicles moved on to start the next leg in Greenlaw.
Next up, the convoy was welcomed by a sea of red, white and blue as it moved into Duns.
The school brass band outside Berwickshire High School were playing ‘Chariots of Fire’ as the crowd gathered in anticipation.
After two great weeks of big events in the town, with the Jim Clark Rally taking place on Diamond Jubilee weekend, Duns residents were already in the party mood.
Kate Lester and Kath Webb said the large turnout demonstrated why Duns “deserved” the torch relay. Berwickshire High School rector Rob Kelly described the Olympic flame’s arrival as a “a once in a lifetime opportunity” for staff and pupils.
Edinburgh’s Kayann Jacobs, one of four runners in Duns, was supported by her whole family and described her moment in the spotlight as “awesome”.
Up ahead, Flo from France was handing out ribbons and warming up the crowd in Chirnside with his dancing routines and Olympic mimes. He has been on every day of the relay thus far. ”I’m a dancer sponsored by HBOS,” he explained. “We sort of have a routine planned, but we just do it [the dancing] as it comes, because every town is different.”
Local hero Phil Craze, who had carried the flame through Milton Bridge earlier in the day, made it back to his home town with his torch in time to see the flame again.
After posing for pictures with children and adults, the 37-year-old banker told us: “What a souvenir, I don’t know if I’ll put it above my fireplace, but it’ll be in an appropriate spot. There is no way I am going to sell it.”
Phil plans to go into Chirnside Primary School to show the torch to pupils, but he was already being questioned about his glittering beacon. He explained: ”The kids have mainly been asking two things. One, is that heavy? Oh, yes – it is. Two, is that real gold?”
George Starling from Berwick was in one of the last cars forced to stop in Chirnside as the convoy passed by. He was trying to get to his greenhouse to water his tomatoes but didn’t mind the delay because this was “hands down the most interesting roadblock I’ve ever been involved in.”
The final Berwickshire leg of the relay took in the village of Foulden, but no provision was made to run the torch over the border. Instead, the relay reverted to vehicle convoy mode to cross into England en route to the Morrisons roundabout in Berwick.
Eighteen-year-old equestrian enthusiast Kate Charlton from Morpeth, the first of Foulden’s two torch bearers, described it as “a massive honour to be involved” before handing over to Tranent’s Charlie Hogg, who was the last runner to hold the flame aloft in Scotland.
Iain MacDonald of Duns had the honour of being the first to carry the torch on its return to England when the relay arrived on the outskirts of Berwick. The 59-year-old archer and sports fanatic, who has cerebral palsy, said he was “excited and not nervous at all,” before he set off down North Road in his electric wheelchair cheered by a crowd waving Union flags to hand the flame over to 12-year-old Ealston High School pupil Martha Todd.
After passing through Berwick in around 45 minutes, the convoy of trucks then made its way south to Bamburgh, where a series of events were taking place to mark the occasion. It finished for the day in Alnwick before starting the next leg of its journey to Newcastle.
The Olympic torch is being carried round the UK in 70 days by 8,000 runners over 8,000 miles.